Maus Questions and Answers
by Art Spiegelman

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Why did the author of “Prisoner on the Hell Planet” choose to construct this narrative visually rather than just in text? What did the form gain him? How did it provide him the ability to communicate that a text-only approach would not? Give three specific examples of this ability to illustrate your assertions.

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"Prisoner on the Hell Planet" looks different than the rest of Maus. The darker, more shaded style of these panels immediately alerts the reader that this is a sad period in Art Spiegelman's life that feels entrapping, separate from his parents' experiences during and after the Holocaust (which were also dark and sad). The graphic elements of the text allow him to present his conflicting feelings (sadness but also guilt and anger) in a more immediate, affecting way than using only words would have permitted.

Art draws himself as a prisoner in prison garb to show that his mother's suicide has entrapped him in a depressing and lonely place that he feels it's difficult to escape from. He also shows a close-up, narrow panel of his eye leaking tears. The narrowness of the panel expresses his duress and the way in which he feels he had to show sorrow when he learns about his mother's death. At the top left of the first panel, there is a reproduction of a photo of Art and his mother from his youth. The distinction between this happier time, when his mother was wearing a bathing suit, and the panels below, is apparent. You can find other ways in which Art uses graphic elements to show the ways in which his mother's suicide affected him.

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