Study Guide

Maus: A Survivor's Tale Memory and the Past

By Art Spiegelman

Memory and the Past

At its heart, Maus is a story not only about memories being passed from one generation to another, but also about the impact that memories can have on the present. The novel wrestles with the issue of whether it is possible to truly understand the Holocaust without having lived through it. The novel uses eyewitness accounts, photographs, and historical documentation to reconstruct the past. The question of memory extends beyond the question of how the children of Holocaust survivors can relate to their parents’ historical legacy. It also asks us to consider our relationship to history, and whether the memory of the horrors of the Holocaust can do anything to prevent a similar catastrophe in the future.

Questions About Memory and the Past

  1. What do we gain from the deeply personal perspective of Vladek’s memories? What gets left out?
  2. Why is Art so interested in his father’s story? How does the experience of writing his father’s story shed light on his tense relationship with his father?
  3. What are some of the broader historical and ethical issues in representing the Holocaust?

Chew on This

Art’s work on Vladek’s story helps him to understand Vladek’s behavior, as well as their troubled relationship.

Spiegelman is acutely conscious that his representation of Vladek’s story has implications beyond his personal relationship with his father because it deals with the Holocaust.