Maus Questions

In this chapter Art is a human wearing a mouse mask as he works at his drawing board. What's that about, and why are there flies and bodies in the room and a guard tower outside the window?



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One of the most striking features of this meta-narrative is a shift in the nature of the animal metaphor. In both the past and present narratives, all characters are drawn with human bodies and animal heads. In the meta-narrative, all characters are drawn as humans wearing animal masks, with the string clearly visible on the back and sides of their heads. Previous instances in the book have suggested that on some levels, the author considers the animal metaphor to be inappropriate and overly simplistic (see, for example, the discussion in the previous chapter about his decision to draw Francoise as a mouse). The meta-narrative, however, offers the most direct challenge to the validity of the metaphor on which much of the book is based. In other words, Art is having second thoughts about his decision to assign distinct animals to distinct races and nationalities. By placing all of his characters in masks, he is suggesting that issues of race and nationality are purely products of our minds, and that underneath we're all just people. Even though he is having second thoughts, he continues the metaphor throughout the rest of the story.

This section also includes one of the book's most powerful images: A depressed Art Spiegelman sitting at a drawing board balanced atop a pile of dead, emaciated Jews. Similar piles line the sidewalks outside of his apartment. These images are a haunting representation of the Holocaust's continuing effect on the author, and a reminder of the effects of the past upon the present. Despite the many years that have passed since the Holocaust, and despite the fact that he never lived through it himself, the events are a part of his everyday life.