Maus is a graphic memoir that tells the story of Art Spiegelman's father, Vladek - a Jew who survived the Holocaust. In it, the Jews are represented by mice, the Germans by cats and the Polish as pigs. The memoir is namely from the point of view of Art Spiegelman as he records his father's memories.
There are two stories being told within this memoir. The first story is the author interviewing his father and his reactions to what he says. Instead of presenting the story as simply a memoir of his father's life, he brings in his own interactions with his father to make him feel like a character himself. These interactions add a layer of reality and depth to a topic that is generally spoken about in history books.
The comic starts in Rego Park, New York in the year 1958. Art is a young child and he falls while racing his friends. They leave him behind and he sadly returns to his house where his father is sawing something on the driveway. When he hears about what Art's friends did, he says "if you lock them together in a room with no food for a week... then you could see what it is, friends!" This is an introduction to how the Holocaust has affected Vladek and how this in turn affected Art while he was growing up. These interactions repeat throughout the memoir and are developed to show the long lasting tension that has kept the two apart for years.
Art arrives at his father's house and is greeted warmly. It has been two years since they have seen each other last - since Art's mother committed suicide and died. His new wife Mala goes to hang Art's jacket on a wire hanger and Vladek flies into a rage; hanging it on a wooden hanger instead. It's quickly seen how there are tensions between the married couple.
Art and Vladek go into his old room where there's an exercise bike set up for Vladek to use. It's for his heart and preventing more heart attacks. Vladek is dismissive to the thought of Art making a comic based on his story, stating how no one will want to read that. At Art's insistence however, he begins explaining how he met Art's mother. This begins a series of meetings between Art and Vladek where he interviews his father and finally hears the full story of Vladek's time as a soldier in the war to becoming a war prisoner and then having to live in hiding, fighting just for the right to live and avoiding the concentration camps. It is over the course of these meetings that the graphic memoir goes from relatively light-hearted to understanding just how hard it was for the Jewish people to live.
The comic jumps between Vladek's first person recollection of his memories to a third person point of view that focuses more on Art's reactions and his thoughts. This isn't to say that the third person timeline is any less strained than Vladek's story because there are conflicts between Vladek and Mala that interrupt his recall sometimes and brings us back out to the third person reflection.
In-depth point breakdown of the events that happen in Maus: http://www.shmoop.com/maus/vladek-spiegelman-character-timeline.html
By Kaitlyn Seow