Maus as a title for the graphic novel by Art Spiegelman is incredibly important in understanding the novel, its plot, and its historical background. Maus is the German word for “mouse,” and this is important for a few reasons. In the series of graphic novels, Spiegelman portrays the atrocities of the Holocaust through the lens of animals. In the graphic series, Jewish people are portrayed as mice, Nazis are portrayed as cats, and those from Poland are pigs. Therefore, the title, Maus, literally represents the protagonists of the story, but its historical context is a bit deeper.
When the Nazis reigned over Germany, they referred to Jewish people as “mice,” or “rats.” Obviously, this was a derogatory term and important in the context of history. In a sense, Spiegelman regains authority over the term itself. Art Spiegelman turns this derogatory term into a symbol rather than a slur. In the graphic novels, the Jewish people are outmatched by the cats that are faster and stronger and the traps the cats lay for the mice. However, the mice are resourceful, and some survive due to that strength despite being outmatched. Spiegelman creates a strength in the title and strength in the idea of being a mouse. In the story, mice need to have internal strength to survive, as they are smaller and lack the same physical control and strength of the cats. Mice are required to be stronger because of the circumstances they are born into, and in this way, they are more powerful than their oppressors—the cats in the story and the Nazis in reality.