Literature Study GuidesMausBook 2 Chapter 4 Summary

Maus | Study Guide

Art Spiegelman

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Maus | Book 2, Chapter 4 : And Here My Troubles Began (Saved) | Summary

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Summary

It's late fall in Rego Park, New York. Vladek Spiegelman has realized he can no longer live on his own. However, he doesn't want to move to a retirement community, and Artie Spiegelman and his wife, Françoise Mouly, won't move in with him. He wonders if he should give his estranged second wife, Mala Spiegelman, the $100,000 she wants to move back in. Vladek also wants Artie to help him put up the storm windows, but Artie wants to hear more of his father's story first.

In that story Anja Spiegelman, Vladek's wife, survived the war thanks to Mancie, who always kept Anja close by. They were liberated by the Russians, and Anja goes back to Sosnowiec before Vladek, who has to wander for months before getting home. The prisoner of war exchange at the Swiss border never happens. They are taken off the train and marched to the frontier, where word spreads that the war is over. Vladek and the rest of the prisoners aren't free yet. They are detained twice by Wehrmacht patrols threatening to kill them, but the threats don't come to fruition before the Germans flee. Vladek and his friend Shivek separate themselves from the group and hide in a barn connected to a recently abandoned house. They are soon discovered by an American regiment, which allows them to work and live in the house alongside them now that the war is over.

Following the story, Vladek gives Artie a box of family photographs, many of which were taken before the war. Nearly everyone in the photographs died in the war with the exception of Anja's brother Herman Zylberberg and his wife, Hela; their son (Artie's cousin) Lolek; and Vladek's brother Pinek Spiegelman. Vladek gets chest pains as he and Artie talk, and he decides they can't do the storm windows today. Artie feels guilty for making his father talk for so long, but Vladek doesn't mind. "Always it's a pleasure when you visit," he says.

Analysis

Living on his own has made Vladek realize he's not as strong and self-sufficient as he once used to be, but he's loathe to rely on anyone but Artie. For one thing Artie's help doesn't cost Vladek anything. It's also an excuse for Vladek to see his son, who remains distant even though he and his father have been spending more time together, talking about Vladek's experiences in Auschwitz. From Vladek's perspective it is Artie's familial duty to take care of his father in his old age, just as Mr. and Mrs. Zylberberg took care of Anja's grandparents in Poland once they were too old to live on their own. That's just the way things were done. Artie has never experienced that, though, because almost everyone in his extended family was killed during the war. The loss of life also resulted in the loss of tradition and culture. Growing up in the United States and without many relatives, Artie's sense of responsibility toward Vladek is not as pronounced as it might have been had Vladek and Anja's families survived the war.

The photographs Vladek gives to Artie are the only tangible connection Artie has to his parents' past. Yet instead of showing the reader the actual photographs, Spiegelman draws them in the same style of illustration as used throughout the rest of Maus. Bearing the same neutral facial features as every other mouse in the novel, they'd be completely unidentifiable without names and dates scrawled at the bottom of each "photo." This artistic choice is symbolic of Spiegelman's attempts and failures to understand truly the incomprehensible losses his parents endured and his ultimate inability to connect with relatives he never met.

Going through the photographs is hard on Vladek, both emotionally and physically. Many of his conversations with Artie end in chest pains or extreme exhaustion, yet Vladek never refuses the opportunity to answer Artie's questions in great detail. He and Artie have never had a great relationship, and Artie doesn't show much interest in spending time with his father until he decides to interview him about his experiences during the war. This is a watershed moment for Vladek, who is portrayed in the book as craving his son's attention. He will take any time with his son he can get, even if that means reliving some of his most painful memories. The pleasure of his son's finally taking an interest in him poignantly outweighs the pain of the past.

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