In Art Spiegelman’s “Maus”, Vladek has arrived at a camp after signing some release papers from the Nazis. After arriving he learns of a previous group of prisoners had been killed before him and he is frightened. Some local Jewish authorities had managed to bribe the Germans into releasing prisoners into the homes of the locals by registering them as relatives. Vladek has a family friend whom he trained with, so when waiting for him at night, he goes out to urinate, but a guard begins to shoot at him, which in turn makes Vladek run back into the tent and urinate inside. This made Vladek start to lose hope and overthink things. In this paper, I will talk about how Art Spiegelman uses his artwork to convey the presence of Vladek’s past memories and his present-self retelling them, how he uses the size of panels to focus the page and meaning on a specific one, and the meaning of how some of his texts spill onto the gutter.
What stands out is the panel of Vladek urinating outside while being shot at on the bottom left corner of the page, and this panel is the biggest out of all the panels on the page. I believe Spiegelman made this panel the size it is to show the dangerous environment at the releasement camp and to show how badly the Nazis treated the Jews, to the point of shooting them if they got the chance. This panel is also evidence to Vladek saying he was very frightened during this specific time (62). Not only was he frightened because he was getting shot at for just trying to urinate but also because of what might happen to them if the Germans walked them to a forest. They would be killed if it came to that (61). Spiegelman also uses the size of panels to convey different time phases. For example, after being shot at, the panels that come after are much smaller than the panel with Vladek being shot at to show the urgency to take cover and to also urinate.
Another element that stands out is the presence of both the present Vladek and the past Vladek in the sense that Art is interviewing his father, and his father is retelling his story during the Nazi regime. Michael Kimmelman, author of “Examining How ‘Maus’ Evolved” observes that “The story line cuts back and forth between memories of Vladek’s experiences in World War II and the near-present, during which Mr. Spiegelman depicts himself visiting his father, taping the interviews and even drawing “Maus” (3).
As you continue reading Maus you may start noticing more subtle details that Spiegelman has decided to include, and also notice the elements of time shift shown by the size of panels, the size of panels compared to others to show importance or create the focus of the page you are reading, and how Vladek’s presence is seen in his World War II memories and his interview with Art in the near-present. Read through Maus yourself and find the secrets hidden within.
Speigelman, Art. 1980. Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History. Pantheon Books.
Kimmelman, Michael. December 27th 1991. Review/Art; Examining How ‘Maus’ Evolved. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/1991/12/27/arts/review-art-examining- how-maus-evolved.html Accessed October 30th 2020.