Part III Analysis: Maus II raises the question of whether a person can truly understand something they themselves are or were not a part of and how best to go about gaining this understanding. Art struggles to understand what his father Vladek, a Holocaust survivor, experienced and how that has shaped who is. He wants to listen to his father’s stories and turn them into a novel but he becomes concerned that he cannot accurately portray it since he wasn’t there. The littlest details, like how to draw the tools in the tin shop, frustrate Art and make him question the validity of his work. Spiegelman suggests that it difficult to imagine the horrors of the Holocaust if one didn’t experience them. At one point Francoise says, “Sigh. It’s so peaceful here at night. It’s almost impossible to believe that Auschwitz even happened.” Art responds, “Uh-huh. Ouch! But these damn bugs are eating me alive (74). The flies that are attacking Art are the same ones portrayed hovering around the dead bodies and make it seem like the Holocaust is nagging at Art and he is beginning to understand it.
By having the novel jump from the Holocaust to Art’s discussions with Vladek and take the form of storytelling, Spiegelman seems to be suggesting that storytelling is a form of travel that allows one to understand someone else’s experiences. As the novel goes on, Art becomes continually more anxious to hear his father’s stories urging him to continue talking even though he didn’t want to visit him in the first place. By writing Maus II, Art uses storytelling to help the reader better understand the Holocaust too, and he enhances the power of the story by adding the illustrations and using the form of graphic as opposed to traditional novel. The mouse form of Art seems to experience an internal journey by hearing the story about Vladek’s external one, and in turn the reader is invited on this travel as well by reading the book that the mouse Art is writing in the story. Overall, Maus II seems to serve the dual purpose of inviting the reader to journey into and experience the Holocaust and informing the reader that it is in fact possible to travel and grow in understanding through storytelling and literature.
Looking back on this semester, I would have to say that the most surprising thing for me has been discovering and appreciating the power of literature. As a biology major, I haven't read all that much literature during college except for my core classes and I've always endured that reading reluctantly. However, the works we read this semester and the discussion we had about them has helped me to understand how much literature can teach us about ourselves and our lives even if on first glance it seems to be about something else entirely. I always took what I read at face value, never taking the time to relate it to my own life, but this class has helped me learn how to do that and through this I've come to a much greater appreciation for literature, so thank you.