Literature Study GuidesMausBook 1 Chapter 2 Summary

Maus | Study Guide

Art Spiegelman

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Maus | Book 1, Chapter 2 : My Father Bleeds History (The Honeymoon) | Summary

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Summary

Not long after Vladek and Anja Spiegelman are married, she is nearly arrested for aiding and abetting communists. She is friends with one, and she translates Polish documents into German for him. She is tipped off by another friend that the police are on their way. She stashes the documents with Miss Stefanska, a seamstress who is a tenant in her father's building. The seamstress is arrested and stays in jail for three months. Vladek nearly divorces Anja and tells her she can no longer be friends with communists.

Anja and Vladek's first son, Richieu Spiegelman, is born in October 1937. Vladek is running his own textile factory in Bielsko, Poland, thanks to a generous start-up fund from his father-in-law. He lives in Bielsko during the week and comes home on the weekends. At the beginning of 1938, Anja falls into a deep depression. Vladek accompanies her to a sanatorium in Czechoslovakia while his in-laws take care of things at home. On the train ride there, Vladek and Anja see a German flag in the center of the city. It's the first time Vladek sees a swastika. A fellow traveler tells them about the pogroms (organized acts of cruelty against a people, often escalating into a massacre) in Germany. They all hope the "Nazi gangsters" get "thrown out of power."

The sanatorium is more like a luxury hotel than a hospital. They spend three months there, and Anja seems like a different person when they return home. Then Vladek learns his factory was robbed while they were gone. He had no insurance, so he has to start all over again. His father-in-law finances this, too. Within a few months they are up and running once more. Then the Nazis start causing trouble in Bielsko. Vladek and Anja decide to move back to Sosnowiec if things get any worse. Not long after, Vladek gets a draft notice from the Polish army. As of September 1, 1939, Poland and Germany are at war.

Analysis

Anja's kindness very nearly gets her arrested. Though she thinks she is merely helping a friend, Vladek sees the grave danger in her actions. Historically, Russia and Poland had a terrible relationship. In the mid-1770s, Russia, Prussia, and Austria partitioned Poland, which means they redrew its borders so they each got a piece of the country. Independent Poland essentially disappeared for more than 100 years. In 1918 following the end of World War I, US President Woodrow Wilson laid out his ideas for world peace in the form of the Fourteen Points. Point 13 stipulated "[a]n independent Polish state should be erected which should include the territories inhabited by indisputably Polish populations." The Russian government had to cede its Polish territory, and it wasn't happy about it. The Soviets staged an offensive in 1920, which the Poles managed to stop, but there was always the fear of another attack and the loss of Polish independence. That's why Vladek was so upset by Anja's actions. In his eyes helping the communist government make inroads to Poland was akin to treason in support of the Soviets. He loved Anja, but he could not allow himself to be associated with someone who was helping the communist cause.

It would be easy to say Vladek married Anja for her father's enormous wealth, especially since Mr. Zylberberg seems to be so generous with his money when it comes to his son-in-law's business. Spiegelman, however, demonstrates this isn't the case. Vladek has no intention of starting a factory—he's been saving money for a textile shop of his own. It's Mr. Zylberberg who says that isn't good enough, and it is he who offers the funding not once, but twice. Family is important to Anja's father, and he wants to ensure his grandson will never want for anything. The other sign of Vladek's love for Anja is his decision to accompany her to the sanatorium. He has a fledgling factory to take care of, not to mention a new baby at home, yet he drops everything to be by her side. In an interview years later, Spiegelman said that though his parents' relationship wasn't always happy, "[t]hey were wrapped up around each other in ways that were inextricable." In Maus Anja's depression after Richieu's birth seems to be a kind of turning point in their relationship. Just a few months prior, Vladek was ready to leave Anja over the business with the communists, but her illness irrevocably connects them during good times and bad.

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