Anja is Art’s mother and Vladek’s wife, whose suicide deeply affected both father and son. Anja was a survivor of the Holocaust with Vladek, and they had different views on what to share with Art about the events they experienced. Anja, while not being totally open, was willing to share some things, but Vladek took a good amount of convincing before he finally was willing to open up about it in his later years. Anja also wanted to share with Art through her diary, but Vladek destroyed this after her death without Art’s approval.
Vladek is presented to the reader as a self-centered, eccentric old man, set in his ways and unwilling to compromise on anything. The events of the Holocaust left him with a survivalist mindset, where he often believes he needs to retain otherwise useless items for a potential future use, and where he looks out for himself first and others later. Holding onto useless bits of string for an unseen purpose, but discarding his first wife’s diary is an example of the kind of cognitive dissonance that drives Art crazy.
Neither father or son really gained closure from Anja’s death, as there was no suicide note and no journal by which to remember her. Art resents Vladek for the ways in which he grieved: destroying Anja’s things and marrying another woman (Mala) who doesn’t make him any happier. As Art explores his father’s story and his experiences, they grieve together, and he comes to understand his father a little better. While Art may never fully understand his father’s choices, the creation of the comic does help bring them back together.