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Greek’s Relationship In Maus Essay

The act of talking to someone through testimony is the best way to overcome trauma that has haunted someone’s life. By talking to someone rather than talking in monologue, the burden is shared with the listener and therefore becomes less for the teller. Another way someone can share a burden with a listener is through storytelling. By writing stories and sharing it with an audience, the writer is able to share his experience in the world. In other novels, however, the novelist may create a character to stand in for the audience as the character communicates his traumatic story.

In Maus by Art Spiegelman, the traumatic experience is being told by Spiegelman’s father and Spiegelman creates himself as a character in the book to be a stand-in for the audience. In his acclaimed graphic novel, Art Spiegelman proves that while the sharing of one’s traumatic experiences has a positive outcome on the sharer, it has a negative outcome on the listener who is burdened with sharing the trauma of the teller. The characters in Maus serve as listeners to Vladek Spiegelman and his story about how the Holocaust is ever present in his life.

Beginning in the prologue, Spiegelman retells the story of his ten-year old self falling of his roller-skate and watching the rest of his friends skate away. When he rushes to tell his father about this incident, Vladek responds by saying “If you lock then together in a room with no food for a week then you could see what it is, friends” (pg. 6). Immediately, Spiegelman portrays the relationship the father and son have is one of a survivor’s traumatic past having a long lasting effect on his thoughts and a listener who is burdened with the task of living in the shadows of his father’s trauma.

However, Art is not the only person burdened by his father’s past. Mala, Vladek’s second wife, lives in a strained and emotionless marriage with Vladek because of the detrimental hold the memory of his dead wife has on him. His first wife, Anja, is the mother of both Art and his deceased older brother Richieu, who did not make it out of the Holocaust. When the memory of the Holocaust became too much for Anja to bear, she committed suicide which put Vladek into an even worse depression.

Vladek shows his unending adoration for Anja by keeping “photos of her all around [his] desk like a shrine” (I pg. 104) and by telling the story of how he met Anja before he tells any other stories of the war. The trauma that Vladek went through affects the way he interacts with both his son and his wife and shows the power that memories have on the connections the afflicted try to make afterwards. While Vladek’s story is the one that propels the narrative, Spiegelman writes Maus as an attempt to share the burden that his father’s story and his mother’s suicide has put on him with the reader.

By sharing this story with the audience, Spiegelman makes space for the reader to fill in his place as the listener while he takes his father’s place of the story teller. In chapter five, Art tells the story of when Vladek found his previous graphic novel, Prisoner on the Hell Planet. In this narrative, Spiegelman makes an attempt to portray Anja’s feelings post-Holocaust and her need to feel in touch with her family, so far as to ask Art “you still love me, don’t you? ” to which Art replies a resentful “sure” (I pg. 03). His mother’s depression brought her to suicide and brought Art into a feeling of abandonment and broken connection from his mother. When Spiegelman decides to write the story, it is an attempt to reconnect with his mother through the memories his father provides.

When Art first comes to Vladek about the idea of writing a graphic novel about the war he asks him to “start with mom” (I pg. 12) and, throughout his father’ retellings, inquires if he “found mom’s diary” (I pg. 05). When Art finds out that Vladek, in a fit of depression, burns Anja’s entire diary collection he becomes furious because the last chance of connection to his mother is destroyed. He goes so far as to call Vladek a “murderer” (I pg. 159) when he learns he lost the opportunity to” [get] some idea of what she went through” (I pg. 158). Art’s attempt to find some peace with his mother’s death was burned to the ground when his father destroyed the last remnants of Anja’s memories.

Although Vladek is able to benefit from retelling his story to his son, Art also needs a listener in order to share his traumatic experience with his mother’s death and his disconnect from his father. Maus becomes Art Spiegelman’s attempt to share his experiences with his readers and his listeners to ease his own pain. By making Maus a graphic narrative instead of a novel, dialogue plays an important part in the story. The key dialogue in the story is Vladek’s retelling of the war and Art’s responses to his father’s stories.

The dialogue in the text represents the lack of connection that Art and Vladek share. In the beginning of chapter one, Spiegelman begins by telling the reader that he “hadn’t seen [his father] in a long time. [They] weren’t that close” (I pg. 11) which immediately sets up the idea that the relationship Spiegelman has with his father is an estranged one. Further evidence arises from scenes in which Vladek wants Art to come over to keep him company or to “climb the roof [to fix] a leak in the drain pipe” (I pg. 3) but Art is fixated on “[visiting his father] more often in order to get information about his past” (I pg. 43).

The dialogue between Art and his wife is equally as important because Art voices a lot of his feelings about his father and mother to her. In Chapter five, Art tells his wife, Francoise about his father’s disapproval in him whenever Art tried to help around the house had a long lasting impression on him about handiwork. To Art, Vladek “loved showing how handy he was” and how “everything [Art] did was wrong” (I pg. 7).

Just like when he was a kid, Art feels a disconnected feeling from his father and wants to make no attempt to rebuild that bridge. However, Vladek still believes that his relationship with his son can still be healed with quality time together. However, Art dialogue to and about his father shows a son who is completely disinterested in mending broken fences between himself and his father but rather a son who wants to find a way to make a connection between himself and his deceased mother.

While dialogue from character to character is the most common form of dialogue in this novel, Maus II introduces a dialogue between Spiegelman and the readers. In chapter two, Spiegelman depicts himself, this time not as a mouse but as a human wearing a mouse mask, sitting at his drawing table making what is assumed to be Maus II. In the first few panels, he talks about something nice or exciting such as him and Francoise expecting a baby in May 1987.

However, he quickly negates the positive feeling that accompanies that news by saying that “between May 16, 1944 and May 24, 1944 over 100,000 Hungarian Jews were gassed in Auschwitz” (II pg. 41). This dialogue between character and audience is Spiegelman’s attempt to show the audience how powerful his father’s story as well as his mother’s suicide has impacted his life. Even when his life is taking a turn for the better such as “fifteen foreign editions are coming out [about Maus]…and 4 serious offers to turn [Maus] into a T.

V special or movie”, he is haunted by a more painful memory such as his mother killing herself on May 1968, without leaving a note. He also depicts himself as writing on a pile of dead Jew’s bodies with a Nazi watch tower outside his window and the rifle aimed for his head. While writing this novel, Spiegelman wants the audience to know that the task of taking on the traumatic stories of the Holocaust has their effect on his life and by writing it down he relives those memories shared with his father, mother and all the other Jew’s who lived through the Holocaust.

When Art goes to see his psychiatrist, he talks about the guilt that he feels for fighting with his father over Vladek’s need to always be right. However, Art begins to see it as his father’s guilt of being a survivor over the many Jews that died in his place being taken out on Art, who is the real survivor. Art becomes a survivor of post-memory, sharing trauma, as well as his mother’s suicide. The pain and hurt that was felt after Anja and Vladek escaped from the Nazi’s was a burden on both them and Art.

However, even though Art wasn’t there he became a bearer of something that was a lot of him to handle. By Art sharing his innermost thoughts with the audience, the readers see just how traumatic the experience of sharing in a trauma with someone is Art’s need to write his feelings down and share them in a cathartic manner through Maus. One relationship in Maus that is only explored deeper in Maus ii is Art’s relationship with his deceased brother, Richieu. Richieu is Anja and Vladek’s first born son who did not make it out the Holocaust.

The first reference to Richieu is when Vladek retells the story of Anja’s post birth depression. After Richieu’s death, Anja and Vladek put a photograph of their child on the wall which leads Art to feel as though he has some sort of sibling rivalry with his dead brother. He likened the photograph to an ideal child because it “never threw tantrums or got into any kind of trouble. It was an ideal kid, and [Art] was a pain the ass. [He] couldn’t compete” (II pg. 15). Art’s rivalry with his snapshot sibling arises from the potential his brother could have had if he were alive.

His brother could have “become a doctor, and married a wealthy Jewish girl” (II pg. 15) or possibly been able to deal with Vladek better than Art could. Throughout the beginning of the narrative, Art’s relationship with a ghost of his brother is as strained as the one that he has with his father. However, throughout the rest of the narrative, Art begins to accept his brother back into his life by drawing his brother as an actual cartoon, dedicating the volume two to him, and including a picture of him in the forward.

His relationship with his brother heals so much that by the end of the narrative, Vladek mistakenly refers to Art as Richieu, showing a complete acceptance of the importance of his brother in his life and the relief that comes with letting go the burden of jealousy against his brother. Art Spiegelman began work on Maus as a way to connect and come to terms with the memory of his dead mother. In doing so, Spiegelman also had to come to terms with his relationship with his estranged father and his deceased older brother.

By hearing his father tell his story, Art begins to find a new relationship with his father and an understanding of the hold Vladek’s memories had on him. He also began to reconnect with his brother’s memories, which helped him to not see his brother as his parent’s favorite child but rather as a hold the past still had on them and a way to sympathize with them more. By exposing Art’s emotions and disturbances, the work of literary testimony makes space for the readers to be listeners as they are able to empathize with Art, the same way Art is the listener for his father.

Readers are able to engage in dialogue and able to understand the emotions of the father and his son by listening to the dialogue between the two characters throughout the graphic novel. As a whole, Art Spiegelman portrays the collective trauma of both those who experienced the Holocaust and those who are affected by its hold on the afflicted people. Nevertheless, he provides ways in which dialogue and communication serves as effective ways to deal with traumatic experiences.

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