The Animals of Maus

We talked in class several times about the use of animals to represent people.  I think the use of Spiegelman’s use of animals to represent different ethnicities actually helps to clarify his story.  I think that since many of us grew up watching cartoons or disney movies, we are pretty used to the idea of people being represented as animals.  My guess is that even the older generations of people have seen enough mickey mouse or other similar characters that even they would be used to the idea of personified animals.

It also makes sense from the artists viewpoint that he might choose to represent the different ethnicities as different animals.  When we look at how small the panels are in the book, there wasn’t a lot of room for detail.  He could have made the drawings larger, and added photorealistic imagery to the pictures and later shrunk them down, but we still wouldn’t immediately know who was polish, german, swiss, american, etc.  Plus, how exactly does one try to capture their dead parents’ images accurately in so many different frames?  The minimalistic representation of the people as animals also helps show that different cultures might view all members of one race as the same.

I would guess that using cartoon charicters to portray people also helped to take the edge off of the story.  Speigalman was obviously trying to tell the story as accurately as possible… but since the closest he could get is second or third hand accounts of the story it makes sense that the story is missing lots of small detail and can only be represented by generalizing things like ethnicities or accounts of what happened.

Published by