In the award winning graphic novel Maus by Art Spiegalman, the theme guilt is a main factor. In the novel we are aware of the guilt that Vladek feels for surviving the holocaust, and the guilt he feels for the death of his beloved Anja. Towards the end of the book we discover the guilt that Art feels for his mother’s death, and the writing of his comic, he also feels as though he was not a good enough son towards his father, especially towards his death.
Vladek lives with a lot of guilt; the main guilt that he feels was surviving the holocaust whilst the others he loved were left to die. He felt responsible for the deaths and didn’t feel that he should be alive. He feels that when he had the choice to be on the right or left side he should have chosen the right side and be with his family. The guilt he feels is affecting his relationships now; he can’t have a close bond with his wife because he is always arguing. The holocaust made him very penny wise, and rude. He feels that he has no right to live the high life; he feels he shouldn’t have survived.
The death of Anja has left both Vladek and Art feeling very guilty, Art feels very responsible for his mother’s suicide, he wonders to himself if that is why his father and he don’t get on. He feels that he was the reason she did it. His last memory of his mother is when she asked him if he still loved her and he replied with a short “sure” he feels that he could off expressed it more, he shouldn’t of taken her for granted and he should been more loving towards her, this was a painful reminder of how he treated her. Vladek feels guilty for not being able to help her, enough and not being there more then he already was, he knew that he could never feel that way for another women, and he couldn’t thank Anja enough for how much she had helped him.
“So…are you going out to Queens?” “No way – I’d rather feel guilty! Besides, I’m too busy, and he can easily afford to hire somebody.” (I.4.99) The obvious guilt that Art feels for not being a good enough son is shown for the very start of the book, it’s not that Art didn’t want to try and be a good enough son, it’s that he felt that he couldn’t, he felt that every conversation that Art and Vladek had, ended in an argument, and they did. From the making of the novel that Art makes, he becomes aware of why his father is the way he is. The Quote above is an example of the guilt that Art feels, his girlfriend asks him if he was going to Queens to help his father and he replied that he would rather feel guilty then go. Later on, when Art goes to visit his father, he tries offering as much help as he can and his father tells him no, he felt so guilty for not coming over to his father’s house to help, that he tried fixing his dads pills which ended up a disaster and into another fight. “It sounds like you’re feeling remorse – maybe you believe you exposed your father to ridicule And now that you’re becoming successful, you feel bad about proving your father wrong.” (II.2.34)
Towards the end of the novel after Vladeks death Art starts to feel guilty and goes to see a psychologist, he talks about how he feels that it was a bad idea making the comic, and that even all the success he is getting isn’t making him feel any better, he tell him how he feels like he has sold his father out and that it has opened his eyes to how bad he treated his father. He has come to understand why his father was the way he was, and that he asked Art for help so he could spend time with him, Art feels as though he could have been better towards his father and that the guilt he is feeling is going to last forever, he now wishes that he made those short visits longer, that he spent more time with his father and that he listened more, he wished that he didn’t get angry over his dad getting rid of his mother’s book, but he knows that it’s too late for change now.
This guilt filled novel really shows how hard it was for the people that survived the holocaust and shows how it can affect the relationships throughout their life, Vladek and Art never got along but in many ways they were the same, they both felt a lot of guilt and went through a lot of pain, the book explains Vladeks survival very well and we can understand how difficult it would be to be living whilst everyone he loved was gone.