Art Spiegelman

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Themes and Colors
The Holocaust and the Responsibility of its Survivors Theme Icon
Family, Identity, and Jewishness Theme Icon
Grief, Memory, and Love Theme Icon
Guilt, Anger, and Redemption Theme Icon
Death, Chance, and Human Interdependence Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Maus, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

The Holocaust and the Responsibility of its Survivors

Art Spiegelman, the author and narrator of Maus, is the child of two Polish Holocaust survivors: Vladek, his father, and Anja, his mother. Following a long estrangement from Vladek following Anja’s unexpected death in 1968, Arthur — called Artie by many close to him — has decided to collect his father’s memories of the Holocaust and narrate them in a series of cartoons. The Holocaust, which occurred between 1941 and 1945…

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Family, Identity, and Jewishness

While his interviews with Vladek keep a tight focus on the war, Artie’s parallel narrative of recording those interviews and writing Maus considers the multitude of ways in which the war continues to influence Vladek in his old age, and shapes Artie’s relationship both with his father and with his own Jewish identity.

Reverberations of the Holocaust are visible in almost every aspect of Vladek’s life and character, and so have a profound impact…

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Grief, Memory, and Love

Vladek tells Artie that he has spent years trying to rid himself of memories of the war and the Holocaust, but he recounts his story in remarkable detail, recalling the names and eventual fates of almost every person who crossed his path during those years. Though his descriptions are straightforward and unflinching, he has clear emotional reactions to many of the events about which he speaks — he cries when he remembers four of his…

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Guilt, Anger, and Redemption

In addition to being a narrative of war and survival, Maus is, in large part, a chronicle of Artie’s efforts to understand his father despite the fractured bonds between them. Their difficult relationship bears marks of tragedies that have shaped them — the devastation wrought by the Holocaust, and the trauma of Anja’s suicide — but their troubles are also a product of their basic human shortcomings, their native selfishness and neuroticism. Artie…

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Death, Chance, and Human Interdependence

The ghettos, cattle cars, and concentration camps through which Vladek and Anja move during the war are filled with death, most of which is a result of random and senseless violence. Though the Nazi regime is sometimes calculating about which people it will murder — as when Vladek’s sister Fela, whose four children are considered an unnecessary drain on the state’s resources, is sent to her death during a mass registration of Jewish families…

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