Compare Vladek’s marriage to Mala with his previous marriage to Anja. Why is Vladek’s relationship with Mala so contentious, while his relationship with Anja was so filled with love?


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There are differences between Vladek's past and present selves. Chief among these differences is his overall demeanor. In the past narrative, Vladek is loving and kind in his relationship with Anja, and calm and composed in his dealings with other people. But there is no love in his second marriage to Mala, and the older Vladek is quick to anger and feels constantly imposed upon by those around him. At the end of this chapter, we hear some of Mala's survival story. Given that they both survived Auschwitz, it is interesting to compare their personalities. Mala endured similar hardships to those that Vladek faced, yet she does not share the personality traits that Vladek seems to have acquired during the Holocaust. The same can be said for Anja, whose experience was nearly identical to her husband's, yet, like Mala, Anja did not leave the Holocaust filled with bitterness and afflicted with a compulsion to save even the most frivolous items. How can two people who both experienced the same horrors have been affected so differently?

This question is raised by Art a few times over the course of the story, but a satisfactory answer is never provided. One possible explanation is the fact that while Vladek, Anja and Mala's Holocaust experiences may have been similar, the three found different ways to cope. For example, Vladek's survival was contingent on very different factors than Anja's. Though there was - as with all Holocaust survivors - a certain amount of luck involved in Vladek's survival, he relied to a large extent on his intelligence, resourcefulness, and ability to think on his feet. By comparison, Anja's survival depended predominantly on the kindness and resourcefulness of others. Before Auschwitz, she was almost completely dependent upon Vladek's ability to find food and shelter, and when she was separated from her husband in the concentration camps, she survived largely due to the kindness of her supervisor, Mancie.