Whenever a Holocaust story is heard, a certain respect for the survivors fill the air. It is almost impossible to think about the hardships millions of survivors and non-survivors were forced to face many years ago. In The Complete Maus, renowned author and cartoonist, Art Spiegelman, creates flashbacks and real time dialogues that flow smoothly as he paints an ideal picture of the horrific events of Holocaust. Maus is a story written in present tense with past events retold through conversations between son and father, Artie and Vladek Spiegelman. Realities of the Holocaust are seen firsthand when Art, an aspiring artist, interviews his father about the Holocaust in an obvious attempt to seek answers to the mysteries of his father, suicidal mother, dead brother, and his life in general. Spiegelman fills his story with two main parts; the true story of a Holocaust survivor, and how the survivor progressed. The first explains Vladek Spiegelman’s experiences as a young Jewish man leading up to his imprisonment in Auschwitz. The second, references Vladek as an old man recounting his history to his son, and the complicated relationship between the two. It is a difficult process for both father and son, and through their progression, both men were dramatically affected by the Holocaust. Change in guilt and personality traits are seen throughout the story.
While Maus is the story of Vladek Spigelman’s experiences in the Holocaust, it is also much more. In many ways, the relationship between father and son is the central narrative in the book, and feelings of guilt are dealt extensively. Of the particular relevance in Maus, guilt is associated with the members of family. To begin with, Art does not expose any feelings toward his father. As we read the beginning of Maus we see that their relationship is quite complex. It is obvious that Art loves his father very much, but yet we notice there are times that the only reason he is visiting his father is to gather information for his book, not because he wanted to see him. Vladek often asks his son for help with errands around the house, and Art is always loath to comply. One of the most prominent examples of this situation occurs in book one. Vladek awakens his son early in the morning to ask for help fixing a drain on his roof. Art refuses, later telling his wife “He wants me to go help him fix his roof or something…I’d rather feel guilty! Besides, I’m too busy, and he can easily afford to hire someone” (Spiegelman 99.) Even though Art lives a short distance away from his father, he avoids him as much as possible. In the beginning of the chapter we can easily see that Art is on edge around his father, and whenever they speak it is as if an argument could break out at any second. Indeed, arguments often lash out. For example, an argument occurs when Art’s dropping of his cigarette ash accidentally falls onto the carpet. There are also times in the novel where Vladek acts in certain ways without thinking that causes frustration to Art. Chapter six explains Vladek’s revelation when he has burned the diaries of his first wife Anja. Out of rage, and because his mother’s diaries would have been useful to his book, Art calls his father a “murderer”. Though he apologizes he again names his father a murderer under his breath. Because of their strain relationship neither Vladek nor Art are able to understand what the other is feeling. But as Art visits his father more and more, their relationship begins to change and he is becomes deeply affected by the Holocaust.
As stated, the beginning of the chapters explains most of their communication about Vladek retelling his narrative of his Holocaust experiences. Their conversations then, however, become more personal. Despite his father’s qualities, Art changes after hearing his stories. In chapter six, Vladek begins to complain yet again about his relationship with Mala, and Art suggests they see a marriage counselor. Art’s honest advice is...
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