Maus Vladek Character Analysis

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In the graphic novel Maus, by Art Spiegelman, it can be argued that Vladek’s personality could be a result of his childhood and of his grueling experience of living through the Holocaust. Throughout the novel we often see Art Spiegelman pondering the question of why his father acts the way he does. When we go through situations in life in which we must see things that are disturbing, we tend to change our perspective on the world. This relates back to Vladeks character and the way he changed throughout the novel. Vladek’s experiences with the Holocaust psychologically scarred him forever, these experiences have made him non-trusting, cheap, and selfish.

As Vladek develops as a character during both the graphic novels, he shows that he is not a compassionate and understanding character, before, during or after the Holocaust. He manages to make it through his war experience with a great deal of luck, and intelligence. His experiences have left him scarred emotionally, causing him to live a selfish, conservative life similar to how he lived during the Holocaust, because he became so accustomed to that lifestyle throughout the duration of the war. The text, at times, seems to go out of its way to emphasize Vladek’s limitations as a human being . For example, his racist attitude when Francois picks up a black hitchhiker, “…you went crazy or what?!” “I had the whole time to watch out that this SHVARSTER doesn’t steal us the groceries from the back seat!(p.99,Volume II)” His treatment of women is another prime example, “Your father! He treats me as if I were just a maid or his nurse… WORSE!- Mala (p.130,Volume I)” As well with his inability to deal with Artie. Vladek is portrayed as a victim, as someone very ordinary, without any privileged insight into what has happened to him or why. If we are seeking here some illumination of the events we witness, that does not come from anything Vladek has to offer.

The Holocaust was one of the most deadly genocides ever committed. Vladek having to go through such struggles and torture it would be rare to live psychologically unaffected after such a grim experience. Vladek only acts the way he does and does the things he does, because he learned to be pre cautious and wise, knowing these were the keys to survival of the Holocaust and important factors as to how he survived. The small things that we take for granted in our everyday lives, such as a clean glass of water or even shoes that fit were things the people who struggled in the Holocaust cherished and dreamed for. Vladek learned to value the simplest of things after going through an era which you needed to appreciate whatever you could get. He still is this way long after, causing him to be very selfish and cheap whenever he can.

At the end of the novel, we see the reunion of Anja and Vladek, expectations rise for a happy ending. But Vladek’s words “We were both very happy, and lived happy, happy ever after”(p.136,Volume II) are a lie, since the mother committed suicide soon afterwards and Vladek continued an unhappy, ill old man. In conclusion, being non-trusting, cheap and even selfish at times, is what Vladeks’s character was molded into during the Holocaust. People are not simply born with a negative side to them, rather they learn from life’s experiences. Vladek’s experiences were the significant ingredients in his life’s recipe that changed him to be the non-trusting, cheap, selfish character he was.

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