|Book cover of Maus (photo by Sarah A.K.)|
Until the 1980s, the story of World War II wasn’t something people joked about or just nodded off. Most of the survivors of the Holocaust were still alive and their pains were unimaginable. As many survivors passed away, so did their stories that carried the weight of the war. Many literatures and films pertaining to Holocaust started to dissolve into a piece of history. However, as we face violence in Europe, it is important to keep alive the remembrance of World War II so we don’t fall into the trap from our history repeating itself.
Teenagers were required to read at least several books about World War II, such as The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, The diary of a young girl, and Number the Star. For many teenagers who are jaded by these Holocaust stories, I recommend a cartoon book about the same topic. Its writing style and visuals will enlighten them about the event in a manner that they will never forget.
Maus is a graphic novel written and drawn by Art Spiegelman. He describes the war in an innovative manner. The author himself is a character in the book, as a writer struggling to write a book about his father’s survival story of the Holocaust. The story jumps from the past to the present, from when the father reminisces about his past in Poland to when the father is on his treadmill telling his son about nonessentials details about his current life in America. The story is purposefully told in side tracked manner to lessen the blow off the brutality of the war that the readers have to experience vicariously. Such details make the character more personal to the readers, thus creating more intense emotional impact.
|Inside the book (photo by Sarah A.K.)|
The book’s simplistic style, slightly more sophisticated than a stick figure, carries more power in its depictions. Its black and white bold brushstroke matches the mood of the story. For example, when the book portrays piles of corpses, the black and white color creates a very unsafe, dark, and scary mood.
The title Maus means mouse in German and this helpless animal is a representation of the Jews, while the cats are the German Nazis that hunt down the mouse. Polish are the pigs, French are the frogs, and the Americans are the dogs. The Jews are portrayed as mice as a reference to an anti-Semitic stereotype that Jews are less than human and are more like pests. The Poles are portrayed as pigs, as many racists refer to the Poles as pigs. Not only does portraying the various human races in various animals satirize the racism that is still held in modern times, it also effectively shows the tensions between the various groups during the war.
Even if you might not be a big fan of graphic novels or Holocaust stories, this book will keep you engaged and deepen your understanding of the history.
Sarah Angelina Kim
Sarah Angelina Kim firstname.lastname@example.org
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