Comparison of Maus and Night
The Holocaust was a traumatic event that most people can’t even wrap their minds around. Libraries are filled with books about the Holocaust because people are both fascinated and horrified to learn the details of what survivors went through. Maus by Art Spiegelman and Night by Elie Wiesel are two highly praised Holocaust books that illustrate the horrors of the Holocaust. Night is a traditional narrative that mainly focuses on Elie’s experiences throughout the holocaust while Maus is a comic book that focuses on the relationship between Art and his father and the generational trauma Art is going through as well as his father’s experiences during the Holocaust. Night and Maus are very different styles of writing but they both focus on family especially the relationship between father and son with influence of the Holocaust. Although Maus certainly focuses on the Holocaust and the events Vladek went through before the Holocaust and in the death camps, I argue that Maus is centered around something more multifaceted and elusive than just that. From the very beginning of Maus it is clear that Arts main focus is on his complicated relationship with his father, Vladek Spiegelman. Part of that relationship is trying to understand what his father went through during the Holocaust but it goes deeper than just understanding the history of the Holocaust. Art certainly doesn’t try to focus on what led to the Holocaust and the political systems like many Holocaust books do, instead he jumps from past to present showing how his fathers past experiences still effect him today and this book is an attempt to work through those issues. Johnston says that Arts “focus throughout [Maus] is on the particular details of his father's experiences which are not, in the context of Holocaust literature, remarkable (his father has no new perspective to add to what we already know about his horrible event—his story is, if I may use the expression, an ordinary man's experience of extraordinary circumstances).” What makes Maus so different from other Holocaust books is that Art focuses on the aftermath of the Holocaust and the effects it has on their father son relationship. In a sense, his attempt to write Maus is an effort to understand what his father went through so that he can make sense of the Holocaust and their dissatisfactory relationship. Art struggles with trying to express the inexpressible details of the Holocaust through a comic book. Vladek and Mala’s experiences show two Holocausts survivors points of view wile Art shows a non-survivors view that is affected by generational trauma. Art struggles with his relationship with his father and says that often times spending time together is very distasteful. Their ways of life are very different and it’s hard for them to understand each other because of how different their life experiences are. Vladeks personality was dramatically changed during the Holocaust because of the suffering that he went through. Before the Holocaust Vladek was very wealthy, giving, and kind but after going through the Holocaust, his personality was strongly changed which affected his parenting style. This affected Art and the choices and lifestyle that he chose. In chapter five of Book I he told his wife that Vladek “loved showing off how handy he was... and proving that anything I did was all wrong. He made me completely neurotic about fixing stuff...One reason I became an artist was that he thought it was impractical- just a waste of time...it was an area where I wouldn't have to compete with him” (97). This shows how Vladeks parenting style and competitiveness influenced Arts choices he has made and his lifestyle. It’s hard for Art to even wrap his mind around the Holocaust, he tells Francoise that “I cant even make any sense out of my relationship with my father…how am I supposed to make any sense out of Auschwitz?...of the Holocaust?...”(Spiegelman, MausII,14). It is also hard...
Cited: Hirsch, Marianne. Family Frames: Photography, Narrative and Postmemory. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997
Johnston, Ian. “On Spiegelman 's Maus I and II”. Lecture. Malaspina University-College, Nanimo, BC, Canada. December 28, 2001
Spiegelman, Art. Maus I. New York: Pantheon Books, 1973
Spiegelman, Art. Maus II. New York: Pantheon Books, 1986
Wielsel, Elie. Night. New York: Hill and Wang, 1958
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