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Analysis of Maus by Art Spiegelman in Terms of the "Big 5"

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The graphic novel that written by Art Spiegelman throughout 1980-1991 Called “Maus” tells us a story of a young Jew. In Maus Spiegelman does not portray the main characters as people; instead, the Jews were portrayed as mice and the Nazis as cats. This is an allegory of cat and mouse to the predatory attitude the Nazis had towards the Jews. The purpose of this Graphic Novel is to signify the importance of equality of human race and how prejudice behavior can affect many lives. I will analyze this text in term of the “Big 5” And we will compare different panels in the given passage.

On these panels (Page 1; 4,5,6) we can see a range of techniques being used. (4) We can see a mouse being excited for chocolate bars cigarettes and jam, his excitement shows us that these little everyday things were of big value. The scene is also very dark at the borders but around the box it is very bright, that represent his excitement and hope for a better future. As we can see the author himself signifies this fact by saying “it was so treasuring for me this package”. (5) On the next panel we can see a bright picture of an old mouse who is the one telling us the story, this shows us a happy setting. We can also notice that a younger mouse on the floor is casually smoking a cigarette with an ashtray next to him, this is very important as it emphasizes on the fact that life is back to normal, and even the bigger mouse makes a notice of it as he says “I had cigarettes to trade for food”. (6) On this panel we notice the change in contrast, from happy and bright – to what seems like endless suffer in a Nazi concentration camp, the dark tone of the picture represents the sadness of the setting and the new that another mouse has brought to him. The mouse lying on the floor also represents sadness and despair of the situation as he doesn’t seem to have enough food to survive the struggle.

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On the next page I will be analyzing panels (3, 8) because in my opinion they have the most contrast within them. Panel (3) starts off with Captions, which are often used throughout the whole Novel. Captions are a narrative device that is to convey information that cannot be communicated by speech. In this particular case Spiegelman uses them to provide reader with his thoughts. In the speech bubbles below him and other mice express surprise and excitement, we understand it because the text he is writing it in is bold and at the end of each sentence he adds an exclamation mark. Overall the picture looks very bright, white beds, bright shine outside the windows, white clothing. However, what came to my sight is striped walls. Everywhere else in the novel the author uses squared patterns or doesn’t add any at all. These striped walls looked to me as if poor mice were behind jail bars without knowing it. After we witness these mice getting a little rest we see them on the next panel (8). They look very pale and distressed. Art Spiegelman purposely shaded them in darker color to signify the fact of their misfortune. We can see the mouse on the very right looking down as if he understands that his life is going to become even more miserable while he is holding on to a shovel.

On this panel we see two cats for the first time in the novel, one is giving out digging tools and the other one, that has a scary look stares down at little mice. Comic strips authors often use shading, the more dramatic the tone of a story is, the more the use of black can help in giving the panels a feeling of mystery and drama. Illustrations and words are both mediums of expressing and telling the stories of the past, but when combined, the result can be more powerful than either on their own. If we compare this Graphic novel to other comic strips we can notice a lot of difference between them, first of all, this is a graphic novel not a comic strip, a graphic novel usually is more serious. Maus is a great example of this because it talks about a very serious theme. I think the author has described the situation very well and throughout the text he keeps the reader interested. I also like how he changes points of view from son – to father and the colors that he have used create an unusual contrast and a feeling of mystery. I think that graphic novels can sometimes be more serious that novels and Maus is a great example of this.


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