Read my entire Tracing Maus project by following these links:
Tracing helped me to view the concepts that we have been talking about in class. There was something different about actually tracing the pages as opposed to observing them passively. Going through the process of shading and sketching made me notice which parts of the process took the most time, and which panels were more detailed as opposed to the ones that seemed to take less time to trace.
I chose the pages that I did because I wanted to highlight the details in either body language and background or facial expression. I chose to trace p. 109 from Volume I and p. 25 from Volume II. After having read the books and having thought about which aspects stuck with me I chose pages that I thought best illustrated the concepts that I wanted to talk about. I chose to talk about:
The first tracing of Maus that I did resembles a moment that is truly devastating for both Vladeck and Art. The tone, emotion, and illustrations of my first trace all resemble the feeling of sadness and helplessness. Anja had just killed herself and Art feels like he will forever be stuck in prison because of his mom’s suicide. You can truly feel the instant regret that Artie had when he found out that his mom killed herself. It makes you feel that his life is over (as he portrays with the prison) and that he will never feel ok again in his life. This is a theme that carries on with the rest of book 1 when little by little the conditions that Vladeck is currently in, starts to become worse and worse. This feeling of hopelessness can be felt even in book 2 when Vladeck starts having more cases of life and death situations. But the contrast between my first trace and the second trace is that the second trace ends the trend of hopelessness and ends the book with a “they live happily ever after”. The second trace ends the story of how Vladeck was able to survive the war and be able to find out that his wife was still alive. I simply cannot imagine what that couple went through and how they felt when they finally saw each other after so many years of suffering apart. I truly believe that the author tried to give justice to his parent’s life by ending the story of their struggles with a very happy and emotional ending.
Humanity is complex… that’s an easy one. Just to be more concise, I’ll base this discussion off the fact that society is complex.
Spiegelman makes the argument throughout the whole novel, that when social constructs are removed from the reality we perceive, all humans are essentially identical. We will all possess the same needs and look out for our own well beings. Let me elaborate on this newfound term.
Our society is comprised of multiple social constructs, which are simply subjective realities societies create, accept, and conform to. Examples of this can be culture, religion, marriage, socioeconomic status, art, race, ethnicity, and many more. If you sit and think about it, you’ll realize that almost everything is socially constructed.
When you take the time to remove every social construct from the situations presented in Maus, you realize that in the end, whether it be a Pole, Jew, German, or American, they are all human, and under the objective lens, are all identical and homogeneous.
In page 64 of the first book, Vladek takes advantage of the persona-malleability presented by the social construct of nationality, and by pretending to be a Pole, manages to board a train that will get him far away from the work camp.
Yet a better example of the homogeneity of humanity is shown in page 29 of the second book, where Mandelbaum, one of the richest people in Sosnowiec, is shown to be one of the most misfortunate people at Auschwitz, having horribly mismatched shoes, overly large clothing, and no spoon to feed himself. Auschwitz, in a way, eliminates the social construct of socioeconomic status among the prisoner population; this is key to understanding Spiegelman’s idea, since now that the construct had been removed, all subjective value given by socioeconomic status has disappeared, and all prisoners are at the same level, whether in the past one was rich or poor.
Hence, in theory, if social constructs are ignored, one quickly realizes that all individuals form part of an essentially homogeneous population… what makes it heterogeneous most of the time are our social constructs of diversity. Social constructs, although key to society and vital to our survival, are malleable and distort the objective homogeneity of humanity.
Spiegelman also shows throughout Maus that objectivity and rationality tends to be the best resource in times of distress. The living, breathing example of this in the novel is Vladek himself, who displays incredible ingenuity and resourcefulness in such deplorable conditions.
However, a notable example rises in page 64 of the first book, where Vladek passes off as a Pole in order to board a train and escape to Sosnowiec. In order to ensure his escape, he swallows any type of pride or subjectivity that obliges him to identify as Jew and does what is necessary to get himself on the train. He was objective, and he obtained his desired outcome through the most rational action possible. Conversely, if he had identified himself as a Jew and not “falsify” his ethnicity, he would have been sent back to the camp in a heartbeat.
Another example where Spiegelman hints the idea of rationality and objectivity as the best resource at times of need is in page 29, where an interaction at Auschwitz between Vladek and Mandelbaum, a very rich man from Sosnowiec. Mandelbaum had gotten the short end of the stick at Auschwitz and received ridiculously mismatched shoe sized, lost his spoon, and was given an obnoxiously large size of clothing. He asks Vladek for a spoon, but Vladek, in order to avoid both of them a beating from the guards, does not give it to him at the moment; Mandelbaum proceeds to crumple in a corner and plead to God for help. This is a moment of relative irrationality, because his best course of option at the moment is to actively continue to search for what he needs… even Vladek acknowledges at the end, that in such conditions, God would not help them, and that they were on their own.
This shows that Spiegelman believes that regardless of the existence of God, one must be rational and objective at all times and take the best course of action to satisfy one’s need. Mandelmaum’s need is eventually satisfied, but if it weren’t for Vladek’s thoughtfulness and generosity, he would have never been able to satisfy his need for a spoon and shoes.
Regardless of one’s position, identity, or status in life, it is rationality and objectivity which takes an individual to the optimum decision and the best odds of success at satisfying one’s needs.