The ending to Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began is very..um, unsatisfying.
Mainly because the characters stay trapped, and even death is not a release from them.
Vladek is still (mentally) trapped in the Concentration Camp
He saves everything…
Maus II – God help me!
For most readers the Holocaust is outside of both their experience and understanding, which makes for a sort of morbid curiosity into the tragedies that befall Vladek, all the while forgetting that he is an actual person NOT a mouse.
Maus is fuelled by Morbid Curiosity
A difficulty with documenting the Holocaust is avoiding kitsch.
Kitsch: art, objects, or design considered to be in poor taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality (google)
Sentimentality is not always bad, but it does eclipse the reality that people suffering is not enjoyable, ever. Now, sentimentalizing suffering is not necessarily disrespectful IF one has experienced the event, but usually when suffering is used as a mass marketing technique then it borders on fantasy and ends up almost disrespecting the people whom it sympathizes for. The desire to be sympathetic to another’s struggle is not altogether bad, but when it wounds that individual, or depreciates the honest pain of a person’s struggle, then it’s not okay.
Popular Examples of kitsch
Maus I: My Father Bleeds History
..is the epitome of Amplification Through Simplification.
As discussed in the post on Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud, sometimes stripping the details from faces, events, scenes, etc. Usually, people jump to insert themselves into the “blank,” but in this case almost no one wants to. Partially out of respect, but also because most people cannot relate. If this is on purpose, it’s brilliant.
One many see cartooning such a tragic, major word event as disrespectful, BUT because the Holocaust is such a unique–in all due respect–experience, no matter how “blank” the characters are it only opens space for those who were personally affected. It’s hard to articulate how inclusive and yet exclusive this book is, but either way it’s pretty cool.
Having talking mice–a cartoonish element–sterilizes the otherwise gruesome acts of violence being committed, repeatedly.
To Go Along with “How to be Happy,” AND for those modernists with a particularly Chekhovian admiration, a quote from Katherine Mansfield, another modernist lover of Chekhov.
“Ah, what happiness it is to be with people who are all happy, to press hands, press cheeks, smile into eyes.”
Just Something Heartwarming Before Maus I & II by Art Spiegelman…
Happiness is not a physical place one can be.
No matter how many times “How to be Happy” switches between stories and settings, no one says that they are explicitly happy. The only time characters mention happiness is to say that they are unhappy, or “were unhappy.”
See? In the city, country, woodlands, imaginary land, etc. No one is happy. Read More
(or at least it is supposed to)
The story order in “How to be Happy” by Eleanor Davis, reflects a progression.
Major Story 1: The Fall of Eden, reflects a regression from an agrarian society to a hunter-gathering community. The leader’s increasingly stringent restrictions that prevent the use of most “industrially made objects” such as knives, rope, fishing hooks, a compass, etc. all of which are useful technological advancements (9). That is why this society dies in my opinion; because it goes against human nature to regress to a more [unnecessarily] challenging time. Read More
“How to be Happy” by Eleanor Davis comes off as an environmental critique …and it is. It critiques the way people interact with their environment, the affects the environment is having on the people, and visa versa.
” It will be interesting to see if Davis can add something new to this contemporary conversation besides conservation. “
What is the “high evil”? –MY HONEST OPINION–
My theory is that the real evil is avoiding death. Treating it like it’s not a normal part of life, and as a result prolonging adolescence, or using unusual means (e.g. medicine, spiritualism, etc.) in an attempt to stave off death. The real evil is not admitting that DEATH WILL HAPPEN and being willing to run-over people, lie, offer false promises, and sell frog juice for immortality–as is the case of the guru, macrobiotic community, physicians, etc..
“High evil” can rise in anyone seeking immortality, which is all of us since most everyone seeks subconscious immortality through having children. That is why I’d title this book “Raising High Evil,” since all evil people were once children. The reasons they become evil, or allow evil to overtake them is a mystery, but prolonging adolescence might just do it.
Besides, all people can “raise” evil within themselves –no matter what age–if they feed it enough.
Hope that makes sense.