On Monday, we began our study of Maus as a subject for analysis and closely examined the panels in Chapter 3 that depict Vladek Speigelman’s surprise return to his family after he sneaks across the border from the Protectorate to the Reich. Today we will take a close look at several more panels in Chapter 3, ones that depict Vladek’s reunion with his parents.
The first panel on the page places readers outside of the Spiegelmans’ house, where they view Vladek’s reunion with his parents through the window. Art Spiegelman renders the window—and the image of the family that readers see through it—as slanted or oblique, a technique that comic artists use sometimes to indicate something is awry or wrong. And in fact, it is. Though Vladek’s homecoming brings his parents joy, life as the Spiegelmans have known it has ceased to exist. Following Poland’s surrender to Germany, the Nazis confiscated all Jewish property, including Mr. Spiegelman’s seltzer factory.
In the panel above, the word you in Vladek’s line of dialogue appears in boldface to emphasize his concern for his mother and to mark a point of deflection. With his emphatic “you,” Vladek redirects the conversation from his own health to hers. Mrs. Spiegelman claims she looks sick from worry over Vladek, but readers learn from the panel’s narration that Mrs. Spiegelman is dying of cancer.
In the second tier of panels, Art Spiegelman shifts the setting from his grandparents’ house in Poland in 1940 to 1978, when his father recounts the story in his living room in New York. Unlike the panels that depict Vladek’s reunion with his parents, the one that depicts him at home in Rego Park is frameless, a contrast that delineates his recollections from his son’s depiction of them. With that frameless panel, Spiegelman moves readers from his own storytelling—his drawings based on his father’s words—to his father’s own words as he spoke them, one of the memoir’s meta moments that illustrates its identity as a narrative about the storytelling process itself.
The third tier of panels features close-ups of Mr. Spiegelman telling Vladek how his beard was shorn by the Nazis. Spiegelman draws readers closer to his grandfather’s bare face as the elder Spiegelman recounts how, after Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, Nazi soldiers grabbed Jews in the street. Mr. Spiegelman tells Vladek, “They made us sing prayers while they laughed and beat us . . . and before letting us go, they cut off our beards” (65). Mr. Spiegelman’s bare face is a shock to Vladek because of his father’s adherence to the centuries-old Jewish tradition that prohibits the cutting of facial hair, a custom with roots in the book of Leviticus: “You shall not round off the corner of your head, and you shall not destroy the edge of your beard” (19:27). The Nazi soldiers’ mockery of Jewish custom and the figurative rape of Mr. Spiegelman foreshadows the horrors that his wife will not live to see. In Mr. Spiegelman’s words, “She never knew how terrible everything would soon be” (65).
Developing an Analysis through Close Reading
Through my close reading of the first three tiers on page sixty-five, I developed four paragraphs of analysis (the four above), a total of 450 words, that could serve as a rough draft for a textual analysis of Maus.
To transform those paragraphs into an effective analytical essay, I would need to add these elements:
- a short introductory description of the tiers
- a thesis statement that presents my interpretation of the panels
- a conclusion that reiterates the thesis without restating it verbatim
What page of Maus lingers in your mind? Turn back to that page and closely examine it as I have examined page sixty-five here. Putting your close reading into words on the page may be the starting point for your textual analysis of Maus.
Spiegelman, Art. Maus I. Pantheon, 1986.
Vayikra-Leviticus-Chapter 19. The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. Chabad, Chabad-Ludavitch Media Center, https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/9920/jewish/Chapter-19.htm.
Literacy Narrative Blog Comment Assignment
Last week all of you received feedback on your literacy narrative in a blog comment from me. As an opportunity for additional feedback and an exercise in analysis, I have developed the following assignment that requires you to comment on a classmate’s literacy narrative.
- Go to the class blog page, https://janelucas.com/english-at-gtcc/.
- Click on the name of the student whose name follows yours in the class list. If that student’s name is not a live link or the student’s literacy narrative is not posted, choose another classmate. If your name is last in the list, click on the name of the student whose name appears first.
- Read the student’s literacy narrative, and compose a short response (50 words, minimum).
- In your response, demonstrate your close examination of one or more of the narrative’s components: the title, the structure (chronological or otherwise), the use of vivid details, dialogue, scene, how the writer conveys the significance of the story, or the image or images that the writer includes (as supplements to the written text).
- Post your comment as a reply no later than noon on Friday, March 5. If you do not see the leave comment/reply option at the bottom of the student’s literacy narrative, scroll to the top of the page, click on the post’s title, and scroll down. You should then see the leave comment/reply option.