- Study Guide to Maus, A Survivors Tale Volume I and II by Art Spiegelman
- NPR Choice page
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- Maus—a Survivor's Tale
Spiegelman was a key figure in the underground comic scene, which emerged in the s. Unlike mainstream comics with their superheroes, underground comics challenged all forms of authority and took a darkly ironic view of society. Within the comic, Spiegelman reflects a lot on the making of Maus, inviting the reader to inhabit his creative process.
In using a form of popular culture to talk about serious historical issues, and by reflecting on the form within the text itself, Maus is also considered a postmodern text. Imagine living in a world where you are persecuted for who you are. Everywhere you look — in the media, on the streets — you are being described as a vermin, a pest…a monster. You lose your job. You lose your home. People can attack you on the streets any time they want.
Where would you go, anyway? For many of us, it is difficult to imagine living in such a world. A horror story. Or worse, and this is a scary thought — it might even seem unreal. This distance from the Holocaust is something that Art, in Maus, is totally aware of. Maus puts us squarely in the real world, in the lives of ordinary people trying to deal with extraordinary, horrible, terrifying, but very real circumstances. His work has been published in the New York Times , Playboy , the Village Voice , and many other periodicals, and his drawings have been exhibited in museums and galleries here and abroad.
What is your first impression of Vladek Spiegelman?
Study Guide to Maus, A Survivors Tale Volume I and II by Art Spiegelman
What does his remark about friends suggest about his personality? How does it foreshadow revelations later in the book? The Sheik 1. How does Vladek get along with Mala, his second wife? What kind of things do they argue about? How long has it been since Artie last visited his father? What do you think is responsible for their separation?
NPR Choice page
How does Vladek respond when Artie first asks him about his life in Poland? Why might he be reluctant to talk about those years? On page 12 we see a close-up of Vladek as he pedals his exercise bicycle. What is the meaning of the numbers tattooed on his wrist? How does this single image manage to convey information that might occupy paragraphs of text?
How was he introduced to Anja Zylberberg? Why do you think he chose her over Lucia? The Honeymoon 1. What is Vladek doing when Artie comes to visit him? How does his health figure elsewhere in the book? How does Vladek become wealthy? What does Vladek see while traveling through Czechoslovakia? Why, on page , is the road that Vladek and Anja travel on their way back to Sosnowiec also shaped like a swastika? What other symbolic devices does the author use in this book?
Prisoner of War 1.
When Artie refused to finish his food as a child, what did Vladek do? What means did he use to keep him out? What happens to his beard later on? How does Vladek feel after shooting the German soldier? How did the Germans treat Vladek and other Jewish prisoners after transporting them to the Reich? How was this different from their treatment of Polish P. What recurring meaning does "Parshas Truma" have in his life? How does Vladek arrange to be reunited with his wife and son?
What visual device does Spiegelman use to show him disguising himself as a Polish Gentile? The Noose Tightens 1. Describe the activities depicted in the family dinner scene on pages What do they tell you about the Zylberbergs? Although Jews were allowed only limited rations under the Nazi occupation, Vladek manages to circumvent these restrictions for a while. What methods does he use to support himself and his family? During the brutal mass arrest depicted on page 80, Vladek is framed by a panel shaped like a Jewish star.
How does this device express his situation at that moment? What happened to little Richieu? When Vladek begins telling this story on page 81, the first three rows of panels are set in the past, while the bottom three panels return us to the present and show the old Vladek pedaling his stationary bicycle. Why do you think Spiegelman chooses to conclude this anecdote in this manner?
What does the scene on pages suggest about the ways in which some Jews died and others survived? Mouse Holes 1. This chapter and the one that follows both have the word "mouse" in their titles. What reason might he have for doing so? Why does Artie claim that he became an artist? How does the comic strip "Prisoner on the Hell Planet" depict Artie and his family? How did you feel on learning that Artie has been hospitalized for a nervous breakdown?
Why do you think he has chosen to draw himself dressed in a prison uniform? What is the effect of seeing these mice suddenly represented as human beings? Why did Anja finally consent to send Richieu away? Was his death "better" than the fate of the children depicted on page ?
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Describe the strategies that Vladek used to conceal Anja and himself during the liquidation of the ghetto. How did the Germans flush them from hiding? What eventually happens to the "mouse" who informed on the Spiegelmans? What does the incident on pages and tell us about relations between Jews and Germans?
Does the knowledge that some Nazis fraternized with their victims make their crimes more or less horrible?
How did Vladek care for Anja after the destruction of the Srodula ghetto? Contrast his behavior toward his first wife, during the worst years of the war, with the way he now treats Mala. Mouse Trap 1. Is this statement just a product of broken English, or does it reveal some deeper truth about what happens when we record our personal histories?
Maus—a Survivor's Tale
What visual device does Spiegelman use to show the difference between them? Why might the author have portrayed this incident? On page Vladek is almost betrayed by a group of schoolchildren. What stories did Poles tell their children about Jews? How do you think such stories—and perhaps similar stories told by German parents—helped pave the way for the Final Solution?