Tuesday, April 7, 2015

An Author's Responsibility

Brendan O’Brien
EN 385
Maus II Post

            The Holocaust is undoubtedly one of the most significant acts of prejudice and atrocity in human history. Many authors, writers, and survivors have attempted to capture the horror of this event through their works. Books like Eli Wiesel’s Night and the film Schindler’s List have both given first hand accounts of the daily struggles of the Jewish people as they lived throughout this nightmare. Art Spiegelman’s Maus II in many ways does the same as the aforementioned works, but furthermore, his graphic novel is about the act of framing these horrific events in a way that the average reader can pick up his book and relate to them.

            The entire book is filled with stories that are difficult to read and almost impossible to imagine. But perhaps one of the most upsetting scenes in the book is Vladek’s racism directed towards the hitchhiker. Francoise is considerate and does the good deed of stopping and giving the man a ride, but Vladek immediately expresses his outrage once the man gets out. He exclaims, “I had the whole time to watch out that this shvarster doesn’t steal us the groceries from the back seat!” (Spiegelman 99). Art the narrator is quick to denounce this racism and points out that Vladek is talking of the man in the same manner in which the Nazis regarded the Jews. It is difficult to sympathize with Vladek’s character due to his constant complaints and this instance of racism. It is also difficult to reconcile how he could be so prejudiced when he himself experienced prejudice at its worst. Spiegelman could be suggesting that one, it is important to recognize that everyday regular people who had flaws and their own prejudices were the victims of the Holocaust; and two, that racism, sexism, prejudice, etc. are naturally part of the human condition. For Spiegelman, it is important to leave no detail out of his depiction of the Holocaust. Like the role of the tattoo artist or the Pacific cultural author, it is his duty to depict the Jewish tradition in every aspect possible, even if it reveals some negative attributes. Writing a book like this, and especially any form of travel literature, requires the author to abandon all biases and approach a topic, culture, or event from every angle possible.

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