Cliff Notes

Maus I by Art Spiegelman | Cliff Notes

Publication Date: August 12th, 1986

Publisher: Pantheon

Genre: Non-Fiction

Series: The Maus Series, Book One

Format: Paperback

Pages: 159 pages

Source: Purchased

Buy It: Amazon

Rating: 4 sm

Maus is the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Europe, and his son, a cartoonist who tries to come to terms with his father, his father’s terrifying story, and History itself. Its form, the cartoon, succeeds perfectly in shocking us out of any lingering sense of familiarity with the events described, approaching, as it does, the unspeakable through the diminutive. It is, as the New York Times Book Review has commented, “a remarkable feat of documentary detail and novelistic vividness…an unfolding literary event.”

Moving back and forth from Poland to Rego Park, New York, Maus tells two powerful stories: the first is Spiegelman’s father’s account of how he and his wife survived Hitler’s Europe, a harrowing tale filled with countless brushes with death, improbable escapes, and the terror of confinement and betrayal. The second is the author’s tortured relationship with his aging father as they try to lead a normal life of minor arguments and passing visits against a backdrop of history too large to pacify. At all levels, this is the ultimate survivor’s tale – and that, too, of the children who somehow survive even the survivors.

Part I of Maus takes Spiegelman’s parents to the gates of Auschwitz and him to the edge of despair. Put aside all your preconceptions. These cats and mice are not Tom and Jerry, but something quite different. This is a new kind of literature.


I really enjoyed this graphic novel. It is the story of the author’s parents in Nazi Germany. The story is told as the father relaying the story to his son, the author/cartoonist. It is the father’s story of how he and his wife survived and what they had to go through to do so. It, like all other stories from this time period, is heartbreaking. I did not like how the son treated his father throughout the novel, though I understand why the relationship was portrayed this way. This becomes even more evident in the second graphic novel. Even though I was not the biggest fan of the son, I was able to understand the purpose of the relationship and why he may act this way; even if I did not agree with it. My biggest problem was with the cat/mice/pig metaphor. The extent of the metaphor was that it was the cats chasing the mice. I just feel like he could have gone so much further with it and he did not. This did not take away from the story in any way, it just didn’t really add anything to it either. I really did enjoy this and would definitely recommend it.

Image and Synopsis Credit

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