Maus: the choice to portray humans as animals

There is a concept within Maus that I find particularly captivating. We discussed it in class on Tuesday with our discussion on the animals as “masks”.  As I stated in class I think there is much more to these animal distinctions than simply a mask.  They are a clear way to show just how divided by race Europe was and in some ways still is(see France’s treatment of the Roma people and of French born Muslims).  The argument that the animals are about nationalism has some merit, but does not address the face that there are Polish and German Jews, but they are all drawn as rats/mice.  Since there is no Jewish “state” I find it hard to believe the choice to draw peoples as different animals is solely about nationalism.  I think that may play a part but it goes deeper.  No matter what the mice do within Maus they are still mice.  Put a pig mask on under you are still a mouse.  No matter what Spiegleman’s father does he is still Jewish.  This part of him cannot be removed.  The same way the color of an individual’s eyes cannot be changed, or the color of one’s skin can’t be changed etc.  Please note that I do not in any way mean this in a critical sense. I am not saying Jewish people should try to somehow disconnect from their past and their race. I am simply saying that you cannot completely separate yourself from ethnicity.   The choice to show each ethnic group of people as different animals not only plays with the connotations those animals posses but it is also an easy way to show that an individual cannot choose to truly be a different ethnic group.  The same way that under a pig mask is still a mouse.

One thought on “Maus: the choice to portray humans as animals”

  1. Well-spoken. Your post reminds me of the idea of “passing.” In a context closer to home, passing referred to the way light-skinned black Americans might sometimes pass as white. There’s been considerable historical work done on the phenomenon, and the trope appears quite often in 19th century and 20th century literature and film.

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