Maus II presents a fascinating and innovative way to communicate both through pictures and words a narrative of historical tragedy, human darkness, and a quest to understand that which we never could. In his graphic novel, Spiegelman made a decision to use mice and other animals to depict the humans involved in the Holocaust. I was especially intrigued by the use of this metaphor because on the surface, it is a seemingly debasing and juvenile way to depict something so grave as the Holocaust. Yet Spiegelman uses the facts of his father’s story to make this metaphor rich, by portraying the Nazis as cats and the Jews as mice, to show the animalistic, predatorial hunt that occurred during the Holocaust. In the second half of the novel, Spiegelman also enriches this metaphor with more animal imagery, not through the pictures, but through his words. He explains that the Jews were transported on a train for horses and for cows, and that within this train, they “lay one on top of the other… like herrings” (85). Using this comparison to horses and cows and herrings, in addition to the images of mice and cats, reinforces this animal metaphor. All in all, this metaphor shows that the actions of the Nazis were clearly inhumane, to say it mildly, and that through this treatment both parties, the oppressed and fearful Jews, and the pitiless and brutal Nazis, lost a part of their humanity.
What is the most shocking thing I learned this semester? SO many things I could think of that would answer this question, as a learned a lot that I never anticipated learning. For one, my eyes have been opened to a completely different forms of literature. From the disorienting futuristic dystopia of Black Rainbow to the fast-paced slam poetry of the Ode to America, to the fantastical and imaginative childhood favorite the Dawn Treader, to the self-love poem Love after Love (which I still have taped to my dresser), I have been impressed and surprised about the different forms literary works can take. I also have been opened to different thoughts and ideas that I’ve never considered before. For example, I have learned that Jews as mice in a graphic novel can actually be quite profound, and tattoo is not simply a rebellious move but actually can be a form of travel and an expression of faith. This class has helped me to gain confidence in my own insights through its nurturing, respectful environment, and it has also challenged me to understand opposite and differing perspectives. I have come out of this class this semester with a new appreciation for different forms of literature, a deep respect for every single person in my class, a desire to emulate the environment and the self-travel that occurred in this class in my own classes when I become a teacher.