Soften The Blow

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Maus, Spiegelman

EL237--Writing About Literature

In this confusing world of literature, we try to decipher when and how an author get his/her point across. In Maus, I see how personification to make certain races of people into a certain animal. With Germans as cats and Jews as mice it made me think of the assumption of the natural order that some people had against the Jewish nation. Like every Holocaust themed literature I read, very few people see Jews as good people. To personify them as mice made the reader sympathize with them because we know that the pigs (Poles) are selfish and greedy, the dogs (Americans) are out of touch on what is going on, and the cats (Germans) are deadly in the world of Maus. In the beginning of book one, Vladek's first line that really hit me was "If you lock them together in a room with no food for a week then you can see what it is, friends". Just looking at the art of the cover, I knew where this book was going. However, I did not expect that it was still at the level of violence as the actual events of the Holocaust. As I started book two, I realized that it should still be regarded as an actual account of a true Holocaust story. Be honest... Do you think that Maus made you pay attention to the story more with the personification or would Spiegelman have done a better job without it?

4 Comments

I'll be interested in hearing what your classmates have to say. Regarding the Poles... even the Poles who are sympathetic to the Jews are depicted as pigs, and in Maus II we'll see an interaction between Vladek and an American hitchhiker that will deepen our understanding of Spiegelman's use of animals to depict race.

I don't know that the personification made me pay closer attention to the story, but I do think that it is important to the story. I actually think it would take away from it if the personification were taken away. It's a way of showing the different races in a unique way. Without this personification, it would be practically impossible to tell the difference between each. Then again, that could get another point across better--that they may have belonged to different races but were still equal. Aside from this, it does help to get the view across that they were all very different in the eyes of the people in that time.

A lot of the pictures really draw you in, in a way that couldn't have worked in a more standardized format. The personification's constant interruption with the story really shows how much the Nazi reign interrupted the character's lives. (I can't steel ideas - that one I got after reading Dani's blog.)

I think the representation of the Polish as pigs is particularly effective. Pigs are foul creatures, but not as dirty as rats are. Meaning then, that the Polish are frowned upon for helping Jews, but are still not the scum of the Earth as the Jews are. The personification gets the point across in a much more effective way than a strip about people ever could have. We all have our own pre-conceived notions about the animals used in Maus, and Spiegelman wanted them to follow through to his story.