Hearing through Yiddish... Seeing in Ink...

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     The Holocaust is something that all of us have learned about in school prior to reading Art Spiegelman's MAUS. However, the unique dialogue and story and the graphic novel presentation make it all seem fresh again. 
     Spiegelman's characters, particularly Artie's father in the story, bring a unique voice to the Holocaust. Most of us have only learned about this tragedy through classroom lessons and textbook readings and, even though the characters in this story are fictional, hearing a survivor's retelling of these events is much more personal. I also enjoy the broken English (with various Yiddish words thrown in to the mix) that the father speaks. I almost feel like the awkward and sometimes repetitive words and phrases he uses make the message feel that much more authentic and helps the story come across much clearer since the language is so simple. Just one example can be found on page 32, "It was the beginning of 1938- before the war- hanging high in the center of town, it was a Nazi flag. Here was the first time I saw, with my own eyes, the swastika." These words are written as though an older person were actually telling the reader a story!
     Acompanying these words is a giant ink illustration of a flag- decorated with a large swastika- standing proud in the middle of a group of buildings. I really like the illustrations in this graphic novel. I think that the author/artist's choice to portray the Jews as mice and the Nazis as cats was clever, not only in demonstrating the animalistic and primitive cruelty the Nazis exercised during World War II, but also to almost tone down the gorey nature the novel would have taken on had it shown actual human beings displaying some of the brutal actions that the cats in the story act out. It is almost a PG-rated re-telling of the Holocaust. We get a personal-feeling story that raises our awareness of the tragedy without feeling sick to our stomachs from seeing images of just how cruel mankind can be...


The broken English was such a necessary tool for Spiegelman to use. I mean, if he had written Vladek's voice as being just like any other American character, I probably wouldn't notice that he should have an accent. However, since Spiegelman did write Vladek's voice as broken English, the story was so much more real to me.

I don't know if it's like this for you, but when I get attached to characters in books, I think the way they would speak in my head. I have been thinking in broken English for a month now.

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