Monday, October 12, 2009

Questions Regarding Maus II

In Maus II, Art Spiegelman's pen-and-ink form splutters, "I-I never thought of reducing it to a message. I mean, I wasn't trying to CONVINCE anybody of anything" (Spiegelman 42). Upon reading this, I was instantly reminded of a similar phrase present in Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. Twain's renowned work begins with a humorous notice that proclaims, "Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted, persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished." Clearly, Spiegelman didn't wish to put his soul into a novel that was devoid of a message, so why does he treat this with a degree of ambivalence? Is he, perhaps, trying to shed light upon his main points by obscuring them?

As is true for most, I was initially elated by the prospect of viewing characters as animals. After the novelty wore off, it became clear to me that Spiegelman wished to underscore the role that identity plays in destiny. Later, when Art is speaking with Pavel, his shrink, Pavel explains, "Life always takes the side of life, and somehow the victims are blamed. But it wasn't the BEST people who survived, nor did the best ones die. It was RANDOM!" (Spiegelman 45) It seems as though Spiegelman toys with the meaning of "being good." Anja seems to be "good," but she commits the sin of suicide. On the other hand, Mala does not seem to be "good," but she manages to survive the Holocaust and surpass others in terms of health. What is the intentional role of this idea, and what should the reader take away from it earlier in the novel? In the Holocaust, a character's past could determine a character's fate, as was true for the Kapos. To what extent does identity determine one's actions or outcome, and how does Spiegelman portray this?

No comments: