By means of comic illustration and parody, Art Spiegelman wrote a graphic novel about the lives of his parents, Vladek and Anja, before and during the Holocaust. Spiegelman’s Maus Volumes I and II delves into the emotional struggle he faced as a result of his father’s failure to recover from the trauma he suffered during the Holocaust. In the novel, Vladek’s inability to cope with the horrors he faced while imprisoned, along with his wife’s tragic death, causes him to become emotionally detached from his son, Art. Consequently, Vladek hinders Art’s emotional growth. However, Art overcomes the emotional trauma his father instilled in him through his writing.
Vladek’s failure to move forward from his past experiences causes him to suppress his pain. He is unable to express his emotions; as a result, he uses control as a coping mechanism. Vladek’s control is illustrated when he destroys Anja’s memoirs. Vladek explains, “After Anja died, I had to make an order with everything… These papers had too many memories. So I burned them” (1:159). By destroying any evidence that reminds him of Anja, he harms his own emotional stability. Moreover, burning the papers illustrates his attempt to cover up the reality that he cannot always have control over life. Vladek’s suppression leads him to use control in an unhealthy manner.
Vladek’s controlling ways leads him to invent a life that he never had. Vladek wields his reality by reinventing his past life. When Vladek tells Art about his marriage to Anja, he portrays his marriage like a fairy tale. Vladek says, “We were both very happy, and lived happy, happy ever after” (Spiegelman 2:136). He reinvents his past life after the end of the Holocaust as free of woe. Correspondingly, he loses himself trying to manipulate the reality in his life because he starts to believe his own lies. Anja and Vladek did not have a fairy tale ending because Anja committed suicide. Vladek marries Mala and traps himself in an unhappy marriage. By marrying Mala, Vladek tries to replace Anja with Mala, a notion that is impossible. Simultaneously, he becomes a mechanical object that experiences emptiness through his possessive ways.
Vladek’s possessiveness leads him to try to control Art. Vladek throws Art’s coat because he believes the coat is in a bad condition. By throwing the coat away, he tries to control his son by picturing himself in Art’s shoes. Because of the Holocaust, Vladek was unable to fully enjoy his youth. By means of control, Vladek could try to retain his past life through Art. Furthermore, Vladek pretends that he is suffering a heart attack to keep Art close by his side. Vladek’s control enables him to manipulate Art.
Vladek’s behavior leads him to become emotionally disconnected from his son. In Flora Hogman’s “Trauma and Identity,” she asserts that, “Significant trauma of one generation reflects in the life of the following generations” (551-578). The first generation of Holocaust survivors transfer their...