medium choice/individualized understanding of the life altering effects of death
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The form is the comic book, once dismissed as an entertainment for children and regarded as suited only for slapstick comedy, action-adventure, or graphic horror. And although Maus includes elements of humor and suspense, the horror it envisions is far worse than anything encountered in the pages of Stephen King: it is horror that happened; horror perpetrated by real people against millions of other real people; horror whose contemplation inevitably forces us to ask what human beings are capable of perpetrating—and surviving.
Maus has recognized the true nature of that riddle by casting its protagonists as animals—mice, cats, pigs, and dogs. As Spiegelman has said (in an interview in The New Comics, p. 191): "To use these ciphers, the cats and mice, is actually a way to allow you past the cipher at the people who are experiencing it." When Maus first appeared as a three-page comic strip in an underground anthology, the words "Nazi" and "Jew" were never mentioned. Spiegelman's animals permit readers to bypass the question of what human beings can or cannot do and at the same time force them to confront it more directly. His Jewish mice are a barbed response to Hitler's statement "The Jews are undoubtedly a race, but they are not human." His feline Nazis remind us that the Germans' brutality was at bottom no more explicable than the delicate savagery of cats toying with their prey. And although Vladek Spiegelman and his family initially seem even more human than the rest of us, as the story unfolds they become more and more like animals, driven into deeper and deeper hiding places, foraging for scarcer and scarcer scraps of sustenance, betraying all the ties that we associate with humanity