One Book One Bucks

Teaching Resources for Art Spiegelman's Maus: A Survivor's Tale

One Book / One Bucks County 2005

Bucks County Free Library

Bucks County Free Library

Main characters

Vladek Spiegelman:

Born in Poland in 1906; husband of Anja and later of Mala; father of Richieu and Art.

Vladek is a survivor -- of the Holocaust and in life -- but he is not portrayed as a hero. He uses his abilities and takes advantage of any opportunity to stay alive. In the United States, he is portrayed as a miserly, demanding, unpleasant old man who seems to communicate with his son best when speaking into the tape recorder. Vladek clearly loves his son, but he seems unable to show his love in a way that connects with Art. The extremes of his postwar character and his broken English provide some of the humor in the book.

Anja (Anna) Zylberberg Spiegelman:

Born in Poland in 1912; wife of Vladek; mother of Richieu and Art. Anja was born to a prosperous family and was well educated. She is often depressed and relies on Vladek to care for her. She is devoted to her child, Richieu, and in love with her husband. Not able to separate herself from her experiences in the Holocaust and the death of her son, she commits suicide in 1968, leaving no note of explanation.

Art(ie) Spiegelman:

Cartoonist; author of Maus; son of Vladek and Anja Spiegelman; husband of Francoise Mouly. As a child of Holocaust survivors, Art seems driven to tell their story but obsesses about how to tell it and how to maintain his relationship with his difficult father. Art, too, is a survivor -- of feelings of guilt, of his mother's suicide, of dealing with his father, of the burden of being a child of Holocaust survivors.

Richieu Spiegelman:

Born in Poland in 1937; son of Vladek and Anja Spiegelman. Richieu, described by his father as a happy child, is sent by his parents to live with a relative so that he will be safe, but he does not survive the Holocaust. He haunts Art, and his picture reminds Art that he must compete with a memory, which to Vladek is that of a perfect child.

Mala Spiegelman:

Vladek's second wife and herself a Holocaust survivor. Though Vladek accuses her of trying to steal his money, she is supportive of Art and his attempts to tell Vladek's story. She finds Vladek domineering and difficult, but she ultimately comes to his aid when he really needs her. She must always live with Vladek's love for Anja.

Francoise Mouly:

Wife of Art. Though she is French, Art portrays her as a mouse because she has converted to Judaism. Francoise supports Art in his work and acts as a sounding board for his ideas.. She seems more supportive of Vladek than Art does, but she does not push Art to improve his relationship with his father.

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