Art Spiegelman's Holocaust

Submitted By VamsVenkat1
Words: 1275
Pages: 6

Spiegelman’s Holocaust It has been proven that the human mind tends to block out extremely traumatic experiences, such as child abuse or sexual abuse. Sometimes, the host remembers an almost altered version of his or her past, finding a way to make the situation easier to remember all together. For example, some children will use the name of a widely known villain or antagonist to refer to someone they fear or do not trust (Scheflin). It is for similar reasons that Art Spiegelman chose to render his family’s unfortunate history in a set of graphic novels. Each graphic novel is not simply a cut-and-dry retelling of his father’s past; there are also later experiences in Spiegelman’s life that he directly equates to his father’s past. Each the experiences and memories that Spiegelman discusses throughout is narrated by another character, making it seem as though it is easier for him to delve deeper into his story by being seemingly detached in the narration. In his graphic novels Maus I and Maus II, Art Spiegelman masterfully employs the use of graphics to convey the story of his family’s history, narrating through multiple characters to illustrate how his father’s story affects his own childhood. One of the predominant differences between Art Spiegelman’s graphic novels and other novels about the Holocaust is that Spiegelman’s novels use multiple narrators within the text to tell the story. While he—as the author—comments and narrates from time to time, he also uses his father’s character and his step mother’s character to narrate their individual stories. By doing so, Spiegelman achieves two things; he provides different perspectives of the same historical event and he provides an additional layer by allowing the same narrators to discuss their present lives as well. Again, the three narrators to focus on in Maus I and Maus II are Vladek Spiegelman, Mala Spiegelman, and Art Spiegelman. When Vladek, the author’s father, narrates the story, he tells it in a bitter, resentful, and almost cold way. Vladek focuses on strictly what happens in the story, what he did to survive, but never how he distinctly felt about anything that really happened around him. Whenever Vladek mentions the death of a family member, he says it casually and moves on from the reaction. For example, when Art asks him whether or not the parents of his mother, Anja, died in Auschwitz, Vladek responds “Nu? What else? Right away they went to the gas…” (1Spiegelman 116). After this, he continues describing what happened, not how the death of his in-laws—who did so much for Anja and himself—affected him directly.
There is a direct contrast between how Vladek Spiegelman tells the story of his past and how his second wife, Mala Spiegelmen, tells her story. Mala narrates the story through small parts of the graphic novel, usually when Art Spiegelman references a specific portion of his father’s retelling. When Mala dictates her past, she focuses on how the difficulties affected her directly. Most of her stories had a deeply emotional backbone, something that Vladek Spiegleman’s renditions tended to lack. In the novel, when both Mala and Vladek describe their experiences at the stadium, Mala describes how people would “[jump] out the windows to end their misery a little quicker…” (1Spiegelman 92). Every time Mala describes her story, it seems as though she narrates it with a heavier heart than Vladek does when he describes. Perhaps Art Spiegelman purposefully creates this difference to highlight how bitter his father is about the entire situation.
When Art Spiegelman narrates the story, he does so by commenting on the storyline as it happens. This is extremely crucial for the graphic novel because it puts the plot in context within Spiegelman’s life. His comments and narration allow the readers to connect more with his characters, namely his father. Art usually comments on something his father, gives the reader a bit of a backstory, or just makes some sort of