Last Updated 06 Jan 2023

An Analysis of the Use of Circles and Moons in Maus I and Maus II by Art Spiegelman

Category Maus
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Within the pages of Maus I and its sequel Maus II, Art Spiegelman subliminally includes symbols that highlight the complexity of his father's tale. The extent of the divergent symbols is subtle, using illustrations to project varying themes and similarities to comprise his own depiction of the anecdote his father provided. As Spiegelman includes the usage of circles and moons, he places them as the framing of panels as well as apart of the backdrop of scenes. As shown in Maus I and Maus II, Spiegelman involves circles and moons to indicate significant turning points in the novel, emphasizing indications of peril, unity and self-awareness.

Spiegelman utilizes circles to draw the audience away from the original square paneling. He illustrates the swastika as a moon in one instance, conveying the new rise of such unruly strengths (Maus I 33). The swastika as the moon foreshadows the increasing Nazi presence and takeover, rendering the Germans as the darkness of the night, shadowing over the Jewish community. Even in lesser scenes, the prevalence of the cynical aspect is projected.

For instance, during the scene Vladek, Art's father, as well as Anja, Vladek's wife, find a new hideaway from the Nazi's in a quaint barn. The apprehension of being in hiding is enough of a stress, but moving to a new location is a far greater source of anxiety. Anja, being "terrified" even to be left alone, finds angst in the most simplistic events, making the circular frame a marker of terror (Maus I 140). Spiegelman uses this scene to depict the melancholy notion that is present throughout the time period.

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Despite negative correlation with the appearances of circles and moons, Spiegelman opts to display the visionary of hope through companionship and unity. As Vladek and Anja embrace after an elongated absence, the two lovers return to each others arms, consumed with nirvana from the reuniting (Maus I 66). The reconnection is encompassed by a circle that stresses the pain of being without a loved one and the jubilance of their return. At the end of the perilous experience in the concentration camps, Vladek is shown alone and without his belongings, walking from "3 to 4 weeks" to Poland (Maus II 135).

In this panel, Vladek is lonesome, lighted only by the crescent moon that sits above. Spiegelman uses this to depict a self of solitude and incompleteness in Vladek. Vladek finds himself without any of his possessions, nor his family that would complete the missing section of the moon and fill the void in his heart that is occupied by the cold gust of wind provided by the protracted walk to civilization.

In some instances, the circles indicate a moment of realization in the character. Suddenly, things are not how they seemed. As Vladek is suited with a clothing reward, he "looked like a million," expressing his comfort in an apt set of clothing (Maus II 33). The appropriate sizing is not only what makes Vladek feel so prosperous, rather the correlation with something being at some level of normalcy. It shines a glimmer of hope into a dark hole of concern and despair.

A sense of actualization is again reached at the consumption of dairy and meat products as he is complaining that his "stomach got a shock" (Maus II 111). The suffering of such a thing is unheard of in such a location at such a time period. The overconsumption and the sense of eating too much, possibly at dinnertime in a regular household, is a comforting kind of pain. Knowing the simple suffrage of everyday life can be mimicked in such a place, notably suggesting the two being apart of the same world, something that felt unreal to many prisoners. A miniscule reminder of even the commonalities is enough to propel Vladek.

Although the appearances of the circles and the moons have a wide range of definitions, they are all subject of monumental moments. Circles enlighten the audience of a change in scene, action, or thought. The significance of the symbol is even displayed on the covers of the novels, expressing that the entire story of Vladek's experience during the Holocaust plays a considerable role in his life. As the projection of the conflicts regarding labor work, unity, and awareness become emphasized by the use of circles and moons, the reader has a more specified understanding of the many aspects of the tale's entirety. Regardless of the context, Spiegelman enables the reader to target aspects of change with his usage of the circle and moon to construct a more in-depth portrayal of his father's experience.

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