Christopher McCune December 2, 2010
EN 384D.01: Travel Literature Blog: Maus II
Maus II is a graphic novel, written and illustrated by Art Spiegelman, which tells the story of how the author's Polish and Jewish father, Vladek Spiegelman, suffered through and ultimately survived the Holocaust. What truly sets this work apart is not only the author's choices to depict the Holocaust in comic strip form, but also that he portrays all the characters in it as animals. The Jews are drawn as mice, while the Nazi soldiers and Germans are all drawn as cats, which was a daring decision on Spiegelman's part.
Spiegelman's interesting decision to depict the characters as animals certainly, in my own opinion, worked quite well in this book. Even seeing these terrible things being done to mere cartoon mice could not disguise how evil and gruesome the Holocaust truly was, which made the reality of it all the more disturbing. In making the Jews mice, Spiegelman did not dehumanize the mass murders of the Holocaust, but rather managed to emphasize the inhumanity of such a terrible mark on history. Additionally, this stylistic choice allowed the author to get away with incredibly powerful and haunting imagery in some cases, such as when Spiegelman depicts himself wearing a mouse mask at his writing desk, with the dead bodies of hundreds of Holocaust "mice" piled beneath him.
Just as we have seen this year how literature can be a form of travel, so too can drawing and pictures teach us much about foreign cultures and times long past. In Maus II, Spiegelman brilliantly combines the two in a way that allows the reader to gain a partial, yet powerful, experience of the horrors of the Holocaust. Although I am not a particularly well traveled person, I have always loved literature and had an especially keen interest in world history. After going through this course, I now realize that, maybe the joy I get from reading is the same joy I could experience from travel. Somehow, over the course of this semester, the literature we have read has awakened in me a previously unrecognized desire for travel. The most surprising thing for me, however, has not been this sudden urge to travel, but rather the realization that, in my love for literature, this urge has probably always been there.