Maus Themes


Maus novel is a comic book that depicts the struggle of his father who was a Jew in Europe that was apparently occupied by the Nazi. The story further highlights about the Spiegelman’s and the attempts the individual made to come to grips with the anecdote of his father (Smith 508). In the process, a variety of themes developed. They give us a view on how the Holocaust affected people and how they were able to cope with the tragedies that arose. Many were affected directly while some were affected indirectly. Among the survivors of the Holocaust is Vladek his survival is however tough as he is always traumatized by the atrocities committed by the Nazi people.

The theme of survival.

From the description, it is arguable that Vladek was among the survivors of the Holocaust. The other survivors include Anja who had wished to convey his story. Spiegelman was another survivor who could not deal with the events that transpired, and in the year 1968 Spiegelman committed suicide. Mala is the last survivor depicted in the narration as the burden of the abuse of Vladek. Vladek is a courageous and knowledgeable youth who struggles the entire time to survive. He performed dangerous activities, for instance, he manipulates the black market to acquire food to sustain his family. At the camps he worked as a tutor of English, he would also make shoes to ensure the ends meet (Spiegelman 32). He incurred many loses, but he never gave up. He is affected indirectly through the loss of Anja s nephew who is also the last surviving member of his family, and he offers a leaning hand by consoling the grieving Anja.

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The narrations indicate pain and suffering. When Anja lost the will to leave the response from Vladek, they had to struggle to live together as they needed one another. The whole narration about Vladek and his story indicates the will to survive. He did both good and evil things, but one can conclude that whatever he did was for the benefit of his family. He cared for their wellbeing and survival was the only factor the Jews were left clinging. They lost their loved ones in tragic ways, and they had nothing fighting for rather than to survive (Smith 508). The concept created an environment of optimism, and they could look forward with determination ignoring the despair they were forced to go through at the time of the Holocaust.

Family guilt.

Many forms of guilt are depicted from the narration. Art, for instance, was liable of not being a good son to his parents. He was disgraced about the loss of life of her mother and the publication of Maus. From the beginning, Art and his father do not get along well, and it affects their relationship as they keep a distance from each other even though they live in close proximities. They are always on edge and initiating conversations is difficult for them as they argue all the time. At some instance, Vladek waked his son on an early morning to seek assistance while he was trying to fix a roof that was draining into the house. Art rejects his father’s request, and he talks to his wife that he would rather feel remorseful than to go and help his father regarding the request. When Art finally meets his father after refusing to assist sometimes later, the feeling of shame is evident in the sense that he begins to ask his father if he needed any assistance with other chores. The sense of regret of his mother is also apparent, as Art feels like because he neglected his mother it is the reason why she committed suicide (Spiegelman 32). From the narration, shame affects him to a point he had asked his mom before she died if she loved him and her mother painfully responded in a manner that was cold that he did. Art is still consumed with remorse and traumatized by the ghost of his father.

The survivor’s guilt.

It develops from the relationship between the Holocaust and Vladek and Art. Art was born after the end of the war, but his parents were among the survivors of the Holocaust a factor that continues to affect him. At some point, he wished to have been with the parents so that he could have seen what they had gone through. It is culparabilty as he feels like his life is easier than what the parents went through. Vladek is also guilty because he survived the Holocaust and many of his family and friends did not make it (Saryusz-Wolska 125). And though his survival was a result of luck it still affected him, and he could have passed his stigma to his son.


Those who survived the Holocaust, for instance, Vladek is not that because they had different skills on how to cope with the particular situation but it was as a result of pure lack. There was good and bad luck depicted from the narration. The bad luck is seen where some of the characters, for instance, Art’s mother was traumatized by the happenings and she could not take her heart. she had to end her life. It is bad luck because while some struggled to survive, she chose to end her life and even though she had his son and husband who she could look up to when faced with hard times (Spiegelman 23). The good luck is depicted from the survival of Vladek, He has been used to narrate to the people about the events that took place. Much of the information could not be available at the present if all the characters had died.

The rise of Anti-Semitism.

The theme describes the hostility that was done on the Jews by the Nazi people. The mission of the Nazi was to exterminate the Jews because they felt like they were inferior compared to the other living creatures. Spiegelman portrays the Nazi characters as animals because of their actions to the Jews. Vladek survived the horror that the rest of his family and friends could not and hence narrate the cruel happenings that happened to the Jews (Spiegelman 23). His son Art did all the documentation of all the happenings, and they help us to understand and build relationships with events that took place in the past.


Maus novel gives us knowledge about history and the struggles of the Jews with the Nazi (Saryusz-Wolska 125). It illustrates a society divided by race and character. Many Jews fought at the period because the Nazi felt like they were superior to them. It is a bittersweet ending as Vladek survives to narrate the ordeals. His pain is that many of his family members and friends died a factor that made him remorseful all the time.


Work cited

Saryusz-Wolska, Magdalena. “NEW GERMAN CINEMA’s FORGOTTEN FILM: HANSJÜRGEN POHLAND’skatz UND MAUS.” German Life and Letters 66.1 (2013): 111-125. Web.

Spiegelman, Art. Maus. New York: Pantheon, 2011. Print.

Spiegelman, Art. The Complete Maus. UK: Penguin, 2003. Print.

Smith, Philip. “Spiegelman Studies Part 1 Of 2:Maus.” Literature Compass 12.10 (2015): 499-508. Web.