Essay on The Comic Format of Spiegelman's Books Maus I and Maus II

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The books Maus I and Maus II, written by Art Spiegelman over a thirteen-year period from 1978-1991, are books that on the surface are written about the Holocaust. The books specifically relate to the author’s father’s experiences pre and post-war as well as his experiences in Auschwitz. The book also explores the author’s very complex relationship between himself and his father, and how the Holocaust further complicates this relationship. On a deeper level the book also dances around the idea of victims, perpetrators, and bystanders. The two books are presented in a very interesting way; they are shown in comic form, which provides the ability for Spiegelman to incorporate numerous ideas and complexities to his work.
The comic book
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The tower symbolizes the feeling of being trapped or imprisoned within the past. After all, at this point in Artie’s life, the past is all he thinks about. The reader also notices a spotlight and dead bodies under Spiegelman’s desk. The bodies overwhelm the panel signifying Spiegelman’s very hard job of attempting to do justice for all of the victims of the Holocaust; all eyes are on him hence the spotlight. These types of complex ideas could not be shown as precisely or as interestingly in written form. In this same section of Maus II the characters are wearing animal masks, showing a preoccupation with identity and the Holocaust even in the present day. This would simply not work in a normal novel.
The idea of masks as well as people as animals leads right into the next idea. Spiegelman is attempting to communicate very interesting ideas with this artistic choice. He is using specific animals in order to represent different ethnicities or types of people; for example, Jews are represented as mice. Spiegelman is building off Nazi ideals showing that Jews are dirty and bothersome people that need to be exterminated. By using this symbolism the author is amplifying a certain mentality in order to attempt to understand the Holocaust. Through the art in Maus the author is able to use illustration in order to make a much more interesting story, but it is not only about the art, it is also about certain

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