Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Connection Captain Bianca A.

Pages 5-71
Art Spiegelman

Connection 1- The food chain
One of the things that stands out in the book Maus is the way that it is a big metaphor to the food chain. The Jews, are depicted as mice, whilst the Germans are the cats. In the natural world, mice are eaten by the cats, which are their most known predators. One can see that the author is comparing the Jews to the way that they are dealt with by the Nazis, who capture them just like in the animal world.
This connection is extremely important to the whole way that one understands the book Maus as it is one way that the author demonstrates the raw, beastly, cruelty that is targeted at the Jews..
Inside this game are the Poles as well, who are shown as pigs, a companion to the mice and cat in the animal world, but a bystander to their constant fighting. The cats do not attack the pigs, however the pigs are also no aid to the mice. This is the position that the author applies to the Poles, who are not as targeted as the Jews, and are barely affected by this constant dispute. At least that is the way that Art's father sees them. However, in the book, there is a scene that Vladimir is helped by a polish man, who helps him get on the train. In this case, the food chain is not completely right, as the pig is affecting the mouse's way to get eaten.
Basically, the author was able to represent the way that there was a "difference" in between races during the period of WWII, through the change in animal. One of the most characteristic traits of the Nazis, was the belief that they were a superior breed. This clever metaphor changed the way that this is shown, not specifically said, but inferred. That is why the author chose to differentiate the animals and create this clear connection to the animal world and the food chain.


Connection 2- My family history
The book tells the story of a polish refugee of WWII, who was captured by the Nazis, later on, and survived a concentration camp, later fleeing to America. My mother's family, to my grandfather's side, is from polish origins. My great-grandfather was a Jewish Pole, who was actually alive during the period of the war. So was my great-grandmother. During the time, the whole family was threatened. I believe there were two brothers, and both were suffering a great chance of being captured.
There was then an opportunity for them to flee, they took it gladly. My great-grandfather came to Brazil as a refugee of war, while his brother fled to the United States. Their mother, as I was told, died in a concentration camp. My great-grandfather met his wife in Brazil, where my grandfather was born. That is why we are here.
Although the story is not the same as the one in the book, there are various connections that can make me relate to the story in a way. My family history is similar, and had to go through many of the same issues. That makes the book so real to me, as it is reaching me in a personal level. Both are from the same country and where faced with the same threat. If my grandfather were alive, I would have jumped at the chance, much like Art, to learn more about the story, which identifies me to the author in some ways.

A group of young polish Jews during the Holocaust, which is a representation of the group of people that both my family members and the one from the book took part in. 


  1. Bianca,

    It is great to hear your voice again. Your thoughts on the representation of animals in Maus as the food chain are very interesting. I used to think that the main difference between humans and other animals is not so much our intelligence, but our conscience, our feelings of empathy towards others. More and more I learn of incredible, human-like acts of compassion by animals. Be it the gorillas in the movie Virunga (this is an incredible movie that juxtaposes the best and worst in human nature or the "killer whales" in the movie Blackfish who desperately try to protect each other from capture. Even Zuky reminds me of this with the way he reacts when Maddox is crying.

    I do think you bring up an important point about superiority and inferiority in relation to the food chain metaphor. We know how the Nazis were able to convince many Germans that they are the cats in the animal kingdom... the hunters, fast, top of the food chain, superior. The real tragedy was convincing others that they are mice.

    The TED talk I shared with class "fake it until it becomes you" has come up a lot this year. I think this is another case. Jews were people who were forced to fake it, and unfortunately for many, it became them. I consider myself a flexible person. I like learning and adapting to new situations. This is one of the things that attracts me to teaching overseas. But I also know there are things about myself that are not flexible. Things that I am not willing to fake. I don't get tested often, and certainly not in the situations that people faced under the Nazis, but I wonder what I would be able to hold onto if I was told that I was at the bottom of the food chain.

    Your second connection is a powerful example of why we study the past. We are connected to it. It has shaped our lives. Our ability to shape the present and future depend on a good understanding of how we got here. My Jewish relatives were fortunately already living in the States during the Nazi era, but your post made me think about a powerful experience at the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. They give you a biography card of one person so that as you go through the museum, which is organized in a large timeline, you learn about the fate of that one person as the years pass. By chance I was given a half-Jewish, male teacher who was able to pass as non-Jewish because of his name, eyes, height, and the fact that he wasn't a practicing Jew. This is my profile. I imagined myself actually doing what this man did. Trying to help the Jews he could in subtle ways, but also trying not to put himself at risk. As the WWII and the Holocaust went on, he became more defiant, more unwilling to be safe while others were slaughtered, and was eventually discovered and murdered along with the other 10 million victims. This is an imagined connection, whereas your family connection is real, but both are powerful for us as we look for strength and guidance in our lives moving forward.

    Mr. Beck

  2. Bianca , exceptional post and I hope you are getting better. On your post you talked about the food chain and that was one of the first things that I realized was the food chain that actually reminded me of the cartoon "Tom & Jerry". This showed that the author wanted to put a hierarchy to make the understanding of the book easier. In the book he even change the size of each character so that the Nazi's were always taller than the Jews and this showed me the power of the Nazi's at that time. If you want to no more about the starting of a fascism you should see the movie " The Wave" you can find it on Netflix and it is an excellent movie that talks about a teacher who created a fascism in his class because he wanted to teach his students about the Nazi's. It was actually recommended in my Humanities class by Mr. Beck and I enjoyed seeing the change of the students.

  3. Bianca,

    great post! I really liked your connections and ideas included, and I really think you did an awesome job expressing that.

    To begin with, your first question talks about the food chain and the usage of the allegory/imagery piece created by Spiegelman by depicting the cats as Nazis, mice as Jews, and pigs as Poles. In my point of view, I think this connection was made because primarily the natural predator of mice are the cats, and just like cats chased mice, the Nazis hunted Jews down. Another interpretation of this metaphor would be because mice can be often seen as caged animals, living in tight spaces for their whole lives, sometimes. Here, we can say the Jews are being kept isolated, enslaved, and trapped in ghettos and later, concentration camps. Moreover, there is even a word in German used to classify those who walk or act like a Jew, called "mauschen", which is derived from the word "maus", translating directly to "mouse" to English. Last but not least, another angle we could analyze this concept from would be that Jews, at the time, went frequently through brutal, Nazi experimentation processes. In other words, human live experiments were performed on them, similar to how scientists use lab rats nowadays, meaning that the Jews were being used as such animals.

    Adding on, you also mentioned that the Nazis believed in a "pure breed", which would be the Aryan race. This is because they used to think the different "races" of human beings, them being Jewish, blacks, Aryan, Asian, etc., all had their own unique characteristics that could not be separated from the individuals. They were social Darwinists, meaning they believed in Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, applying it directly to human beings. Therefore, the Aryan "race" was said to be the people who built the strong and powerful German empire, which had territories from all around the globe, before World War I and the Treaty of Versailles. Nazi ideology also mentioned that different "breeds" were not supposed to mix; a Jew could not marry an Aryan, and such other things. Accordingly, the only justification to this was that if "races" were to mix, they'd lose their highlighting abilities, making them doomed to extinction. This lead to the belief that Jews were the most inferior "race", and that all the others who would interfere would also need to be executed, which lead to this massacre. Conjointly, Nazis believed in the "survival of the fittest", that said only the most "advanced" and stronger individuals of a race would be able to live and pass on their genes, arguing that the "fittest", in this case, was the Aryan race.

  4. Moving on to your second question, I found the story of your family really interesting on its part. It is quite rare, to be honest, to see someone who can take the story of this book and connect it in a personal level, as you've mentioned in your post. Nevertheless, I have some stories from my family that date from the time as well, yet it was not involved with the Holocaust. You see, my great-grandfather was an Italian man from a small town in Umbria, called Bastia, near the great walled city of Assisi. He was born in 1903, and at the time, there was a very high unemployment percentage among the people, presenting no opportunity for them to remain there. They even thought of moving to the United States, but ended up migrating to Brazil, two years before Mussolini took control of Italy and implanted fascism. When my grandfather was born, in 1936, my great-grandfather put "Benito" as his second name, because of Benito Mussolini. After his death, my grandfather removed this name from his register. Additionally, Italians in Brazil, at the time, were observed very closely and not entirely trusted. As a matter of fact, even the Brazilian soccer team, nowadays the "Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras", had to change its name, which was "Palestra Italia", founded by Italians.

    Overall, Bianca, I really enjoyed reading your post. Your ideas were very well organised and thoughtful. I wish you all the best during your recovery at the hospital, and I hope to see you back soon here at Graded.

    Best regards,


  5. Bianca,

    Congratulations on your blog post. It has really deepened and broadened my thinking not only about WWII, but also about Maus. Personally, I agree with your analysis and reasoning behind the portrayal of different character ethnicities as different animal species. I believe that part of Maus' success was due, in part, to the way that the author makes the characters seem realistic (since they are real), while not creating a very personal atmosphere that could generate discomfort. By also representing humans with innocent wildlife, a lot of World War II's gruesome reality and details are softened, creating an overall easier experience to handle.

    Upon some further research, I came across the fact that the Jews are mice because Spiegelman took advantage of Nazi propaganda films that depicted Jews as vermin or rodents. The idea of making the characters into other life forms that inhabit the planet could be to protect privacy and make certain characters anonymous in the novel. To me, this lets the reader imagine the people all on his own, while still showing the racism going on at the time by classifying different religious and ethnic groups into distinct categories (predator, prey, etc.). The idea behind Maus being a graphic novel, could also be to strengthen this metaphor used by Spiegelman and also create a more vivid image of the author's experiences and his father's experiences. When reading a regular novel, one's imagination takes the reigns and directs the image that the reader "sees". On the other hand, a graphic novel is a guiding co-pilot that "shows the way" to the reader.

    The author most likely decided to portray disguised Jews on the run in Poland as mice wearing pig masks as a way to show how dire the situation really was (Maus pages 129-159). People really reach a new level of desperation when their only protection is a thin plastic mask held together by a flimsy piece of string. The only other option for a mask would be a cat mask, but since Nazis are portrayed as cats, many readers would be confused and the story wouldn't be as historically accurate. In reality, Jewish Poles on the run usually disguised themselves as non-Jewish Poles for practical reasons. First of all, many were not fluent in German, and had either lived in Poland for a long time or had been born there. Not only would they physically look like regular Poles, but they would also speak Polish well enough to get by.

  6. Hi Bianca, great post! You had very good ideas and made great connections.

    Your first connection was very similar to what I thought of when I read Maus. I also made the connection of the Nazis being the cats and Jews are the mice. I think the reason the author made this connection was to show how the Nazis were always after the Jews. Every little kid knows that cats hunt mice, and using the animals was an easy way of expressing what he was trying to express.

    Your second connection about your family history was very good. You took a risk with talking about that, and it was great. I don't have a story like yours, but my great grandfather did fight in WWII. I was young when he passed away, but like you said, I would have jumped at the opportunity to ask him about it now too. The book I think can relate to many people on a somewhat personal level. Even if you don't know someone who fought, or you had family there, I think it can make you really think about many things. One thought may be how hard it was for people who had to live in that time period, and how horrible it was for everyone. Not many people have ever had to go through something so terrible.

    Overall, you post was great, and you made very good connections. I'm glad I got to read it, thanks!

  7. Your post is really good, I like how you related it to personal things in your life, with the book. Like you I also have a grandparent that lived during the holocaust, and I think he is still alive today and has told me what he went through in detail. He wasn't a jew, but he was on pearl harbor when they got bombed by japan. And it connects to the holocaust because it was a way of both Germany and Japan declaring war on the U.S. So while we were talking about World war 2 it made it more real to me also, like how the book felt more real to you because of your family history.
    I really enjoyed your post, and I hope you will get better!