Maus plays on the Nazi’s racist idea that Jews are less than human, “vermin,” by rendering the Jewish characters into mice. Germans, on the other hand, are represented as cats, Americans as dogs, and Poles as pigs. Maus doesn’t use these animal figures to present a simplistic moral tableau where all the Germans are evil and all the Jews are good. Instead, the novel uses these animal figures to show how race is not reducible to one characteristic or another. There are good mice and bad mice, good pigs and bad pigs, good cats and evil cats, and so forth. In fact, just as the Jews “passed” as Poles or Germans as a way to survive, the novel plays with its own animal allegory, presenting human beings wearing mouse masks or mice wearing pig masks. The novel also considers how racial stereotypes still operate in society today, bringing up the troubling question of whether we as a society have learned anything from the experience of the Holocaust.
Spiegelman represents his characters as different types of animals in order to challenge racial stereotypes.
The use of animal types gives Maus an allegorical quality that prods the reader to consider how the experience of anti-Semitism in the Holocaust has parallels to other types of racism.