Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Maus Questions

The use of animal symbolism in a work of nonfiction, especially one that deals with subject matter as sensitive as the Holocaust, can be a tricky issue. As an author, you want your message to come across clearly and to be taken seriously, yet you also want the artistic freedom to experiment with your medium in unconventional ways. When used properly, animal symbolism becomes a recurring leitmotif that attracts the reader's attention; when used improperly, it can degrade a book to the level of a child's fable. Does the use of animals in Maus I and II detract from the authenticity of the graphic novel, or does it serve as a device that makes the novel--and, by extension, its characters--more memorable?

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?

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