Most important and interesting part in the book. Three reasons why?


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This is very much a thematic question. I found the theme of survivor's guilt interesting and thematically complex. This guilt, called "survivor's guilt," is the product of both Vladek and Art's relationships with the Holocaust. Much of Maus revolves around this relationship between past and present, and the effects of past events on the lives of those who did not experience them (see below). In the cases of both men, this relationship often manifests itself as guilt.

Though Art was born in Sweden after the end of World War II, both of his parents were survivors of the Holocaust, and the event has affected him deeply. In Chapter One of Book II, as Art and Francoise are driving to the Catskills, Art reflects on this in detail, and Art's relationship with the past is revealed to predominantly take the form of guilt: "Somehow, I wish I had been in Auschwitz with my parents so I could really know what they lived through! I guess it's some form of guilt about having had an easier life than they did."

Vladek, too, appears to feel a deep sense of guilt about having survived the Holocaust. As Art's guilt persists through the late 1980s, five years after the death of his father, he visits his psychiatrist, Pavel, and the two discuss the nature of guilt and what it means to be a Holocaust "survivor." Vladek's survival in the Holocaust was not the consequence of any particular skill, but the result of luck, both good and bad. Pavel turns the idea of guilt on its head by suggesting that Vladek himself actually felt a strong sense of guilt for having survived the Holocaust while so many of his friends and family did not. And perhaps in response, Vladek took this guilt out on Art, the "real survivor," as Pavel calls him. In essence, Vladek's guilt may have been passed down to his son, establishing the foundation for the volumes of guilt that Art now feels towards his family and its history.