Why did Spiegelman portray his fathers story as a comic strip? Why did he write this book? Why did he call it MAUS?
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The graphic novel genre is one of the most fascinating in literature. Spiegelman was a cartoonist so this type of platform allowed him to express his ideas.
Maus consists of two primary narratives of equal importance. The first major narrative is directed by Art's father, Vladek Spiegelman, who offers the story of his experiences in the Holocaust, as told to his son through a series of interviews. This narrative begins in pre-war Poland and tracks his life over a period of approximately ten years, from his marriage to his wife, Anja, in 1937, through his experiences in Auschwitz, and to his eventual immigration to Sweden after the war. The second major narrative focuses on Art's complex and conflicted relationship with his father between 1978 and 1982, while he interviews the old man about his Holocaust experiences.
In addition to these primary narratives, there are also two "minor" narratives that appear only briefly within the story. The first of these is a short comic that Art Spiegelman originally published in 1972, which details the story of Art's mother's suicide in 1968. The comic is eventually discovered by Vladek and reprinted in full in the middle of the first volume of Maus. The second minor narrative occurs at the beginning of the second chapter of Maus II and takes place in 1987, shortly after the publication of Maus I. It is a deeply personal and self-reflective narrative revealing the conflicting emotions of the author with regards to his father and the publication of Maus.
Though Maus is a comic book, its impact and complexity are far greater than most works of this medium. The story explores the nature of guilt, and the narrative serves as a meditation on the effects of a major historical event - in this case the traumatic events of the Holocaust - on the lives of people who were born after it ended. With its complex themes and structure and unconventional medium of a graphic novel, Maus almost defies description. Equal parts fiction, biography, autobiography, and history, it is in many ways a book that rises above genre to become something completely unique, and it is an amazing and lasting story that is destined to become a classic.