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Graphic Novel Series "Maus": World War Ii and The Holocaust

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Words: 1001 |

Pages: 2|

6 min read

Published: Apr 29, 2022

Words: 1001|Pages: 2|6 min read

Published: Apr 29, 2022

In 1973, Art Spiegelman wrote a graphic novel series entitled Maus. The graphic novels are based on World War II and The Holocaust, a war in which his family, being of Polish descent and Jewish, was greatly harmed and nearly destroyed. Spiegelman changed the names of his characters but they represent his family and tell their story. Considering the text from a Marxist Criticism standpoint, Spiegelman shows social stratification between the Jewish and German populations by presenting them as specific animals.

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At the bottom of both the German social class and the animal food chain, the Jews, aka mice, are being labeled and exterminated during this time in history and throughout the text. As seen on page 108 in book one, it shows the mice behind barbed wire fencing at one of the “ghettos” that the Nazi officer's created to hold all the Jews. It also shows them, the mice, with the star of David that they legally had to wear to identify them as Jewish. The Jews/Mice were on the lowest part of the social class and were not only being labeled but also imprisoned. One of the characters, a mouse, describes “That spring, on one day, the Germans took from Srodula to Auschwitz over 1,000 people.” The description matches with and shows the history of the Holocaust as “The Jews of Europe were legally compelled to wear badges or distinguishing garments (e.g., pointed hats) at least as far back as the 13th century. This practice continued throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance but was largely phased out during the 17th and 18th centuries. With the coming of the French Revolution and the emancipation of western European Jews throughout the 19th century, the wearing of Jewish badges was abolished in Western Europe. The Nazis resurrected this practice as part of their persecutions during the Holocaust.” The text on 108 also shows a Jewish child/mouse being thrown against a wall because they “were screaming and screaming. They couldn’t stop.” The social stratification is clear here as it’s the mice being labeled, imprisoned and killed by the Nazi Cats.

Higher up in respect, of course, were the general, non-Jewish, German population and those in the Nazi party. Spiegelman makes them pigs and cats, respectively. This is seen on page 113 in book two when an older Nazi woman, obviously a cat, is yelling at a few Jewish holocaust survivors to be arrested for wearing her husband's clothes, “Arrest those two Jewish thieves! They stole my husband’s clothes!” As a German citizen, cat, she clearly believes that whatever she says goes, much like the personality of cats who tend to be stereotyped as not caring about others and doing what they want. Historically this hatred and anger towards the Jews were because “The German defeat was hard to swallow for many Germans, and for Hitler, too. In nationalist and right-wing conservative circles, the ‘stab-in-the-back legend’ became popular. According to this myth, Germany did not lose the war on the battlefield, but through betrayal at the home front. The Jews, Social Democrats, and Communists were held responsible.” Once the Nazi party started spewing this way of thinking, Germany was headed toward the Holocaust.

Finally, Spiegelman shows the social stratification through animals by representing the Americans as dogs. There are certainly good connotations with dogs, but they are not perfect animals either. On page 112 of Book 2, the Americans, dogs, have finally come to the rescue. The author shows the Americans rescuing the mice/Jewish population in a scene from the book that states “ those krauts can’t hurt you anymore. The only ones left are dead or dying.” In this scene, the American, clearly a dog, has his arms around two Jewish men and is showing his support for them. Now, dogs do not have only positive connotations. Unfortunately, the author has to show that as well. Also on page 112, there’s a scene where a dog/soldier/American says to the survivors they rescued, “But I guess you boys can stay here if you keep the joint clean and make our beds.” So while America did eventually enter the war and help, “The United States and the other Allied nations prioritized military victory over humanitarian considerations during World War II. Saving Jews targeted for murder by the Nazi regime and its collaborators was not the Allies’ wartime aim.” Likely why Spiegelman chose dogs as they can be loyal and loving and rule over mice or cats but also can be stereotyped as “top dog” type of thing with an arrogant connotation and even mean.

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While there are many critical lenses to analyze a text, Marxist Criticism looks at the way an author uses society within the text or how they show society’s makeup within the text. Maus I and II clearly show that there were social classifications throughout the book and within the state of Germany by labeling specific characters as particular animals that matched their status in real life. Again, the rescuers, or Americans, were dogs, Germans were pigs, Nazis cats, and the Jewish population was represented as mice. Spiegelman uses these animals to not only denote their rank within German society but also to tell his family’s story. I assume he may have chosen this manner in which to tell his story because he knew the importance of sharing the truth, but maybe using animals it made it easier for him to face and share.

References

  1. Spanjers, R. (2019). Comics realism and the Maus event: Comics and the dynamics of World War II remembrance. (https://dare.uva.nl/search?identifier=823de4f1-34a8-478c-aea5-039d9596c644)
  2. Hathaway, R. V. (2011). Reading Art Spiegelman's Maus as postmodern ethnography. Journal of Folklore Research: An International Journal of Folklore and Ethnomusicology, 48(3), 249-267. (https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2979/jfolkrese.48.3.249)
  3. Loman, A. (2010). ‘That Mouse’s shadow’: The canonization of Spiegelman’s maus. The rise of the American Comics artist: creators and contexts, 210-234. (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/284349923_That_Mouse's_shadow_The_Canonization_of_spiegelman's_maus)
  4. Laga, B. (2001). Maus, Holocaust, and History: Redrawing the Frame. Arizona Quarterly: A Journal of American Literature, Culture, and Theory, 57(1), 61-90. (https://muse.jhu.edu/pub/69/article/445002/summary)
  5. Demsky, J. S. (2020). We are a long ways past maus: responsible and irresponsible holocaust representations in graphic comics and sitcom cartoons. The Palgrave Handbook of Holocaust Literature and Culture, 529-551. (https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-33428-4_29)
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Graphic Novel Series Maus: World War II And The Holocaust. (2023, February 28). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 21, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/graphic-novel-series-maus-world-war-ii-and-the-holocaust/
“Graphic Novel Series Maus: World War II And The Holocaust.” GradesFixer, 28 Feb. 2023, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/graphic-novel-series-maus-world-war-ii-and-the-holocaust/
Graphic Novel Series Maus: World War II And The Holocaust. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/graphic-novel-series-maus-world-war-ii-and-the-holocaust/> [Accessed 21 May 2024].
Graphic Novel Series Maus: World War II And The Holocaust [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2023 Feb 28 [cited 2024 May 21]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/graphic-novel-series-maus-world-war-ii-and-the-holocaust/
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