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Diagrams are key to helping Art visualize Vladek’s experience during the Holocaust. Vladek inserts himself into the text at times, drawing out for Art how to repair a shoe or build a bunker. The technical skill that Vladek shows by sketching these diagrams creates a link between Vladek and Art: just as Vladek’s technical skills were survival strategies, Art’s technical skill as an artist is a way for Vladek’s memory to survive after his death.
Perhaps the most obvious feature of Maus is its use of animals to represent different races and nationalities. In representing the Jews as mice, Spiegelman is playing off the anti-Semitic stereotype of Jews as vermin or pests, as less than human.
For the rest of the menagerie, we have animals that in some way play off of a national characteristic. The 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, and the Gypsies are moths. The Poles are pigs, which does not seem as random when we consider that the Nazis sometimes referred to the Poles as pigs (Considering Maus, 21).
But 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.
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