The Significance Of Masks In Art Speigleman's "Maus"

1138 words - 5 pages

Masks have held countless uses and meanings throughout history. Masks have been used in plays, like those of Shakespeare, traditional dances, social gatherings, even as a form of casual or corporal punishment. Although masks have several different uses in different cultural situations, the meaning of the masks is generally the same. Masks are used to conceal an appearance and assume the identity of another. Metaphorically, masks can be used to hide feelings, to protect oneself, and to block out the outside world. Many of these examples are shown in Art Speigelman's Maus.During Maus, the illustration of masks is made very obvious. The features are pronounced and it is very clear that the characters are wearing masks. The illustration of these masks is not to be ignored- there must be a message hidden beneath them. Speigelman uses masks to represent many different feelings and situations during the course of his father's story of the Holocaust.These masks are significant symbols which can quite strongly represent certain feelings of the characters many times throughout the story of Art Speigelman's Maus.Animal masks are used in Maus to show characters disguising themselves to protect against threatening situations. They are also used in figuratively assuming new identities for the characters, and also as a symbol of punishment. Although some examples of masks in Maus portray a mix of a few underlying purposes, the ideas behind the masks generally follows the scheme of the three main ideas.The most evident use of masks in Maus, protection, begins clearly in the first volume. Vladek, Anja, and other Jewish characters use masks to disguise themselves as Polish. This is the most literal and physical representation of masks throughout the story. Vladek and Anja must hide the fact that they are Jewish, in order to go undetected and unharmed throughout Poland (Speigelman 136-139). They use pig masks to cover up their mouse faces, so that the Germans and other Poles do not recognize that they were Jewish. The masks worn by the Jewish mice are used to represent the disguises that Jewish people would have used to escape their detection from Germans and Poles. Jewish people of that time would do anything in their power to blend in, dying their hair, wearing certain clothing, and always taking the mandatory Star of David off of the clothing they owned. Of course, the Jewish people of the time did not wear literal masks like Vladek and Anja of Maus, but they always did try to use separate forms of protection to mask their true identity.Masks can also be used as a form of figuratively assuming a completely separate identity throughout the story of Maus. Art Speigelman is always seen illustrating his human character wearing a mouse mask. These illustrations can be taken in more than one approach- one being that he is trying to identify with the Jewish survivors and victims of the Holocaust. Art is aware that he has no way to fathom the intensity of Auschwitz and...

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