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MAUS I: Narrative & Visual Features
Transcript of MAUS I: Narrative & Visual Features
Visual Feature: Cross Hatching/Black & White
Maus uses structures with frames and balances dialogue and art.
Spiegelman uses a fiat comic style, cross hatching and wood carving, with black contrasts of light, shadows and shading
Spiegelman also uses his cross hatching depending on the tone of his words.
Narrative Feature: No Identity
Holocaust caused many individuals to loose their identities and sense of self.
Tattooed their arms with numbers and that's how they were known.
Self confidence and personalities were lost forever
Narrative Feature: Frame Narrative
Frame narrative, as used in Art Spiegelman's book, Maus 1 A Survivor’s Tale, is designed to record a father’s story.
This can be seen throughout the whole book with a mixture of flashbacks, perspective, and interview questions.
This mixture can be seen on pages 26-29, the story of Anja, Artie’s mother, and her involvement with her communist boyfriend,Warsaw.
Example of People as Animals
Visual Feature: People as Animals
In representing the Jews as mice, Spiegelman is playing off the anti-Semitic stereotype of Jews as vermin or pests, as less than human.
Germans are cats, predators who prey on the Jewish mice
the Americans are dogs who save the Jewish mice from the German cats.
The French are frogs, the Gypsies are moths, and the British are fish.
The Poles are pigs, which does not seem as random when we consider that the Nazis sometimes referred to the Poles as pigs
Again, Maus plays off the racial stereotypes, and even stereotypical thinking in general, by indicating where the allegory falls apart. The mice are not universally good, nor are the pigs universally good or bad. Mice can pass for other animals by wearing pig masks or cat masks.
The allegory falls apart at times when the animal-humans deal with actual animals, as when Art’s Jewish therapist has pet cats , or when Art and Françoise have to use bug spray to get rid of bugs when they are vacationing in the Catskills, a reference to Zyklon-B, the pesticide used to gas concentration camp prisoners.
Narrative Feature: Vladek's Broken English
This stylistic choice brings authenticity to the novel and the content
Without it, Vladeks father would not seem genuinely Polish
As readers, we are delved into the realistic story being told by someone who survived the Holocaust. Having him speak in his native tongue only makes sense.
It may make it harder to read, but overall it has a positive effect on the novel.
Narrative Feature: Jumping from the Story to Present Time
“And on September 1, 1939, the war came I was on the front one of the first to Ach!” (39 Spigelman). Followed right after by “ So twice i spilled my drugs!” (39 Spigelman).
On pg 39 we have a good example of him jumping from the story to present time.
He starts off on page 38 telling us the story of him having to join the war. He explains how he left for the frontier against Germany and Anja left for Sosnowiec with her family.
We can see here how he is sitting on the table telling the story to his son and gives us an example of present time. He then comments how he dropped his pills for the second time and then he goes on to talk about his cataract eye.
Narrative Feature: Author Including Himself as a Character
By including himself as a character the story seems more believable
Adds legitimacy/ truth throughout the reading as oppose to someone else telling the story
Written in 1st person
Narrative Feature: Interview Format
Sons asks his father: “Wait a minute they only trained you for a few days before sending you into combat?” followed by “Well, the FIRST time I went into the army for 18 months when i was 21. Then every 4 years i went to Lublin for a month for training” (Spiegelman pg 45)
This is a good example of the interview format that happens throughout the reading. We can see how his son is asking (present time) to his father about him only training for a few days before sending him to combat.
Right after we see him continuing with the story.
Narrative Feature: First Person (Central Narrator)
Maus goes back and forth between two first person narrators: Vladek and Art.
We see the story unfold from both of their points of view. The use of a central first person narrator puts us deep into the action of the story, we feel Vladek’s anxiety and fear as he endures concentration camp life, and we experience Art’s conflicted emotions over his relationship with his father.
Since there is no third-person narrator, we don’t have the benefit of an objective or dispassionate view of their characters – but we don’t feel we need any.
The use of a personal perspective such as the central first person narrator is enough to establish our intimacy with the characters.
Narrative Feature: Tone (Reflective, Melancholic, Anguished)
The tone varies as the voice shifts between Vladek and Art, but in general, the tone fits the somber themes of the book.
Art’s reflections on his relationship with his father and on the crafting of Maus set the reader up for a more self-conscious reading of the book.
Both Art and Vladek veer between melancholy and anguish as the weight of the past – its memories, traumas, losses – threatens at times to overwhelm their lives in the present.
In his article, “The Holacaust as Viscarious Past: Art Spiegelman’s Maus and the Afterimages of History”, James E. Young explains the type of Narrative Maus uses in his novel. He says, “In Spiegelman's own words, "Maus is not what happened in the past, but rather what the son understands of the father's story. ... [It is] an autobiographical history of my relationship with my father, a survivor of the Nazi death camps, cast with cartoon animals."12 As his father recalled what happened to him at the hands of the Nazis, his son Art recalls what happened to him at the hands of his father and his father's stories. As his father told his experiences to Art, in all their painful immediacy, Art tells his experiences of the storytelling sessions themselves--in all of their somewhat less painful mediacy” (qtd. in “Art Spiegelman”). He highlights key terms like “autobiographical history,” “recalls”, “father’s stories”, “experiences,” and “storytelling sessions,” to define the type of Narrative Art Spiegelman decided to use. This type of narrative is frame narrative which is “a narrative providing the framework for connecting a series of otherwise unrelated stories” (qtd. in “Narrative Story”).
“Presenting such a dark subject as a graphic novel relieves some of the negativity of the topic as well as present it to an entire new audience, comic book readers.”
(Boyer, Blogspot Publication, 2012)
Spiegelman has the ability to reach an entire new audience and deliver his information in a way no one had done before.
Takes a dark subject such as the Holocaust and puts it into a story that people are able to grasp and understand
Reading about the Holocaust as a comic is an entirely new experience to everyone engaged.
Maus Analysis, maus graphic memoir.blogspot.ca, 11th July 2012 by Joel Christopher Boyer
Brandeis UniversityTrauma and Memory in the Literary Mind, Rachael Khoeler Sept 14 2009
Maus I,Spiegelman Art, Dec. 1980, Pantheon Books