The books Maus I and Maus II, written by Art Spiegelman over a thirteen-year period from 1978-1991, are books that on the surface are written about the Holocaust. The books specifically relate to the author’s father’s experiences pre and post-war as well as his experiences in Auschwitz. The book also explores the author’s very complex relationship between himself and his father, and how the Holocaust further complicates this relationship. On a deeper level the book also dances around the idea of victims, perpetrators, and bystanders. The two books are presented in a very interesting way; they are shown in comic form, which provides the ability for Spiegelman to incorporate numerous ideas and complexities to his work.
The comic book form is very useful in telling a story as complex as Maus. Usually, comics are associated with fun and lightheartedness, but Maus is almost the complete opposite. It is a serious story of one’s recollection of the holocaust. Not exactly light reading.
Maus definitely works in comic form for a number of reasons. Firstly, Art Spiegelman is able to create almost particular images, which means when something’s happening to a character we feel more because we see it happening to them. Secondly, comic form lets the author be more precise in his details. He is able to add small little hints in the illustrations, making the comic readable on many different levels. For example, one person can just see a sad story, while another can see a completely different story full of depth and hidden meaning. The comic is also able to show ideas that could not be as thoroughly presented in written form.
The section in Maus II where Artie is sitting at his desk debating the point of writing the book could never be told in any other way (pages 41-46). Specifically, in panel 5 when Artie is sitting at his desk, the reader notices a guard tower in the background. The tower symbolizes the feeling of being trapped or imprisoned within the past. After all, at this point in Artie’s life, the past is all he thinks about. The reader also notices a spotlight and dead bodies under Spiegelman’s desk. The bodies overwhelm the panel signifying Spiegelman’s very hard job of attempting to do justice for all of the victims of the Holocaust; all eyes are on him hence the spotlight. These types of complex ideas could not be shown as precisely or as interestingly in written form. In this same section of Maus II the characters are wearing animal masks, showing a preoccupation with identity and the Holocaust even in the present day. This would simply not work in a normal novel.
The idea of masks as well as people as animals leads right into the next idea. Spiegelman is attempting to communicate very interesting ideas with this artistic choice. He is using specific animals in order to represent different ethnicities or types of people; for example, Jews are represented as mice. Spiegelman is building off Nazi ideals showing that Jews...