7 April 2015
A 'Snap' of History
I love going home for holiday breaks. I look forward to entering my home and reacquainting myself with all the family photos I haven’t looked at, in what feels like years. Every time, I take a new set of older and maturing eyes, I find something different to notice about it. For instance, I see resemblance between my mother and her grand parents. I look into the eyes of my Nanny and see my round blue eyes looking back. Although generations apart, we are connected through that little 2x2 picture that is proudly displayed in my mother’s china cabinet. Even if I can’t recreate the memory that is captured in that particular photograph, my mom or my grandmother take great pleasure in detailing the moment in time. It is how our history lives on, one picture at a time, one story at a time.
Similarly in Art Spiegelman’s MAUS II, the use of photos and comics portrays the relationship of the author and his father as well as his father and mother’s survival account of Aushchwitz. Spiegelman’s retelling of his Father’s story is artfully crafted into a comic book, in which he utilizes the technique of breaking the frame, in order to connect his story of his father, to himself today, as well as with us as readers. This becomes apparent on page 114 through page 115 of the text. Notice on these pages, Spiegelman is going through his family’s photos. But, these photos are not confined to the frame, they seep out and become the background to the entire page. To add, on page 134, Spiegelman includes a real authentic photo of his father that is quite drastic to his cartooned, mice version of his family.
Admit the retelling of his mother and father’s story in Aushchwitz, Spiegelman struggles to identify with his family. He recalls the photo of his deceased brother that hung in his parent’s bedroom, “They didn’t talk about Richieu, but that photo was a kind of reproach. He’d have become a doctor and married a wealthy Jewish girl…the creep” (15). From this line, it can be understood that Spiegelman doesn’t feel like he belongs to the family for he lacks their common denominator—the Holocaust. In a way, Spiegelman is jealous of their experience at the very beginning of the comic.
However, when Spiegelman and his Father take out the family photos, Spiegelman is suddenly a part of the family as the reader can tell by the way he portrays the falling pictures out of the frame. They are not confined to just a frame that encompasses his Father’s speaking or character, it involves Spiegelman, and it also involves us as readers. This is especially true when we are introduced to the real photo of his father. At that moment in the text, we are face to face with a photo that is similar and familiar to us.
Spiegelman, like myself, tries to place himself within his own family history. He paints himself at his desk wearing a mouse mask with a human body in order to try to recreate the feeling his parents and brother went through (41). In a similar manner, I always manage to ask my grandmother, to tell me how I am similar to my grandfather I have never met. I try so desperately to imagine his voice, or ask my grandma if I do any thing to mirror his quirkiness. Apparently I walk like him (a peppy sort of walk). Thus photos are able not only to seek the physical resemblance between the viewer and the person in the picture, but it creates a special kind of oral story telling. The story of that particular photo is passed from generation and generation.