Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell

Artie Spiegelman, Maus (1986−1991)

Artie Spiegelman is an underground or alternative comic artist and writer who is the son of Holocaust survivors.  He wrote the comic book Maus (1986−1991) as a tribute to his parents, especially his father, since the comic focuses on his story.  However, it also serves as a tribute to all Holocaust survivors. 

Like most Holocaust memoirs, it sets out to tell a story that ‘must be told’, no matter how painful it may be for survivors to revisit their sad memories.  While doing so, it makes the message of ‘never again’, expressing this desire along with the concern that humanity may not have learnt its lesson. 

Spiegelman’s Maus tells the story of what it took to survive the perils of the Holocaust, and to describe the hell of infamous places like Auschwitz, while also noting the mistakes made by European Jews who did not heed the warning signs and escape before it was too late.  While doing this, the comic has much to say about appreciating and valuing ‘living history’, the survivors of great historical events who serve as living connections to the past.  Spiegelman sees it as imperative that these people get the opportunity to record their stories so they can be handed down to posterity. 

Interestingly, Spiegelman explored the contrast between Holocaust survivors and their children.  Spiegelman had a difficult relationship with his father and their values differed widely due to their vastly different experiences in life, since Artie grew up in the affluence and comfort of the United States.  In this context, the psychological legacy of the Holocaust on the survivors is explored in detail.  Artie’s father survived the Holocaust, but as a changed man, as a somewhat damaged man who is, for example, more difficult and less trusting. 

Finally, the fact that Spiegelman treated this serious subject matter in the form of a comic book, a genre traditionally aimed at providing children with escapist entertainment, served to elevate the comic book to the status of a medium that can engage with important issues in an intelligent and respectful manner. 

Student resources by Dr Mark Lopez

© Mark Lopez 2019 All RIGHTS RESERVED

The purpose of the concise notes of Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell is to provide much needed help to students seeking to unlock the meaning of the texts with which they have to deal.  (More elaborate notes are provided in lessons as part of my private tutoring business.) 

Subject: Maus meaning, Maus themes, Maus analysis, Maus notes