How reliable is the narrator in MAUS?

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are two narrators in MAUS. Art Spiegelman is the author of this impressive graphic novel, but he is also a co-narrator. He tape-records his father's testimony, takes intricate notes, and researches all he can about his parents' experiences during the Holocaust. These practices help to secure his reliability as an author, and as a narrator, because he also appears in his own book. He describes his own experiences growing up with parents who were Holocaust survivors as well as his struggles to get the information he needs from his father to write the book. Thus, Artie can be considered a primary source when he narrates his side of the story and dealing with his father. Being his own primary source strengthens his credibility, which also validates his side of the story. In addition, there is no reason for him to fabricate any details because his goal in writing the book is to tell the story truthfully.

Artie's father Vladek narrates his own experiences in the book, so he is also considered a primary source along with any letters or journals that are consulted in the making of MAUS. Vladek has no reason to change or misrepresent the historical facts surrounding his experiences, and because he witnessed and lived through such amazing events, it is likely that he would never forget them. Therefore, the reliability of Vladek as a narrator when it comes to facts, details, and dates associated with historical events is strong, if not unquestionable.

In contrast, the times that Vladek might be considered slightly unreliable are those when he seems to exaggerate about himself. For example, he has a girlfriend before he meets his wife Anja and paints himself as a suave ladies' man. When they break up he says that she stalks him and begs for him not to leave her. This may or may not have been true because he could have been making himself out to be more of a catch than he really was. It may also be what he thought about himself at the time, but there's no way to fact-check personal and private experiences such as this without other witnesses to share what they thought about or experienced with Vladek at the time.

Another time that Vladek's reliability can be called into question would be anything associated with Anja's feelings, how she perceived her experiences during the war, or how she saw Vladek during this time. Also, there's no way of knowing Anja's life story while she is separated from him in the camp because Vladek destroys his wife's diary after she commits suicide. Artie is beside himself with rage when he finds out that his father did that. He could have had his mother's side of the story if it weren't for his father's rash decision; therefore, anything Vladek claims to be true for Anja's life or perspective could be called into question as well. Overall, Art Spiegelman does a wonderful job with all of the information he acquires and creates one of the best tributes to Holocaust survivors by unveiling the truth about what they endured.