Authenticy of Mice

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I really liked how the author tried so hard to make the book authentic. I know from past experiences reading Holocaust literature that this usually isn't a problem for people, but because the book is a graphic novel the author/writer needed to make the book more authentic about such a graphic subject.

I think the most authentic thing about the book was the dialogue between the characters. The fact that the father, Vladek, says things like, "And I didn't tell anything to him. I didn't want to make him an embarrassment" (40) shows how Art Spiegelman could have changed his father's words around to make it easier to read. However, the fact that he left it exactly how he said it allows for the authenticity to really come out.

Plus, the characters are very round. Even the people who are more minor like Mala, who is only in the scenes that are supposedly happening in present day, is well depicted. The reader gets a lot of character description that Mala is only after Vladek's money, but we also see that she is very weak and frail by her own scenes where she is upset at Vladek either for being cheap or because he doesn't seem very interested in her as a person. Either way, the reader gets a better sense of Mala by having both scenes with her in them and scenes where they discuss her than the reader would get just by having her spoken about or alluded to throughout the story. Because Art Spiegelman definitely could have cut all of the parts about Mala out and still have the essential story in place and authenticity, but instead chose to keep with the extra conflict that Mala's character brings up. The reader therefore gets another important character to the story and more depth into Vladek's character and interactions with the other characters other than just Art.

7 Comments

Carissa Altizer said:

I wholeheartedly agree with you about the authenticity portrayed through his father's broken English. The first time I noticed it I thought that there was a spelling error in the book, and then I realized Spiegelman's purpose and specific intent. The language makes me feel like a Holocaust survivor is really telling me the story.

Do you really think that Mala married him for his money, or do you think she has a larger role to play? I feel like Vladek and Mala married because they had so much in common but Vladek never truly got over the loss of Ajah. I think his grief over losing his first wife comes out when he is mean to Mala about housework and her cooking. He is setting exceptionally high expectations for her, knowing she will fail, but still subconciously blaming her for replacing the one he still loves.

I probably read too far into this. What do you think?

I loved Vladek's dialect, and I'm glad Spiegelman wrote it the way it was. If he hadn't, I don't think the narrative aspect of the novel would be as affective. Also, Mala's presence intrigued me as well. Really, she was just a figure we could use to help us learn more about Vladek. Her presence was necessary, despite her supposed lack of importance, because she brought out little quirks in Vladek that we otherwise wouldn't see. Honestly, I don't think she was necessarily after his money. I think she just wanted to be able to do things like get her hair set every week (something my grandma used to do), and other normal things. Spiegelman used the conversations with Mala as a way to help us try to determine why Vladek would be so cautious with his money. We see present day Vladek, talking about money with Mala, and can contrast him with past Vladek, before and after the Holocaust started.

Melissa Schwenk said:

Carissa - I agree with you that Vladek has impossibly high standards for Mala, but at the same time she seems to be all about money in a large portion of the book. Plus, why is she constantly demanding that he change his will so many times unless there is a specific reason, like wanting more money for herself that she keeps asking him to? He never truly got over the death of his first wife either which is probably a key point as to why he can’t seem to even remotely like Mala. I wish the author had depicted some scene in which they weren’t mad at each other (Mala and Vladek). Then again if that’s truly how they were with one another then maybe there isn’t any good moments. I’m not entirely sure which way to go on this one. He seems a little too demanding, but she seems very greedy and all about the money. It’s hard to tell for sure which way is the truth. Maybe that was the author’s intention?

Melissa Schwenk said:

Karyssa – I think her presence was necessary in some ways, but at the same time she could have been taken out of the story, and the reader never would have known the difference. I agree that she enhanced Vladek, but I think you see that a lot from Artie without her presence. They discuss money somewhere, and Vladek even talks about not wanting to pay a guy to fix his roof (this may be in the later chapters I can’t remember). Either way, I still found Mala to be a very round character that helped set the pace of the story and advanced the modern part. So she was necessary in some way.

Josie Rush said:

I'm gonna jump in the discussion a little late, here. I agree that Mala's character is important. Karyssa, you made a good point about how her character brings out some of Vladek's quirks. Though, Melissa, you're absolutely right by saying that the book would've still been whole without this minor arch. It's funny to say a character is important, but the story could be told without her, yet I think that's what we're saying.
Also, the fact that they fought is, in my experience, realistic for elderly couples. You wouldn't have even known my grandparents liked each other if you walked into their house; they constantly fought in front of people. Yet, a lot of it, like in this book, is nagging and displays of short temper. Spiegelman could've cut these scenes, or made this relationship more appealing, yet he was honest. I talk about this brutal honesty in my blog, as well. I think this type of truthfulness added to the story, whereas romanticizing things would've taken away a layer of reality and been almost disrespectful.

Melissa Schwenk said:

Josie – I think you nailed it when you said “It's funny to say a character is important, but the story could be told without her, yet I think that's what we're saying.” As far as the realistic part of a couple fighting, I understand that it is important to the development of the characters, but at the same time, you have Vladek who says somewhere that he should have never remarried to Mala. Maybe they are just fighting, but if he felt that he should have never married Mala in the first place, then it kind of reiterates the money aspect (that she’s just trying to steal it). Therefore, even a small part where he says one nice thing or even remarks in private to Artie about Mala being good for something would have shown that he was just angry and saying things he didn’t necessarily mean in terms of saying he never should have married Mala.

Carissa Altizer said:

I think Mala's character helped me relate to the story better because she gave a different perspective. It is easy to see why Artie's opinion would have been biased. Early on, he explains that he has a difficult relationship with his father. Mala's character proves how honest Artie is trying to be in his book. I catch myself feeling more sympathy for Mala than I do for Artie. At one time they loved each other very much -- enough to devote their lives to one another. More than likely Mala never worked outside the home, which means all of their income is "Vladek's money." He barely gives her enough for groceries, and in this day and age women have a hard time understanding wife allowances, but they were pretty common when the man was the only one working. He isn't taking care of her mentally (yelling at her, high expectations) or financially. The part about the will makes me think that he is probably not leaving her with enough to live off if he dies, and his medical conditions aren't exactly in his favor. She's scarred. I don't blame her for leaving him in the second book (although I never finished it so I don't know if she comes back).

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Carissa Altizer on Authenticy of Mice: I think Mala's character helpe
Melissa Schwenk on Authenticy of Mice: Josie – I think you nailed it
Josie Rush on Authenticy of Mice: I'm gonna jump in the discussi
Melissa Schwenk on Authenticy of Mice: Karyssa – I think her presence
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Karyssa Blair on Authenticy of Mice: I loved Vladek's dialect, and
Carissa Altizer on Authenticy of Mice: I wholeheartedly agree with yo