Time of Lies: Abstract iconography in “Maus”
Art Spiegelman’s graphic memoirs “Maus I” and “Maus II” present an approachable and sensory biography, a detailed and authentic retelling of a Holocaust survivor’s experience. The pictorial style of the memoir encourages the reader to visualize the text and more vividly relate to the experiences portrayed in the literature. The graphic and artistic aspects of the text employ devices that are unique to comics, in style and sequence, while drawing the characters as mice, which are visually simple, rather than realistic human representations of the characters. By exploring various levels of detail within the memoir’s iconography, Spiegelman expresses a story in accessible terms and presents a unique perspective to the story of Vladek Spiegelman. However, the animal representations that are common throughout the memoir are increased in complexity within pages 41-47 of the “Time Flies: Auschwitz” chapter of “Maus II.” In this first section, Spiegelman applies abstract elements to a metafictional section of the memoir, expressing the complexity of assembling the work and characterizing his process. The abstract elements of “Time Flies: Auschwitz” bring into question Spiegelman’s opinion of his work, while exploring his identity and perceptions of reality.
The tone at the beginning of “Time Flies: Auschwitz” is strained and mournful. Immediately, it is revealed that Vladek passed away in 1982 and Spiegelman presents a scene in which he is working on “Maus” series, a technique that falls under the category of metafiction. In the second panel, Spiegelman’s drawing of himself declares the metafiction by saying, “I started working on this page at the very end of February 1987” (Spiegelman II, 41: 2). Spiegelman, within the panels, presents a calculative sequence, a series of statistics that presents chronological and biographical information about his personal life, the Holocaust and “Maus.” Also considerable is the...
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