A Bump in the Road

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"It's something that worries me about the book I'm doing about him.  In some ways he's just like the racist caricature of the miserly old Jew" (Spiegelman 131).

OK, this is more of a call-out for opinion than anything else, because I cannot figure out how I feel about this section of the book.  Spiegelman is airing his concerns for the novel we're reading, within the pages of the novel itself. Should he really be doing that? Here were my initial issues with this choice:

1. The character of Vladek stands on his own, and Spiegelman's summarization of how Vladek will be perceived takes away validity of alternate views.

2. This was a tell vs. show moment.  Or, rather, a telling after showing moment. I think Speigelman did a good job of putting together a deep, diverse character in Vladek.  When he second-guesses himself in this instance, it's like he's beating us over the head with something, saying, "In case you couldn't tell by the 100 previous pages, my father likes money and is sometimes cranky."  It was unnecessary.

3. It came off as a cop-out to me. As though by saying, "this is what I'm afraid of" Spiegelman is trying to guarrantee the feared occurrence won't take place.  If there were other sides of Vladek's personality that Spiegelman wanted to show, he should've shown them too us.  If his father, indeed, has all the qualities of the stereotypical Jew, then I fail to see where the issue lies. 

-This was just one awkward section of an otherwise impressive story.  Though, I do not think it was harmful enough to ruin the story, I do think that Spiegelman needed to find another way to deal with his concerns.  I'm sure there are support groups for nervous novelists, anxious authors, and worried writers. 

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3 Comments

Aja Hannah said:

I actually liked this section because it pointed out that he wasn't trying to make his father look this way, it's just the way his father is. This is also a memoir so he wants to make sure people don't get the wrong idea like he's saying all Jews are this way. He wants to show that not everyone is the stereotype.

Josie Rush said:

I definitely agree that since this is a memoir, he wants the portrayal of his father to be accurate. Also, it *is* important for Spiegelman to portray the Jews as diverse (even though he interestingly enough, makes each character more or less identical by race, I don't think anyone could argue that he establishes a different personality for each character within the book through dialogue and action). However, he already showed us that not everyon is the stereotype by supplying us with characters that were different from Vladek. And he was honest about himself throughout the book, including some unflattering scenes where he was short-tempered with his father for example, so we don't have any reason to think he was just making his father fit a stereotype for the book. I don't think this was a horrible part of the novel; I didn't gasp in shock when I read it or anything. But it was awkward, and, because Spiegelman did such a good job with everything else in the novel, it was also unnecessary.

After reading Maus II, this section made so much more sense to me. I agree that Spiegelman definitely told instead of showed, which gives the idea that those frames served as a cop-out. However, these books were partly made to help Artie cope with his insecurities in his relationship with his father, it is logical that he would write these insecurities in them. He needs to reflect not only on his own personal doubts, but on the doubts he has regarding his father. I think this section ultimately works because it feels so different from the rest of the novel, and that is apparent to the reader. Spiegelman must have changed things up for a reason.

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