Maus Chapter 2

What is the significance of the author's decision to portray people of different races and nationalities as different animals?

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Specific symbolism is used in the choice of animal representation for Maus. Animals are specifically chosen to symbolize human interactions, and thus illustrated with different groups of animals. Maus creates an allegory using animal imagery, in which different types of people are characterized with the traits of different animals. The fact that the Jewish people are portrayed as mice conveys a multitude of attitudes towards the Jewish people; traits such as small, loveable, harmless, but yet also, perilous, repellent, and ugly. The Germans are characterized as cats, signifying the power and malevolence of the entire Holocaust experience. The cats don't just kill the mice; they capture them, play with them, and then kill them.

As natural enemies, natural sworn enemies, the cats and mice lack both reasoning skills and conscience. As a result, the Nazi cats have no problem in systematically killing off the Jewish mice. In real life, a mouse is prey for a cat, and as shown in the book, a Jew is prey for a Nazi.