Maus Analysis: Losing through Surviving
During World War 2 many lives were changed through destruction, and pain. Those who survived were strong, but that did not make them winners. Surviving requires more than simply being alive. The sacrifices, and offenses placed upon those who survived took something away from them, and although they survived, winning the game of life for now they must live with haunting memories for the rest of their life. In Spiegelman’s Maus, those who survived, such as Vladek were not necessarily because he lost his family, possessions, and some sanity.In war nobody is a complete winner, and there are only losers.
Vladek, a survivor is constantly haunted by events in his past life. Survivors can be subjected to all types of mental stress, such as guilt, flashbacks and depression. It is not easy to survive a war, and often what determines who survives is random. Vladek was fortunate enough to survive, and have an audience for whom to tell his story. Surviving does not come without consequences. Physically, Vladek suffered through sickness, and starvation.
“I got too sick even to eat… I got very hot fever, and I couldn’t sleep. Typhus! ” However the psychological effects were much worse.Through World War II the Nazi’s practiced extreme prejudice towards the Jewish. Victims of the war often were exposed to such extreme racism and hate that it rubbed off on them; such as in the case of Vladek. Though ironic, Vladek exhibited racism towards an African American; “A hitch-hiker? And-oy-it’s a colored guy, a shvarster… I just can’t believe it! There’s a shvartser sitting in here! ” This display of bigamy shocks not only the reader, but his son Art as well. After what Vladek has gone through being discriminated against he talks of African Americans just as the Nazi’s talked of him, and other Jews.
He has been brainwashed to believe that racism is ok, one thing the Nazi’s would be proud of. What we find is that the war has taken away Vladek’s sense of ethics and decency, and replaced them with a completely new set of ideals and definition for what’s right and wrong. Like other victims of war Vladek also became very apprehensive and paranoid, always preparing for the worst and saving everything he could. “I’m making into daily portion my pills… and maybe 25 or 30 vitamins. ” Vladek was conscious of money before the war however after the war he was ever increasingly cheap. “… Ever since Hitler I don’t like to throw out even a crumb.
Vladek saved everything from wire to cigar boxes as if the war was still taking place inside his head. For Vladek, telling Art and the reader his story would finally end the war and at the same time prove something to Art. “Maybe your father needed to show that he was always right – that he could always SURVIVE. ” Art is the only real family Vladek had left, so it was important that Art know his father’s story. Of Vladek’s family, he was the only survivor. Through loosing his family on account of the war, he was transformed from a successful, happily married father to a lonely man without purpose or joy.
And without Anja, the love of his life Vladek was at a loss. “Of course I’m thinking always about her (Anja) anyway. ” With the loss of all he loved, Vladek became somewhat detached from other people. With Mala he showed disrespect, and to Art he never listened. It was as if he had lost faitl in people.
“He’s more attached to things than to people! ” This may explain why Vladek salvaged everything, and was very careful with money. Along with this conservative change, Vladek also lost his spirit for life. After the war Vladek did not live, he merely endured life.Surviving simply means to exist after, not necessarily to live or enjoy life. This is how Vladek now lives, spending his time playing bingo, collecting rubbish, and making others miserable with complaints.
Vladek had lost direction, and purpose for life, but at the same time has become ungrateful, and even rude. In Maus he compares the suffering from his wife not having prepared dinner to his entire war experience. “Mala could go for a whole evening out with her friends and leave for me nothing cooked to eat or drink. I have now one more time an unnecessary suffering in my life. Vladek seems to believe that he deserves special treatment, as if his living some how makes him a winner. However this is not the case; he was a victim, along with all those who died.
Often in History the victims are blamed because they have no way to voice their stories, but they did not become victims for a reason. Survival during the war was random, a simple role of the dice and therefore survivors are a result of chance. Those who survive may or may not tell their story, but regardless of what happens after surviving their person has already been altered greatly.In Spiegleman’s, “A Survivor’s Tale”, Vladek undergoes life altering experiences which change him forever and trouble him for the rest of his life. Vladek’s perception of history was very much influenced by his experiences during the war. Art was completely changed during the war which sets up the possibility of his story to be bias, “because he felt GUILTY about surviving,” he may remember the past differently from others.
Survival during a war is random. Vladek was fortunate enough to survive, and have an audience to whom to tell what he perceives happened during the war.All survivors of the war have different stories to tell. Different viewpoints and biases can cause discrepencies as to what actually happened during a time period; therefore history is one interpretation of the truth. Maus, therefore is a survivor’s story, Art’s story.
Although Vladek did not come out of the war a winner, through Maus he is able to truly live, once again. He has created an eternal existence for himself on the pages of this book by telling his story to all those who read it; and only now may he truly be considered a winner.