THIS PAST WEEK, we talked a lot about the methods of storytelling, particularly, in Spiegelman’s method for the telling Maus I &II. We mentioned his certain techniques such as using moments that collapse the boundaries between the past and the present, the real and the imaginary. As a result of the author’s techniques, critiques were categorizing Maus into different genres of literature. Some people thought the story was fiction. It seems that Maus could definitely be classified as a postmodern literary work that clashes many types of genres. But, I would have to say it most resembles a creative nonfiction literary work, presented by an author with a fantastical imagination and perception. Spiegelman preserved the historical legitimacy of the characters and their actions as well as the settings or landmarks. But, he uses fictitious visuals to represent his characters. And, he alters the perception of the Art character in fantastical ways to show us how, in some ways, he actually perceives these real events. For instance, there is that panel of when the doctor tells Art that his mom committed suicide. In real life, the doctor probably did not appear so sinister. But at the given moment, that may well have been how Spiegelman perceived the doctor and everyone else for that matter, at that point in his real life. This is why I feel like Maus is a creative nonfiction graphic novel. The author used representational meaning that was fantastical and fictional to evoke very real meaning in very nonfictional events. All the different animals to represent the Jews, Germans, Polish, Americans, they evoked several different meanings. One was to emphasize the idea that Nazis really did see the Jews as a sub-human race and to evoke the feeling of how the Jewish people really had to live like rats in those concentration camps and while they were in hiding.
The author literally put himself inside the panels to give the readers a level of credibility. He could not depend on his father’s credibility alone, so Spiegelman gets in the story and tells us, I AM STRUGGLING with this. We, the readers, come to accept the idea that there are going to be holes in this story and Vladek cannot completely explain all the events exactly as they were, but our author confesses this, and by doing so, he exposes himself to us, and kind of throws himself on the table. He leaves himself very vulnerable to our judgement, but he also gains our understanding and trust.