Teaching Resources for Art Spiegelman's Maus: A Survivor's Tale
One Book / One Bucks County 2005
Written over a thirteen-year
period, the books tell the story of Spiegelman's attempts to learn about
his father and mother's experiences as Jews during the Holocaust and later
as survivors in the United States. Maus also documents Spiegelman's difficult
relationship with his father, his own search for understanding as a survivor
of this relationship, and his artistic odyssey in creating the work. The
historical content is based on dialogues between Spiegelman and his father,
Vladek, over many years. Spiegelman uses animal heads with human bodies
to portray characters: Jews are mice, Germans are cats, Poles are pigs,
Americans are dogs, Frenchmen are frogs, Swedes are reindeer. While the
subjects treated in the books are serious, there is also humor. The setting
moves from Rego Park, New York, to various cities and towns in Poland,
to a resort in the Catskill Mountains, to Germany, to Florida to Sweden.
This device helps Spiegelman tell the larger story of the Holocaust with
the authority of a survivor's memories while at the same time telling
the story of his family's history and relationships during and after World
War II. The books are hard to classify since they have elements of fiction,
nonfiction, biography and autobiography.
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