Maus - Art Spiegelman - A Review
This is a review for the graphic novel 'Maus' written according to Queensland Year 12 English Extension syllabus. It was a great novel!
Of Mice and Men; Maus by Art Spiegelman
While I like to keep an open mind about reading new material for the first time, I would be lying if I said that I was looking forward to reading a graphic novel. I am the first to admit that comics and pictures are not my strong point and I have always related better to entirely written works, whose reading entails the use of my very vivid imagination. However, after flicking through and reading the inside cover, my initial perceptions began to alter again. Having assumed that this book was about the Holocaust, my interest was aroused as to how well this author would portray this, and through the use of visuals, especially the anthropomorphic representations of characters.
Art Spiegelman is both the author and a participant within his graphic novel ‘Maus’. The novel itself deals with the Holocaust as told through Art’s father, Vladek’s eyes as well as issues surrounding depression and suicide, with Artie’s mother committing the latter and Artie prescribing to the former. Told through the effective use of flashbacks between the current Vladek and the 1940’s era Vladek, ‘Maus’ gives an insightful and heart wrenching view into the plight of the Jews during that period in time, as well as the aftermath of effects , and how it was affected the second generation, of whom Artie is one.
I will not say that the initial survivor, Vladek, is an entirely kind, benevolent old man who likes taking long walks on the beach and enjoying the company of his second wife, Mala. Rather, he can almost be typecast as the “miserly Jew”, a stereotype of older Jewish men who keep their money entirely within the bank and not spending any for themselves. Despite his shortcomings at being even remotely altruistic at times, he dearly loves his son, and it can clearly be seen that the suffering he underwent during the war has permanently altered his outlook and behavior. I was able to perceive this and understand the way he treats his family.
Despite the evidently Jewish background which prevails strongly throughout the book, my non-Jewish background did not prevent me from sympathizing and even shedding a few tears throughout the more sorrowful parts of the book . However, some of the more Jewish elements, such as the analysis of numbers in Vladek’s imprisonment tattoo, as well as the occasional mention of the Torah were concepts I was unfamiliar with, although I remained interested and able to perceive the main story line without being entirely lost. In fact, after reading about this religion I felt encouraged to research it to gain an even better understanding of the views and beliefs expressed in Judaism.
For me, ‘Maus’ represented a variance in my reading diet. Glancing at it on a bookshelf, I might be interested in the cover with its swastika , a cat Hitler, and several mice looking terrified as I enjoy educating myself upon history, however would most likely dismiss it as a mere comic. Before reading the novel I had read comics but none with such a strong socio-political message or with such a strong appeal to the human soul and it was my mistake in actually labeling this graphic novel as a mere comic. I found, that despite my family not having suffered such great injustice at the hands of anyone, I was strongly able to relate to the depression and mental illness that both Artie and his mother struggle with and as a human being I found the book emotionally convicting and powerful in the way it shows the Holocaust.
Before I began reading ‘Maus’ I had assumed that it was most likely to make light or disappoint me in it’s purely graphic form rather than my preferred entirely textual literature. I had inferred it would be unable to properly conjure the plight of those living in the Holocaust, and yet when the book ended with Artie’s father passing away I felt an incredible loss for the Jewish people who suffered within that abominable part of history. Despite my differences in culture, anyone can relate to the tale of sorrow and suffering in ‘Maus’.