Study Guide

Maus: A Survivor's Tale Family

By Art Spiegelman


Book I, Chapter 1
Vladek Spiegelman

“No! You don’t know counting pills. I’ll do it after … I’m an expert for this.” (I.2.32)

Art and Vladek seem to be competing all the time over the smallest of tasks. Here it’s counting pills.

Book I, Chapter 3
Vladek Spiegelman

“It was this <em>parsha</em> on the week I got married to Anja … And this was the <em>parsha</em> in 1948, after the war, on the week you were born!... And so it came out to be this <em>parsha</em> you sang on the Saturday of your bar mitzvah!” (I.3.61)

The fact that Art only learns now the significance of the <em>parsha</em> he read at his bar mitzvah says something about Art’s lack of connection to his Jewish heritage.

Mala Spiegelman

“You should know it’s impossible to argue with your father.” (I.3.45)

Art isn’t the only one who chafes under his father’s stubbornness, as these words from Mala show.

Book I, Chapter 6
Vladek Spiegelman

“To your <em>father</em> you yell in this way? … Even to your <em>friends</em> you should never yell this way.” (I.6.161)

A loaded statement, considering how Vladek’s Holocaust memories show the fragility of family relationships and friendships under pressure.

Book II, Chapter 1
Art Spiegelman

“I mean, I can’t even make any sense out of my relationship with my father … how am I supposed to make sense out of Auschwitz? … of the Holocaust?” (II.1.4)

These are questions that <em>Maus</em> doesn’t answer – and perhaps that’s the point.

“It’s so <em>claustrophobic</em> being around Vladek. He straightens everything you touch – he’s so anxious.” (II.1.12)

It’s ironic that Vladek, in Quote #7, talks about how “nervous” Art is, when Vladek himself is so neurotic.

Vladek Spiegelman

“Always Artie is <em>nervous</em> – so like his mother – she also was nervous.” (II.1.10)

Art’s similarity to his mother in temperament suggests that he is continuing her work. We may have lost Anja’s diaries, but Art, like Anja, wants to write down and record the Holocaust.

Book II, Chapter 2
Art Spiegelman

“Sometimes I just don’t feel like a functioning adult. I can’t believe I’m going to be a father in a couple of months. My father’s ghost still hangs over me.” (II.2.33)

Tellingly, Art depicts himself at this point as a small, child-sized mouse. He needs to come to terms with his relationship with his father in order to come into his own as an adult.

Book II, Chapter 4
Vladek Spiegelman

“So, only my little brother, Pinek, came out from the war alive … from the rest of my family, it’s <em>nothing</em> left, not even a snapshot.” (II.4.106)

With so many family members lost in the Holocaust, keeping a sense of continuity with one’s past is a struggle.

Book II, Chapter 5
Vladek Spiegelman

“I’m <em>tired</em> from talking, Richieu, and it’s <em>enough</em> stories for now.” (II.5.126)

These are Vladek’s last words, which may suggest that Art has lost the battle of the photograph (see Quote #6). On the other hand, Art dedicates Book II to Richieu and his own children, and even provides a photograph of Richieu. So, what’s that about? See our “What’s Up With The Ending?” for a more extended discussion of these lines.

Art Spiegelman

“The photo never threw tantrums or got in any kind of trouble … it was an ideal kid, and I was a pain in the ass. I couldn’t compete.” (II.1.5)

You thought sibling rivalry was tough. Imagine competing with a <em>dead</em> child, a child so young that he died before he could do anything really bad or disappoint his parents by, oh, becoming an artist.