Literature Study GuidesMausBook 2 Chapter 5 Summary

Maus | Study Guide

Art Spiegelman

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Maus | Book 2, Chapter 5 : And Here My Troubles Began (The Second Honeymoon) | Summary

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Summary

It is winter. Vladek and Mala Spiegelman are back together again, and Vladek has been in the hospital for some health problems. Artie Spiegelman flies to Florida to help them pack so they can go back to New York to see Vladek's regular doctors. An ambulance takes Vladek and Artie to La Guardia Hospital as soon as the plane lands, and Vladek goes through several rounds of tests. The doctors say he's okay and send him home with a very unhappy Artie, who had been under the impression something was severely wrong with Vladek. It turns out Vladek just wanted to be closer to his "health plan hospital" so he wouldn't have to pay out-of-pocket for medical expenses. Artie is so mad at Vladek he doesn't talk to him for a month. When he finally does visit, he learns Vladek and Mala are moving to Florida permanently. Vladek isn't doing well—he seems very forgetful, and he has to rest all the time—but he's tired of arguing with Mala. "I want only peace," Vladek says. He agrees to tell Artie the rest of his story.

In 1945 the Americans sent Vladek and Shivek to a displaced persons' camp. Vladek becomes ill with what doctors think is typhus but is later diagnosed as diabetes. When he feels well again, he and Shivek go to Hanover to visit Shivek's brother, who is married to a gentile (or a non-Jewish) woman. Vladek spends a few days in nearby Belsen, the home of a large displacement camp, to search for news of Anja. While there, he runs into two girls from Sosnowiec. They say Poles are killing Jews who try to reclaim their property, but Anja is alive and safe. Anja, meanwhile, visits a gypsy fortune-teller who tells her Vladek has been very ill but is still alive. She foresees a boatride to a faraway place and the birth of another son.

Vladek and Shivek head to Poland by train and on foot, but they are separated when the train leaves while Vladek is searching for water. He is left with only the clothes on his back and his water jug, but he continues marching toward Sosnowiec. After nearly a month of walking, he and Anja are reunited. They move to Sweden while they wait for approval to come to the United States to live near Anja's only surviving relative, Herman. "We were both very happy, and lived happy, happy ever after," Vladek tells Artie. He asks Artie to turn off the tape recorder but accidentally calls him Richieu. The book ends with a drawing of Vladek and Anja's joint headstone.

Analysis

The final chapter of Maus focuses on the end of both of Vladek's stories, his life in the war and his life in the present. He is not well. His memory and body are failing, and there is a sense of urgency that Artie hear the rest of his story before it is too late. Spiegelman has said in interviews that the depiction of his father's decline is compressed to take place in a much shorter time frame, but it all actually happened. The headstrong, domineering father Artie knew as a child and young adult quite suddenly turns into a frail old man, whose spirit is fading along with his health. Just a month after he and Mala return from Florida, they are headed there for good because he doesn't want to fight anymore. This should be a relief for Mala, but even she is melancholy. The old Vladek is disappearing, and his memories are going with him. Thankfully for Artie, Vladek's memories of the war are still intact. These experiences are so seared into his psyche that they have become indelible. He may confuse his adult son for the son who didn't live past the age of six, but he remembers the name of a man whom he hasn't seen in more than 30 years.

Artie's drive to get the end of his father's story is stronger than his sense of responsibility to take care of him. Artie doesn't want to be beholden to anyone, particularly the man with whom he felt no connection for nearly 30 years. He thinks he will be happier without having to deal with Vladek's problems. But by doing so, he's only creating problems for others, particularly Mala. Vladek has no known friends in Florida, and when he falls ill, Mala is the only person he can call. She is reeled in again against her will, but she doesn't feel she has much of a choice in this situation. If Artie won't help Vladek, then it's all up to her. Yet Mala isn't emotionally and, in some cases, physically able to do all the caretaking. She in turn relies on Artie. Artie is learning it's impossible to be a passive bystander where his family is concerned. He has no other choice but to give up his role as child and become the adult in the relationship.

The end of Book 2, Chapter 5 also underscores the uncertainty of memory and the human instinct to recall events as being better than they actually were. Despite Vladek's insistence that he and Anja were "happy, happy ever after," the reader knows the truth isn't as black and white. Anja suffered from depression her entire life and ends up killing herself when Artie is 20. Yet Vladek remembers—or chooses to remember—only the good times with her. His rewriting of their story to have a happy ending calls into question everything he's told Artie about his experiences during the war. Artie and the reader must remember that Vladek is telling his version of the truth. His personal experiences create a narrative that would be much different from someone else whose path mirrored his own. Memory is not only experiences but attitudes, feelings, and the absence of things forgotten. That all adds up to a story that is truthful but maybe not absolutely so.

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