Fathers and Sons
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
“A reader might get the impression that the conversations in the narrative were just one small part, a facet of my relationship with my father,” Spiegelman once remarked. “In fact, however, they were my relationship with my father. I was doing them to have a relationship with my father” (source)
Art isn’t the only one seeking a relationship with a father, nor is Vladek the only father figure he seeks out. Vladek himself seeks out many father figures – his own father makes an appearance, but also his wealthy father-in-law, the grandfather in his dream, the rabbi at the POW camp, and the Catholic priest at Auschwitz. These father figures are voices of hope for Vladek; they laud his abilities, or, in the case of the priests, they identify him as a man marked for fortune by God.
Art doesn’t have this relationship with Vladek, who seems to think less of Art for not living up to his expectations. Art does find a kind of father figure in his therapist, Pavel, who, like his father, is also a Holocaust survivor. In fact, what pulls him into the particular session that we read about is his own imminent fatherhood. What kind of father will he be? What kind of story will he transmit to his children? The dedication of Part II to his children (and to Richieu) gives us an idea of what this story might be.