As a result of not having experienced the horrors of the Holocaust like their
ancestors did, second generation Jews often sense they must demonstrate their respect and
appreciation towards their elders. Indebted to the previous generation, these Jews search
for ways in which to honor those martyrs who lost their lives half a century ago. The ways
in which this generation pays homage are quite diverse. Many have developed their own
shrines to the memories of their ancestors. Others are fully dedicated to the organization
of campaigns in order to obtain justice in the name of Jewish families whose possessions
were seized by the Nazis during WWII and stored in Swiss banks.
Yet another way, is writing a narrative like Art Spiegelman does. MAUS is an
impressive graphic novel, drawn and written by Spiegelman himself, that narrates his
father's life during the Holocaust. His memories come to life in the pages of the book,
although they are intertwined with another account. This second narrative, Spiegelman's,
complements his father's by presenting a portrayal of the life and struggles of a second
generation of Jewish people whose existences are extremely influenced by the Holocaust
despite not being born during its occurrence. This trait separates MAUS from other
Holocaust narratives whose limits can only offer one side of the story, one view of the
event, one version of the pain.
Spiegelman's obsession with saving Vladek's story for succeeding generations is
met with some opposition by his father, especially in the opening sequence. Neither
Vladek nor Spiegelman are able to understand what the other is feeling due to their
inability to relate. Spiegelman wonders why his father is so hesitant to allow his life to be
the subject of a novel; he is unable to put himself in Vladek's position. He is often
frustrated due to this limitation, and often presses his father for answers he is unable to
provide. At times he shares this frustration, which is sometimes met by sympathy from his
Spiegelman is dumbfounded by this particular piece of his father's narratives. He
attempts to use logic to understand it, but finally gives up when he realizes he just does
not understand. His father's final commentary on the strip, "nobody can understand"
shows how difficult it is not only for the second generation, but also for the survivors
themselves, to understand the events that transpired in the Holocaust.
The evil of the Holocaust is unspeakable, unexplainable, but above all,
unforgettable. Spiegleman realizes that no matter how hard he wishes he had been at
Auschwitz to experience the horrors first-hand, he is unable to do so. Committing his
thoughts and emotions to a written narrative, the graphic novel MAUS, is the best course
of action for him, especially since it allows him to combine his story with his father's.
The graphic novel genre is one of the most fascinating in...