Maus, The Most Audacious And Controversial Choice Of The Holocaust

1732 Words Dec 23rd, 2016 7 Pages
In his graphic novel, Maus, Art Spiegelman tells an account of the Holocaust in the most daring of ways. Spiegelman’s choice to tell a biographical account in comic book form is bold in and of itself, but his choice to portray all of his characters as animals is the most audacious and controversial choice of all. In Maus, every ethnic group is characterized by its own distinct animal: Jews are mice, Germans are cats, non-Jewish Poles are pigs, and so on. This deliberate choice alludes to the extreme essentialization of identity during the Holocaust. Just as in Maus people are very clearly labeled as mice, pigs, cats, etc., during the Holocaust, people were very strictly groups together by whether they were Jewish, Polish, or German. Each group’s identity was very discretely defined, and there was meant to be no overlap between groups whatsoever. During the Holocaust, who you were was predetermined, and you were stuck with your assigned identity and the consequences and/or privileges that came with it. At key moments in the novel, however, Spiegelman diverts from this strict essentialization of identity. At two distinct moments he draws his characters wearing masks, outwardly portraying an identity different from their inherent identity. In Maus, masks are used as measure of deception and affiliation. Through the use of masks, the characters in Maus have a choice of identity. Masks allow autonomy over one’s identity, an autonomy that did not exist during the Holocaust.…
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