What kind of person is Vladek?

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krathje's profile pic

krathje | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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Vladek, like each of us, is a product of his experiences combined with personality. He has had much and he has had nothing. He has been a business owner and a captive. He has had love and he has lost. The product of his life is an old, stubborn, opinionated man who is, for whatever reasons, willing to share the story of his time in the Holocaust. He manages to endure this by pedaling away, as if on a difficult journey back in time, on his stationary bike. He is intolerant of his new wife, who is so thoughtless as to offer his son a wire instead of a wooden hanger. He is impatient with his son who wears a too-old coat and doesn't eat enough. He willingly shares his version of the story of the Holocaust, yet denies his son, author Spiegelman, the ability to see through his mother\'s eyes when he destroys her personal journals. He is a man who has learned to control what he can; he is a survivor.

sagetrieb's profile pic

sagetrieb | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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Vladek is not a saint because he survived the Holocaust. He is a miser, an annoyance, a lonely old man.  This is the reason that this book is so incredibly memorable; we see a vision of the Holocaust, without feeling the guilt that follows hearing a tragedy. We see that Vladek sacrificed much of himself and others to be where he is, but he is not looking for sympathy or apology. This pushing aside of painful memories is his way of dealing with the pain so that it looks as if he has no pain at all. The way Vladek speaks of the Holocaust is almost as if he never went through it at all, but is just an outside observer. In addition, he doesn’t have the sort of values we would expect from someone who survived—the author refuses such easy sentimentality. When Art, Francoise, and Vladek are driving home from the supermarket, Francoise, decides to pick up a hitchhiker, who happened to be black. Vladek loses his temper, claiming that all blacks steal, and making all sorts of other generalizations. A victim himself, he victimizes others.

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