In Maus, how do father-son tensions complicate Art's Holocaust narration?

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A good deal of the tension in Art's relationship with his father is that Vladek often chastises him for being an "American" and not a "European," meaning more sophisticated, cultured, and artistic. He feels he was forced to work hard to provide for his family while Art was growing up, which led to his current success and the fact that he can now afford not to work at all. While this makes sense on one level—Vladek is clearly a man who values hard work; just look at how hard he worked in Auschwitz!—it also reveals how Vladek sees himself as superior to Art, when in fact they are both complex individuals who have had their struggles.

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For one thing, all Art knows about the Holocaust is through his father's memories, which might be suspect. Given Vlaldek's scruples about parts of the story—he insists that Art leave out the part about his first girlfriend, Lucia—it seems reasonable to assume that there is more the father remembers that he simply decides not to tell. Another part of this is how Art's father constantly criticizes Art, going so far as to throw his coat away because he thinks it is too shabby for his son. Another example of this is the time Art shows up after dark, and his father is angry because he had wanted Art to go on the roof and fix a leaky drainpipe.

Vladek's crotchetiness is born from a life in which everything was taken from him, and there is a sense in which he is proud of himself, that he feels he has earned his comfortable life in a way that Art never can. All of these dynamics color the story that Vladek tells.

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In the book Maus by Art Spiegelman, Art tells the story of the Holocaust as seen through the eyes of his father, Vlakek.  Because the relationship between the two is filled with tension, Art cannot always clarify or ask questions of his father which would help the reader or even Art understand. Also, the world of the Holocaust is seen only through Vladek's eyes, so there is no independent observer who could correct errors or add perspective.  Artie knows that his father had a terrible time in the Holocaust which affects their relationship.  Even in trying to tell the story using his father's experiences, Artie keeps trying to understand the man who is his father, and how the war changed him.  The sessions where Vladek tells his story help the two characters overcome their differences and begin to bond in ways which were not possible before. 

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