Monday, October 12, 2009

Maus: Defining Questions

1. How would you define Art's relationship to his family members? Would you say that Maus I and II properly reflect his familial bonds? For the most part, it seems that he and his father have a pretty strained relationship. Through their exchange of words, the audience gets the feeling that Vladek cares about his son and wants to reconcile whatever tension comes between them. He constantly invites his son to come over and shows obvious excitement when he actually does stop by for a visit. However, Art does not seem quite as enthused about establishing a deeper bond with his father. Rather, it seems that Art only cares about getting his story, not because of genuine interest of his father's past hardships and accomplishments, but because of the desire to complete his book. Yet, while Maus I and II show a tense father-son relationship, the short story Maus that appeared in the adult comic, "Funny Aminals," depicted a much warmer one. So, the question arises...which one is true? Also, one must wonder about his relationship with his mother and ghost brother as well. In some parts of the story, Art seems to be at odds with his mother. For example, in Maus I, the audience gets to see a segment of one of Art's other comics (p. 100-103) which highlights this poor relationship. Commentary on p. 103 says, "She [his mother] came into my was late at night...I turned away, resentful of the way she tightened the umbilical cord..." He goes on to scream, "...You murdered me, Mommy, and you left me here to take the rap!!!" From this comic strip, the reader would think that Art holds a grudge against his mom. Yet, at the end of part I, Art screams at his father, "You-You MURDERER! How the hell could you do such a thing!!!" after finding out that Vladek destroyed his mother's journals. Furthermore, note that part I is dedicated to Anja, the very woman he claimed 'murdered' him. So, again, which is true? Does Art hold something against his mother? Or does he actually mourn her death? Or both? Finally, what are Art's feelings towards his ghost of an older brother? On page 15 of Maus II, it seems that he envies Richieu. He expresses to his lover, "I wonder if Richieu and I would get along if he was still alive...I didn't think about him much when I was growing up...he was mainly a large, blurry photograph hanging in my parents' bedroom...The photo never threw tantrums or got in any kind of trouble...It was an ideal kid, and I was a pain in the ass. I couldn't's spooky, having sibling rivalry with a snapshot!"So, clearly, he never got to know his older brother, yet his ghost still lingers. Does Art resent him for taking his parents' hearts? Or does he wish he had the chance to meet him? How did Art feel at the end of Maus II (p. 136) when his father says, "I'm tired from talking, Richieu, and it's enough stories for now..."? In any case, he cared enough to dedicate part II to Richieu, so that must mean something, but what?

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.

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