Detail the effectiveness of Maus in telling a Holocaust story.

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mizzwillie eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Maus, the Holocaust graphic novel by Art Spiegelman, is so effective in telling the Holocaust story because it is so personal.  Spiegelman is an artist who, like many children of Holocaust survivors, did not get along with his father, and his mother committed suicide.  His novel Maus was his way of trying to understand his father and mother, and become a family instead of the coldness with which they lived.  When Spiegelman interviews his father about his life before, during and after World War II, he is horrified at what his father and mother survived.  Spiegelman details the narrow escapes, the horrible food, the constant fear of being caught, and even finds out that he once had an older brother.  By telling the story using mice, rats, and cats as the people involved, the reader can understand the horror of being the Jewish mouse which the German cat constantly hunts and yet provide some distance from the hunting of human beings.  When Art's father and mother are caught and put into concentration camps, Art and the reader experience the Holocaust camps through their eyes.  Being a graphic novel, the artwork can also show some of what is happening while not becoming stuck in the intense horror of describing words. Enough of the horror comes through in the pictures.  Maus, in my opinion, is one of the best of all books to tell the Holocaust story in its intense personal effects on the survivors and of their offspring who also suffer the aftereffects of the Holocaust horror. 

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that one reason why Spiegelman's work is so effective as a sample of Holocaust Literature is that it seeks to tell a story.  Spiegelman's work does not shy away from the idea that some of the most painful of narrative need to be told.  Their need to be expressed is what makes them so compelling.  It is here where I think that the graphic novel works.  The fact that it is telling a Holocaust story is another reason why it works.  As time passes, the tales of Holocaust survivors are becoming less and less told because of death taking its toll on those who endured the horror.  The fact that the story is told in graphic novel form is another example of how the narrative of the Holocaust can be represented in ways that continue on the conversation.  If one argues that the Holocaust was the German attempt to silence voices, then Maus is so effective because it is driven by the need to express voice. It is animated by the idea of having to relay a story, to tell a voice.  In its need to do so, it operates well as a Holocaust story, for these narratives do precisely that.  The act of resistance is evident in the story for one recognizes that what Spiegelman sought to do in articulating the memory of his parents' struggle is precisely what the Nazis stood against.  Therefore, reading the story is an act of resistance and thus works as a Holocaust story.