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Themes in Maus: A Survivor's Tale

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Lucas Bartlett

on 18 April 2014

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Transcript of Themes in Maus: A Survivor's Tale

Themes in Maus: A Survivor's Tale
The whole drive of Vladek's story is the will to survive. The the things that he had done, good or bad, were in the name of kepping himself and those he cared about alive. Survival was an important theme to the story because it was sometimes the only thing the Jews had left. Without any of their belongings or loved ones, the goal of survival was the only thing worth fighting for. It was an idea that was able to give them the hope to push forward. This theme allows the reader more insight into the osuffereing and despair that was felt by so many during the Holocaust
Racism is a theme that echos throughout Maus. The Nazi's purpose was to exterminate the Jews because they believed them to be sub-human. With a story that was centered around the Holocaust it would be difficult to avoid the topic. Art Speigalman portrays the characters of the book as animals, letting him divide the different cultural groups. Jews as mice, Nazis as cats and pigs as the Polish.
Past vs Present
Art Spiegelman is able to use two main narratives in the story to contrast each other. The holocaust story and the story of Vladek and his son compliment each other as well as provide contrast. Vladek's survival story allows us to experience his struggle. Art's documentation of his father's journey shows why the past is so important and the effect it can have on today's world.
Ramifications of the Holocaust
Family is an extremely important theme that is presented throughout Maus: A Survivor's Tale. It can be seen during Vladek's flashbacks as well as during the present. The Jews who are being killed and imprisoned value family more than anything. They have no more belongings and their relatives are the only thing that remains of their past life. Meanwhile, Art and his father bond over his telling of the story. Art wants to learn more about his father and mother and what they went through. Family is an important ideal to almost every character in the book.
Much of Vladek's survival was dependent on luck. There were multiple times when his life hung in the balance and only by chance did he survive. Whether it was coming across someone who would hide him or just surviving his time in the Polish army, he was extremely lucky in the sense that he kept his life. When he was in the POW camp he was almost shot by a guard but the bullet narrowly passed by him. As well, he is caught with his illegal sugar sack and is able to convince the guards he owns a shop. There were many times when Vladek could have easily died.
The consequences of the Holocaust can clearly be seen in the book's characters. Vladek is neurotic and has multiple issues that he refuses to deal with. his ordeal has obviously scarred and changed him as a person. His second wife, Mala, also has alot of personal issues which may be the result of Mala and Vladek's unpleasant marriage. Both have alot of memories and baggage that they carry with them.
A contrast can be seen between the powerful Nazis and the powerless Jews. All the money and items that the Speigalman family had, did them little good once they were taken to the ghettos. The Germans were free to come and take what they wanted form them. Some Jews tried to join the Ghetto police or committee but even those positions were not enough to save their lives. Even when Vladek is fleeing, he must disguise himself as a regular Polish man because if he was found to be a Jew, he would have no control over what happens to him and his wife.
Irony can be seen a variety of times throughout Maus. Firstly it is interesting to see how Vladek has survived such an ordeal as the Holocaust, yet he harbors his own racist feelings against black people. He has experienced discrimination at its most extreme yet he still treats others with that same idea. Another example of irony is that of Anja's suicide. She survived a mass genocide only to take her own life.
Vladek obviously feels a lot of remorse over what he has experienced in is life. He was allowed to live on yet so many others that he knew did not. Also, Art and Vladek both regret not being able to save Anja's life and feel somewhat guilty over letting her die. Art may also feel like he should have experienced what his parents experienced. He is sad he knows little of his father's story and wants to document it while there is still time.
Morality is shown in a variety of ways. Many of the book's characters, such as the Nazis, lack any kind of conscience or moral fiber. Similarily some of the Jews and Poles have given up some of their morality in favour of their own survival. Vladek and Anja are turned away when looking for a place to stay because the people are looking out for themselves rather than others. Many of the freindships they had before are now gone. When it comes to the Jews they can only afford to care for their families and others are on their own. The ordeal has changed many character's outlooks on life.
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