In Maus, what is the significance of the authors decision to portray people of different races and nationalities as different animals? What effect does this have on the understanding and impact of the story?
The Maus series of book tells a strong tale about one man’s experience of the holocaust. Art Spiegelman does not tell the story in a standard novel fashion. Instead, the book conveys the story using comical panels. One of the most significant aspects of this story was the use of different animals for the characters. The replacement of the human race with animals gives the reader a good idea of “who’s who” during the catastrophic events of the holocaust.
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Throughout Maus all the characters are portrayed as animals to represent different races, nationalities, and religions. The Jews are identified as mice while the Germans are identified as cats. Different animals populate different countries. The Nazi’s main enemies, the Americans, are shown as dogs, the Poles are pigs, the British, who are naval experts, are fish, and the French are represented by frogs because of their love for frog legs and romance. By this fashion, Art Spiegelman turned this story into an allegorical cat and mouse game. This is shown of how the German cats prey on the Jewish mice; The American dogs chase off the cats to save the mice. The Poles are represented as a pig which does not seem random, because the Nazis sometimes refer the Poles as pigs.
The relationship between the animals impacts the story and portrays the holocaust very well. The Jewish person depicted as mice conveys an idea of different attitudes towards the Jewish people such that they are small, harmless, but inhuman, repellent, and a vermin. The Germans portraying as cats brings out the power and malice of the entire Holocaust experience, in which cats do not just kill mice, they capture them, torture them, and then kill them. The natural sworn enemies of both cat and mice lack reason and conscience. As a result, Nazis kill Jews without guilt or reason for fault. In reality a mouse is prey for a cat, much like the Jews were prey for the Germans during the mass genocide.
The reason for the Polish was chosen to be pigs requires a bit more of an explanation. Pigs are viewed as selfish and filthy animals. In the story, the Polish sold out the Jewish people on several occasions. A prime example of this is when Vladek and his family were staying at Kawka’s farm. “They may come search here any minute! You’ve got to leave!” In this scene, Kawka was not telling the truth, but only trying to protect herself. The depiction of pigs also reflects traditional polish way of life.
The Americans are represented by dogs. This depiction suggests power, friendliness, loyalty and other positive aspects. The stereotypical dog also dislikes cats and may attack them. The choice of dog may have been inspired by the term “dogface,” which was a common nickname for the American G.I. during the WWII period. It may also relate to some popular cartoons, such as Tom and Jerry, in which a dog will protect a mouse from a cat, or it may also refer to a German reference to American Marines as Teufelshunde or “Devil Hounds” during World War I. Some also believe that the dog representation could come from the very fact that Americans love dogs and hot dogs.
While portraying mice is somewhat despising today, there is a good reason for it. The animals portrayed the people as they should have been portrayed. The significance of the author to portray people of different races and nationalities as different animals conveys that although that Spiegelman was not involved in the holocaust he still feels the weight and pain because of his father. In addition, Spiegelman kept the characters in his story as human as possible by letting animals stand upright instead of crawling. Through the use of animals, Spiegelman has created an exceptional way to illustrate the holocaust in a typical comic book.
In Invisible Man, what makes Ellison’s narrator invisible? What is the relationship between his invisibility and other people’s blindness-both involuntary and willful? Is the protagonist’s invisibility due solely to his skin color? Is it only the novel’s white characters that refuse to see him?
Invisible man is narration in the first person by the narrator. The narrator is an unnamed African American who considers himself socially and apparently invisible. The story depicts the African American at a constant struggle for individual identity and because he is black he is socially ignored by other people, specifically white men. He explains that this invisibility is not from a biochemical accident or supernatural cause but rather to the unwillingness of other people to notice him, because he is black. In the prologue of the story the protagonist illustrates that he is indeed invisible “simply because people refuse to see me” .The actions of both white and black people toward the protagonist lead him to his conclusion.
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The narrator begins the story of his realization of his invisibility at the end of his high school days in chapter one. He is as an intelligent and diligent student in a southern U.S. state in the early part of the 20thcentury. After giving a great speech about the role humility plays in progress, members of the community invite him to recite the speech once again “at a gathering of the town’s leading white citizens”. At the meeting the high-ranked members of the community unexpectedly force the narrator and other black boys to participate in what the narrator coins a “battle royal,” in which they fight each other and attempt to pull fake gold coins from an electric rug. The narrator proceeds to win the “battle royal,” and presents his speech to the wealthy white men. Throughout the delivery of his speech, they mock and laugh at him, failing to see who he really is. The school’s superintendent then rewards him with a scholarship to Tuskegee College. Because of the great reward and the opportunities the reward opens up, the narrator accepts the inhuman treatment as normal. During that time the narrator considers he a weak character, he allows people to treat him poorly and shrugs off the subhuman treatment he receives because of his experience with southern black heritage. The narrator’s poor childhood correlates with the white race brings him into adulthood with understanding that he is invisible.
Another example of the protagonist display of invisibility is in the beginning of the prologue when the protagonist relates an incident in which he accidently bumped into a white guy one night. The white man curses at him and then the protagonist attacks him demanding for an apology. The man’s insult, which can be assumed to be a racial remark, offends the narrator’s humanity, who attacks the man to force him realize the narrator’s individuality. He threw the man to the ground and continued to kick him until a pulled out a knife to try and kill him. At the last minute he came to his senses and realized that the white man can’t really see because he was invisible. Because the narrator is black the white man does not consider him a three dimensional person; hence the reason why the narrator portrays himself an invisible man and them as blind people.
Another important aspect in the story is the narrator’s view of the blindness of other people. The blindness aspect comes in to play during the battle royal. The blindfold scares the narrator, because he was not used to darkness, and it put him in a “blind terror.” This is the first time that the narrator admits his blindness, but at the same time he also shows the blindness of others. All of the men in the battle royal are blindfolded. The whites have blindfolded them and they have no idea who they are fighting against. So they end up fighting each other rather than the real opponents they should be fighting. When the narrator finally is allowed to remove his blindfold he is so preoccupied with what he believes the reason he is there for that he cannot really focus on his fight in the arena. Here, Ellison is commenting on the importance of the individual.
The story of the invisible man introduces many themes that define the novel. The metaphors of blindness and invisibility show the effect of racism on the victim and the one responsible. The story highlights how the problem for the narrator is a message of the problem of any black man.
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