This is the second graphic novel in the Maus series that concentrates on the holocaust survivor Vladek, and his life after reaching Auschwitz. This novel also focuses more heavily on the relationship between Art and his father and the after effects of such a harrowing experience from one generation to another.
Once again we delve into the world of the Second World War through the power of illustration. As the second book in the Maus series, the usual stereotypical metaphors are repeated such as the mice as Jews, the cats as Germans and the pigs as Polish. We are also introduced to a new character, a Frenchman depicted as a frog. Although these images seem in their own way offensive and stereotypical, they help to depict a horrific point in history making it no less tragic yet with a visual representation of the actions. Although we can read books, articles and journals, or watch documentaries and movies about the concentration camps and Auschwitz, nothing will ever be as powerful as a personal account and this book may be small but it is mighty in what it portrays. The strength behind this novel is made only stronger when the reader finds out it is based upon Art Spiegelman himself and his father Vladek.
Not only can we see the true horror of Auschwitz, the pain, the suffering and separation from family, there is also the element of the after affects. It is clearly visible that Auschwitz has left many scars that run along generations and has not just affected those directly involved but has even left Artie with guilt that he was not there. Artie seems to feel guilt after listening to his father and question why he did not have to suffer Auschwitz, he feels sad and guilty for what his father and mother had to go through and what so many others endured. Artie’s mother committed suicide after struggling with the loss of family from Auschwitz whilst Vladek is a cautious man who displays issues with trust yet keeps a strong work ethic and smart financial trait knowing only how important money is.
Hidden in the backdrop of the plot focusing on the Holocaust is the relationship between Artie and his father. Their relationship is tough and tiring, yet there is that strong need to draw both of them together. Artie questions throughout the novel whether to finish the book, there are moments of self-doubt and as the novel flits back and forth between the past and the present, there is that constant assurance of Auschwitz in the past paralleled with the question of whether this part of the past should be brought up again. In saying this, the effects of Auschwitz are eternal in Vladek and Arties everyday lives and whether Vladek’s past experiences are on paper seem irrelevant to the scars he faces daily.
I really enjoyed this novel and for me, I think this was Artie’s way of letting go of the guilt he carries for what his father had been through. Could this novel be a way of relieving guilt by telling the world his father’s story and in a way using his father to represent to millions that suffered and what they had endured for so long during the Nazi occupation? I think it was important to jump between life during the Second World War and life in the present because in many other sources about Nazi occupation the after affects are rarely discussed. Vladek comes across as a man determined to survive the concentration camps and Auschwitz, he works hard to live and meets many people on the journey that he lends a helping hand to and vice versa. Despite the rocky relationship between Artie and his father, this novel seems to portray an honest depiction and doesn’t mask the difficult moments or the stubborn and determined personality of Vladek.
Overall this novel gives an honest and illustrated depiction of Nazi occupation in Germany and ties in nicely with the first book. Based on the accounts of his father in Auschwitz, this novel has a dark and sad element to what one man and his family experienced and the implications it has had later on in life. I found this a very interesting read and at the same time I found it sad that so many people has similar and more than likely even worse experiences than Vladek. The illustrations help to put into perspective the visual aspects of the past whilst also portraying the horror of it. Despite Vladek appearing as a tough, old man I really liked his character in the novel and I use ‘character’ lightly as this was his real experience and life. I’m sure it was difficult for Art Spiegelman to lay the story of his father in front of the world but I am glad he did it because it opened my eyes to a new side of the Second World War and showed me the scars left behind. I would highly recommend Maus 1 and Maus 2 as they are more than just a good read. Over on goodreads, I gave Maus 2 a solid 5 out of 5 stars as I can see myself picking up this novel again in the future.