Discuss the role of luck and faith in Vladek’s story of survival.

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The second form of guilt found in the pages of Maus is more 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.


The importance of luck is closely related to discussions of survival and guilt (see above). Vladek is blessed with many skills and qualities - including the ability to speak multiple languages - that provide him with opportunities to survive within the confines of Auschwitz. Ultimately, however, Vladek's survival and the survival of all other Holocaust survivors hinges upon luck. On countless occasions throughout Vladek's Holocaust ordeals, his life is spared only by the narrowest of margins: the near-miss bullet at the prisoner-of-war camp in Lublin; the run-in with the Gestapo while carrying ten kilograms of illegal sugar; the night Mrs. Motonowa forces him and Anja out of her house; the case of typhus at Dachau; and many, many other incidents. No matter how resourceful Vladek is, no matter how many languages he knows or jobs he can perform, he cannot ultimately save himself from the horrors of the Holocaust. Rather, the matter of his life and death ultimately depends upon a long line of chance outcomes, most of which happen to fall his way. The rest of his family, including his parents and five siblings, are not so lucky. Pavel, Art's psychiatrist, suggests that this idea may have contributed to a strong sense of guilt in Vladek for having survived the Holocaust while so many of his friends and family did not.