A Survivor Feeling Guilty of His Survival

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In the aftermath of a horrific experience, it is not uncommon for a survivor to feel guilty about their survival. The most difficult thing for survivors can be finding the ability to move beyond what has happened and look toward the future. An individual is often shaped by their past experiences. If ensuing guilt is not dealt with, however, the past can hinder the ability to achieve in the present. In Art Spielgelman’s MAUS II, Vladek and Art struggle to live in the present and are laden with guilt from their pasts. When not properly dealt with, guilt can become an overpowering emotion, governing decisions and depleting self motivation. To move successfully past debilitating guilt one often must learn to be accepting of the past and willing to embrace times of hardship as integral parts of a complete life. Guilt can come from an inability to reconcile the past. Pavel suggests that Vladek “felt GUILTY about surviving” (6, p 44). Vladek lived through one of the most horrific events in history, yet still feels guilty because he survived while so many others died. Surviving the Holocaust was done merely by chance, therefore Vladek had no control over whether he lived or not. Vladek, however, struggled to understand that he had no way of deciding who lived and who was killed. Because Vladek felt he needed control over the situation when control was virtually impossible, he became overwhelmed with guilt; the guilt of surviving while his friends and family were murdered. Vladkek’s son Art also feels guilty about his past. Art proclaims to his wife, “I somehow wish I had been in Auschwitz WITH my parents so I could really know what they lived through! I guess it’s SOME kind of guilt about having an easier life than they did.” (3, p 16) Yelling with frustration, Art is annoyed that he cannot overcome the guilt that he feels for not having to live through what his parents did. In both Art and Vladek’s case, the relationship between past and present...
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