Monday, March 16, 2009

Kimberly's Literary Analysis- Maus II

The theme of the face is most evident in Maus II, as the reader actually gets to see exactly how the author/illustrator wants to display emotion on the faces. That said, the faces are not those one would expect, human faces, but are instead depicted by animals. Art Spiegelman uses one type of animal to represent a group of people; for instance all the Jewish people were mice, all of the Nazis were scary looking cats- perhaps bobcats, the Russians were pigs, the Americans were dogs, etc.

Since the author grew up in New York, his ideas of these animals are likely similar to ours. Mice are cute little creatures, but can pose a pest problem and nobody wants them around, certainly not inside the home or eateries. Bobcats are dangerous carnivors. Pigs are pretty much gross. The author used animal faces, but the animals were wearing human clothes, consistent with the time period and position of the character. Despite the story being mainly about someone so familiar to the author, his own father, he chose to make all the Jewish characters similar looking mice, rather than individuals. It is a powerful technnique for a graphic book, as the reader is forced to inject their own perceptions onto the characters. Normally in comics or movies, or other visual art, we can see each individual looking like an individual. Art Spiegelman still shows shock, horror, sadness and pain on the mice faces.

It was interesting that Art Spiegelman also encorportaed the family's faces, and even actual photography, like on page 100, into his book. This technique helped separate and shape the different time period. It was in America, after the Holocaust, a time which should have been full of promise, but instead filled with sorrow. It shows that the damage done carries on after the horror itself has stopped. It is carried on from generation to generation, where children and even grandchildren feel the need to know what happened. Pehaps to know enables one to move forward, albeit differently.

My father is a Viet Nam vet, and undoubtedly has seen horror that I do not even want to imagine. Nevertheless, and particularly in my late teens and early twenties, I found myself needing to know what he saw over there. Was it like movies I had seen? Was it like MASH, a show that ran for what seemed to be my entire childhood? I always imagined that maybe MASH was what it was like for my dad, even though that was Korea, because to me, at that age, it was all the same.

After years of pushing and being dismissed, my mother finally gave me an in by telling my dad in an unkind way that he should just answer my questions because I'm his daughter. "What! What do you want to know so badly?" he asked me. I asked questions such as, "Why did you go when you didn't agree with the war?" The answer was a rhetorical question, "When I was drafted, should I have run to Canada like a little chicken and never see my country or my family again?" I asked if he killed anyone; he said, "I didn't stop to check." I asked if people shot at him, he said, "No, they were trying to make friends." The sarcasm was a mask for his apparent discomfort. I could sense hurt, loss and sorrow and I knew many of his buddies died over there. He, like all of them, had Malaria, which I know not from my own father, but from my mother when I asked my dad why he couldn't give blood and he returned with "Why do you want to know?" The other things I know, other than sheer facts like he was there in '66-'67, and that he was likely drafted because of his poor Italian heritage, are that the food was horrible, and the conditions weren't as nice as shown in MASH or movies. I said it looks like a beautiful country because he has some beach pictures, and my Dad said, "we had to wade in murky jungle rivers with big snakes, where the bugs were so big they'd take your gun away." At that, we both laughed, and I let it go.

To make him tell more would be like making someone I love re-live horror in a way, and I didn't want to bring back any more bad memories. Perhaps this is how the burning of the diaries can be explained. Nevertheless, I think the Holocaust is an important thing for many people, particularly Jews to know about. I can't even begin to imagine the anger that a victim must feel when they hear that ignorant people doubt the existence of it.

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