Thursday, October 15, 2009
2.) Throughout the entire novel, when Vladek is not telling about his story, we see that Vladek is very much attached to material things. He will find wire in a trash and save it. He'll refuse to spend money unless he absolutely has to. But, early on in the story, Vladek throws away Artie's coat, which could be considered a completely wasteful act. Why would Vladek throw away a perfectly good coat, even though he has such an inclination to save things?
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
On page 74 of book II Art and Francois are talking together outside and are bothered by the pesky bugs. At the bottom of the page Art sprays the bugs and the last panel shows the bugs fall dead to the ground. This mini extermination reminds the reader of the extermination of the Jews, but what more is symbolically represented in this panel? How does Spiegelman use this sequence to relate the story to the Holocaust?
What is Art trying to tell the audience by showing his father exterminating an insect with pesticides after speaking about the gas chambers?
My second question is from page 72 from Maus II. The prisoners that worked there had to pour gasoline over dead and alive people and burn them. Then they would shovel the human fat back on so that the people would burn better. Would do you think was going through their minds during this time and do you think you could handle that mental strain?
My first question comes from Chapter 3, page 98-100, of Maus II. Here we see an African-American hitchhiker who walks up to the car needing a ride. At this same instant Vladek looks out the window and yells: "A hitch hiker? And-oy-it's a colored guy, a shvartser! Push quick on the gas! (98)" Disregarding what Vladek has said Francoise picks up the hitchhiker and anyway. As the drive along Vladek mumbles under his breath in polish speaking not so highly of this hitchhiker. Knowing this and the fact that Vladek and many others have suffered oppression at the hands of the Germans for being Jewish, why would Vladek oppress someone who has gone through an experience much like his?
As we read Maus in class we saw that it had a more realistic view to it, such as the characters, but the narrative style was lacking. When comparing that to Maus I and II it is almost the opposite. Do you think combining the narration of Maus I and II and the artistic style of Maus will offer the story of Maus I a deeper meaning?
As we have discussed in class, the older Vladek Speigelman seems very different from his younger counterpart in Vladek’s narrative of the Holocaust. The younger Vladek is considerate and resourceful; he does not generally exhibit the obsessiveness or paranoia that the older Vladek shows. However, the older Vladek also looks favorably on his former self. Is Vladek cognizant of his stark personality change post-Holocaust? He does mention a couple times during the story that the Holocaust changed him. Does he realize how different he acts in real life than from the story?
This brings me to my second question. Is it possible that Vladek's story may not be entirely accurate. Could there have been parts that Vladek omitted or added to the story? It would seem natural that he would not want to pass on a story in which he is portrayed negatively, especially to his only surviving son. There are a couple of signs within Maus that signal we may have an unreliable narrator. For example, in page 68 in Maus II, Artie catches his father changing the number of months his father claimed he spent in Auschwitz. There may have been other areas where Vladek may have stretched the story as well.
The atrocities of the holocaust are unspeakable. Many of the crimes were shown and described in Maus I and II. Do you think that the Nazi's genocidal wrongs were brought into a different light because of these books? If so, what difference do you now see?
Ever since the end of World War II, there has been a wealth of literature written about the Holocaust. First-person narratives, psychoanalytical essays, historical accounts--the writing that covers this subject could fill libraries' worth of bookshelves. In the midst of all this literature, does Maus stick out as unique? Did Art Spiegelman use the graphic novel as a gimmick to help separate his work from the masses, or is the graphic novel as a medium simply his preferred mode of expression?
Monday, October 12, 2009
We see a variety of different animals used throughout both volumes of
Maus, with the intention of representing certain races of people. Polish
people are represented as pigs, with the French as frogs (though we see
him wanting to change Francoise from frog to Maus in part two, once she
converts), American dogs, Germans as cats, and the Jews as mice. What are
specific reasons behind each of these? In addition, why do you think he
doesn't stick to a purely religious/purely racial depiction? Does
portaying all of these characters not just as animals, but as cartoons, an
effective method? I think that it is, partly because it adds to the
symbolism in the novel, and partly because portraying people in
cartoon-animal form is a little less harsh than making them people. It
separates them a little, simply because cartoons are like caricatures by
My second question regards Art after the publication of Maus. He has
difficulty coping with the amount of success that the book has, we see him
undergo a sort of breakdown in Maus II, amidst a flurry of TV reports and
interviews. Why is this so? Shouldn't he be happy with the success he has?
Part of me thinks it's because of his relationship with his father - in
book form, Vladek's story is being lauded as a literary landmark; however,
Art would say it was less than so. Perhaps he regrets not developing a
better relationship, and displaying what they did have for the world to
see? Any other thoughts?
2. On page 90 of Maus II, Francoise and Art have an interesting conversation. F: "Sigh. I'd rather kill myself than live through all that..." A: "What? Returning groceries?" F: "No. Everything Vladek went through. It's a miracle he survived." A: "Uh-huh. But in some ways he didn't survive." What do you think Art means by "he didn't survive"? Is he referring to his father's lack of mental stability? Or Vladek's physical ailments and reliance on medications? Or is it something else? Obviously, Vladek lived to tell his tale, but how would you say he 'survived'? How does one define survival? Dictionaries would say something like, to survive is to remain alive. If this is the case, Vladek did indeed survive, right? What are your thoughts? Would you compartmentalize survival and say he survived physically, but not mentally or emotionally? It's something to think about.
2. Art constantly feels inadequate in relation to Vladek's surviving through the Holocaust. To illustrate this, on page forty-four it Art informs his psychiatrist that "No matter what I accomplish, it doesn't seem like much compared to surviving Auschwitz. Why does he feel this way? Why do people tend to feel less worthy when they haven't been through something damaging? And perhaps more importantly, are these feelings justified?
I have actually read Maus I and II before Graphic Novels. Maus I was a requirement for class but I was so intrigued by its capability of illustration that I had to read Maus II. I have always admired the novel itself but there has always been one thing that has irritated me. This irritation being the racial comment that Vladek makes (Ch. 3, pg. 93) once the hitchhiker is out of Artie’s car. I would think that a man that has experienced racism and segregation to its highest extent (the Jews and the Holocaust) would understand the struggles that minorities such as the African-American community would go through every day. This brings me to my first question, what type of nerve must someone, who has witnessed and experienced genocide, have to allow them to inflect the same racism and segregation that they have once experienced? Shouldn’t these people learn from what they have seen and not turn their backs from it?
Another situation that has always confused me was the scene in which Arty and his wife, Francoise, speak on the issue of conversion (Ch. 1, pg. 11). Arty debates on whether or not he should draw his wife as a mouse in his novel. She states that she has converted and therefore has the right to be seen as a Jew. So my question is, because one was not raised in a specific matter would this prevent them from being see differently from others even though they have completely changed into a new person? So in this situation, does Francoise truly have the right to be considered a Jew and therefore allowed to be depicted as a mouse in Art’s novel? A little side question. Who do you think pressured Francoise into converting to Judaism? Was it her own choice, was it Arty, or could it have been that Vladek would not give his blessing to the couple unless Francoise converted to Judaism?
Another point of interest is when Art goes to his psychiatrist. He quotes Samuel Beckett saying, “Every word is like an unnecessary stain on silence and nothingness.” (Spiegelman 45) It feels as if Art is trying to justify not writing the book. Why does he not want to write the book? He’s been working on this for such a long time. What connection does this have with the relationship between Art’s dad and him?
Within the father, son relationship the reader often sees Art becoming increasingly angry at his father over a variety of things. At the end of Maus I Art shouts rather violently at his father for destroying his mother’s notebooks, calling his father a murderer, and actually ending the story after that single word. Why do you think that Art has such an extreme reaction to his father’s actions here, going out of his way to accuse his father of being a murderer over a set of journals?
My second question is related to Vladek's perception of Art. The former often "brags" about his younger self. For instance, on page 33 of Maus II, he recollects, "Always I was handsome..." In addition, he knew how to work with tin and quickly learned how to repair shoes at Auschwitz. He also prizes himself on his frugality. In the books, does he compare himself with his son and does this result in his disappointment of him?
Not to just repeat what Jing said already, but I was also confused as to why Art decides to tell us about his father's death at the beginning of chapter two. It does not really go with the rest of the chapter because he just goes on using the images of him and his father talking as if it was not just a recording of a conversation. Why did he throw in the fact that his father died into the second chapter, couldn't it have been in another chapter? Or, could this section have been a chapter all on its own? It has the potential to be a quick introduction or even made into a conclusion if more information was added.
As characters, Art and his wife are very relatable. Their speech bubbles can be read without imposing an assumed accent to their words, Art clearly explains his opinions and thoughts when he talks to Francoise, and they both act according to social codes that most people are familiar with. Vladek is different. During his recollections, he is a resourceful, intelligent, iron-willed man who went to hell and back with only his intuition as a guide. However, when he interacts with Mala or Art, he is the epitome of a stereotypical Jewish senior citizen, often serving as comic relief in between gruesome episodes of Holocaust memories. Although Art confronts this issue during the scene with the psychiatrist, it still feels like Vladek as an old man is a comedic element to the story. Does portraying Vladek as a stereotype mar the significance of his Holocaust story?
On a related note, one thing that Vladek does not have left over from his days in the Holocaust are Anja's diaries, which he claims he burned shortly after Anja's death. Although this certainly seems possible, given his trauma over the event, it's also entirely possible that they're simply hidden somewhere in the mess of his house, and he doesn't want to give them to Artie, given his love for Anja and his fondness for holding onto lost things. Which do you think is really the case?
I also wonder why Vladek is so suspicious of Mala. She is a fellow survivor, so she's been through the same things that he has, but yet he still doesn't trust her with his money. What makes her different from any of the friends that he helped out after the Holocaust?
Finally, why does Art have trouble coming to terms with his success as a cartoonist? We see on pages 41-42 that he slowly turns into a child when he's faced with reporters inquiring about Maus. He's also portrayed as a child when he visits his psychologist. What idea is he trying to get across by showing us that?
In Maus 2, we see this panel where Art is talking to his wife about Maus. While this very tongue-in-cheek breaking the fourth wall is ironically funny, it opens up a lot of questions. Since Maus is a retelling of Vladek's story through Art, how much of it is reality and how much of it is intepretation and bias from Art? Of course, any story that is told again through some other means is going to have discrepancies from the original, but how is this problem compounded by the fact that Maus is a graphic novel? In normal literature, imagery is left to the imagination of the reader, so the writer does not have to take responsibility for that- he/she only has to write out settings, people, emotions, etc. in words. With graphic novels and, in this case, Maus, images are provided for the reader so inevitably the images that the reader sees becomes more of a reality.
Also, in this panel Art admits that there is so much about this story for his entire family that it is impossible to sort through all of the complexities. How well do you think Art actually represents his family's ordeal through and after the Holocaust, specifically for Vladek? There are many instances in Maus where Art seems extremely intolerant of Vladek... he portrays him racist, thrifty, and even mean sometimes. Considering everything that Vladek has gone through, though, are these representations fair? How much of this is Art's own bias?
When I began reading the Maus series, I was very curious as to why Art Spiegelman used mice to represent the Jews and cats to represent the Nazis. How does the use of these animals as the characters that they are in the two books affect the story as a whole or how it depicts the story?While reading the story, you can see how the Holocaust affected Vladek. On page 90, Francoise states that it is a miracle that Vladek survived and in response Artie says, "but in some ways he didn't survive"? What do you think he means by that quote? Use examples from the book to prove some of the ways that Vladek did not survive the Holocaust.
Additionally, we learn towards the end of volume 2 that even after all he's been through, Vladek has some racial prejudices of his own. During the incident with the hitchhiker, he expresses severe discomfort and a deeply rooted belief in a racial stereotype. After all that Vladek has been through, is it right for him to have these prejudices? Even if it is not, does it make sense? One would think that having been through what he has, Vladek would understand the ridiculousness of racism--and yet he does not even consider African Americans to be of the same species as himself. In a way, he is just like the Nazis who killed his family members. What is it about human nature that makes us so unwilling to let go of our prejudices? Why is it that even after we've been through something like the Holocaust, we do not eliminate racism entirely from our psyches?
As Dr. Hancock said in class, one of the reasons Art wrote this comic book, was to rebuild his relationship with his father. Throughout the graphic novel, there are many occurrences that portray the tensions between their father and son relationship. For example on page 78, Art and Vladek argue about whether Art should take home Vladek’s leftovers. When Art tells his father to just throw them away, Vladek responds with saying how after the Holocaust, he can’t throw out food. Art then responds with an very rude, and unthoughtful comment, “Then just save the damn Special K in case Hitler ever comes back.” (III, 78) So my question is why does Art treat his father like that even after knowing the horror he had gone through during the Holocaust? Why isn't he more considerate of his father's psychological well being?
Another scenario that struck me was towards the end of Chapter Three, when Art, Vladek, and Francoise are returning from the Catskills. Francoise is driving and along the way, she picks up an African American hitchhiker. Afterwards, Vladek remarks with racist comments “I had the whole time to watch that this shavartser doesn’t steal us the groceries from the back seat!” (III, 93). Art counteracts with anger, asking him why he would be so racist, when he had been the victims of the German’s racism. Thus my second question is why does Vladek react this way? And how does this incident illustrate the different meaning the Holocaust holds for Art and for his father?
My second question has to do with the second part of Maus in particular. In the second chapter of the book, we, as the readers, are introduced to Art's near-psychological breakdown after the highly attributed success of Maus I. The first page of Chapter 2 shows Art having his various flashbacks and remembering the different dates that had been troubling him, such as the deaths of his mother and father, the gassing of the Jews at Auschwitz, and Maus I's publication. Later in the chapter Art shows himself diminished to the stature of a mere child as he goes to speak with his psychologist. Why do you think Speigelman included this episode in his book, showing his difficulties with his life after he finished the first part, what purpose does it give to the story of Vladek and his trials through Auschwitz and his relationship with his son in the later years of his life? Why do you think that the death of his father in 1982 was not revealed to us until now?
Finally, there seems to be an incongruity in the character of Vladek Spiegelman before the Holocaust and after the Holocaust. Is it the Holocaust that has changed Vladek, old age, or his new marriage with Mala? Perhaps it is a combination of all three, although to argue purely one way or another would be interesting.
-- Andrew Lee
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Looking back on Vladek's story and what you found for the previous question, how do you think Vladek's experience during the Holocaust differed from what most Jews had to go through? Are there any specific examples that illustrate this?