Comparison of Maus and Homage to Catalonia
Through viewing the connections and similarities between Art Spiegelman’s “MAUS” and George Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia” at the individual level, we enhance our understanding of fascism, war, and resistance - Comparison of Maus and Homage to Catalonia introduction. Regardless of the obvious differences in the times of these works, they both help give us readers a greater grasp on the history of these wars from real first hand accounts. From the stories of Art’s father, Vladek, and the journeys of George Orwell, we are given new light on powerful dictators, emotional instability, and the human will to survive.
Powerful dictators are the most important similarity in enhancing our understanding of the everyday lives of citizens during the times of war. For Orwell, it was Stalin, and for Spiegelman, it was Hitler. The reality of living under the total control of a dictator brings a new understanding of fascism and resistance. Both Orwell and Spiegelman face the reality of taking their life into their own hands in the face of adversity. Their everyday lives were no longer filled with hopes and dreams, but rather the thoughts of keeping their lives safe for another day.
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The opening quote in MAUS provides us with the greatest example of life for the Jews under the rule of Hitler. It says “The Jews are undoubtedly a race, but they are not human. ” With such harsh and irrational thinking from a complete dictator, it helps us understand the terror and tradgedy that is brought by fascism and war. Life for the Spiegelman’s was unbearable due to Hitler and the Nazi party, and from his stories of struggle we can now better understand the thoughts that provoke such extreme war.
Enduring such anguish and despair in these times of war caused emotional instability in the lives of many that continued to haunt them their entire lives. Both Orwell and Spiegelman write about instances where they feel guilt or sense emotional instability during the wars. This sense of emotional guilt provides us with examples of just how traumatizing these times were for the people involved. In MAUS, Art Spiegelman expresses over and over his deep guilt towards his family, especially his father.
Though Art was born in Sweden after the end of World War II, both of his parents were survivors of the Holocaust, and the event affected him deeply. In Chapter One of Book II, as Art and Francoise are driving to the Catskills, Art reflects on this in detail, and Art’s relationship with the past is revealed to predominantly take the form of guilt: “Somehow, I wish I had been in Auschwitz with my parents so I could really know what they lived through! I guess it’s some form of guilt about having had an easier life than they did. ” (p. 176) The feelings of guilt don’t stop with Art.
Vladek, too, appears to feel a deep sense of guilt about having survived the Holocaust. As Art’s guilt persists through the late 1980s, five years after the death of his father, he visits his psychiatrist, Pavel, and the two discuss the nature of guilt and what it means to be a Holocaust “survivor. ” Vladek’s survival in the Holocaust was not the consequence of any particular skill, but the result of luck, both good and bad. Pavel turns the idea of guilt on its head by suggesting that Vladek himself actually felt a strong sense of guilt for having survived the Holocaust while so many of his friends and family did not.
And perhaps in response, Vladek took this guilt out on Art, the “real survivor,” as Pavel calls him. In essence, Vladek’s guilt may have been passed down to his son, establishing the foundation for the volumes of guilt that Art now feels towards his family and its history. The guilt felt from the Spiegelman’s expresses how much of a mental toll was taken to the Jews during the Holocaust. During the travels of Orwell, similar feelings of emotional instability arise with his wife Eileen. On June 23, 1937 Orwell and his wife Eileen, with John McNair and Stafford Cottman, boarded the morning train from Barcelona to Paris.
They safely crossed into France. Sir Richard Rees later wrote that the strain of her experience in Barcelona showed clearly on Eileen’s face: “In Eileen Blair I had seen for the first time the symptoms of a human being living under a political terror. ” (p. 147) The shear emotional toll taken in these stories give us an inside perspective of attempting to lead a normal life after the horrors of war. The painful years that both Vladek and Orwell endure during their respective times of war brought out their human will to survive. The idea of survival is a constant in both stories.
Orwell was once shot in the neck and was lucky enough to survive. Even though Orwell was quoted saying: “it would be even luckier to not be hit at all”, he was a true survivor during his stint in battle. The Spiegelmans on the other hand were under constant fear of being taken from their families and put in concentration camps. They were forced to fight for survival daily by migrating to new hideouts. The primary motivation amongst Jews in the Holocaust is survival. Vladek sums up the process succinctly while consoling his wife after the death of his first son, Richieu: “to die, it’s easy…
but you have to struggle for life. ” Vladek’s experiences in the Holocaust represent a constant struggle to survive, first as his factory and income are taken away, then as the Jews are sent into the ghettos, and ultimately in the nightmare of Auschwitz. As the struggle intensifies, the will to survive begins to break the strong bonds of family, friendship, and a common Jewish identity. Most of us today no nothing about this type of daily survival, and looking into the lives of Jews during the Holocaust provides us with a tiny, small, peek into the everyday struggles of survival.
Through viewing the connections and similarities between Art Spiegelman’s “MAUS” and George Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia” at the individual level, we enhance our understanding of fascism, war, and resistance. The lives of these citizens produce a glimpse of what it is like to live amongst powerful dictators, emotional instability, and everyday survival. It is of the upmost importance that we view these pieces of literature as lessons as well as stories of war. Works Cited 1) Orwell, George. Homage to Catalonia. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1952. Print. 2) Spiegelman, Art, and Art Spiegelman. Maus. New York, NY: Pantheon, 1986. Print.