War in "Maus" by Spiegelman and "Persepolis" by Satrapi | Free Essay Example

War in “Maus” by Spiegelman and “Persepolis” by Satrapi

Words: 1673
Topic: Literature

War is a term that has been used for a very long time. People have been fighting for centuries over land, resources, religion, and political expansions. It is almost a necessary evil that human beings continue to create despite their negative outcomes. Some of the infamous wars include the First and Second World Wars, the Vietnam War, and, most recently, the War on Iraq. While there may be different reasons for war to begin, they surely end with almost similar results, with death being the most predominant outcome. Other consequences include loss of infrastructure, crippling economies, and political instability or division (Kaufman, 1983).

In the books Maus by Art Spiegelman (1986) and Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi (2000), war is one of the themes of the stories. Particularly, the two stories tell the tales of the negative social impact of war. Maus talks about the Holocaust, which is the period when the German leader, Adolf Hitler, massacred millions of Jews. On the other hand, Persepolis talks about the war between the West and the Middle Eastern countries, including Iraq. In the two books, it is apparent that war leads to death, displacement of families, and great social loss, which is the thesis for this research paper. War has negative social consequences, and it does lead to social discrimination of societies besides the immediate consequences, which is the destruction of society.

War leads to the loss of lives and separation from loved ones, both physically and emotionally. In the book, Maus, Art Spiegelman talks about his family’s experience with the Holocaust, which was the persecution of Jews by Adolf Hitler. Spiegelman (1986) mentions his conflicted relationship with his father between 1978 and 1982, as the result of the war. The book opens with the description of the meeting of Art and his father, Vladek, in New York in 1978. There is an evident tension between these two people. From the father’s perspective, the situation appears to be depressing as his first wife, Anja, committed suicide in 1968 (Spiegelman, 1986). He remarried to another woman, but the trauma related to his Holocaust experience and the loss of the loved one continue to stress him significantly.

Further, it is essential to mention that the book by Spiegelman (1986) is written in a very captivating and intriguing manner, which could also appear to be distracting for some readers. The author narrates in two primary timelines: the “present,” which starts with the meeting with his father, and the “past,” in which the Holocaust has described as well as the events prior to it. This approach to narration is not new; however, it is possible to elaborate on the rationale that might be behind the decision to choose this particular manner. Arguably, the author strives to convey the sense of the prolonged effect that the Holocaust has on the lives of numerous people. First of all, by depicting the events before the fascism domination and the outbreak of war, Spiegelman (1986) contrasts the life without suffering, pain, and fear that many people had with the terrors of discrimination and humiliation of millions of Jewish people. The second important aspect for comparison is the life after the end of the war, which is immensely affected by the aftermath of the Holocaust. Spiegelman (1986) masterly constructs his book’s narration so that these two topics reinforce one another.

Another significantly important topic, which is repeatedly introduced in Maus, is the concept of guilt. It is presented in various forms. Firstly and most evidently, the feeling of guilt is represented in the episodes with the author’s father. It is possible to suggest that Vladek is experiencing the phenomenon of survivor’s guilt since he feels inexplicably responsible for the fate of his nation and for numerous deaths and broken lives. Thus, the sense of guilt represents a deep connection with all victims of the Holocaust. Also, Vladek feels guilty in the context of his wife’s death. Such events are traumatizing for anyone who experiences them, but in this particular situation, the trauma is reinforced by the fact that both Vladek and Anja were survivors of the Holocaust (Spiegelman, 1986). Therefore, the author’s father feels responsible for his inability to provide his wife with enough support to recover from the trauma caused by fascism. Moreover, the feeling of guilt also haunts the author of the book himself. He experiences this feeling from a different perspective since he did not face the atrocity of the Holocaust and had a much easier life than his parents (Spiegelman, 1986). Therefore, it should be observed that guilt is one of the leading topics of the book under consideration.

It could be stated that the Holocaust, like other wars, led to many people losing their loved ones, and worse, being separated from them. In the middle of the crisis, people split for survival purposes or because one person or both are captured by the enemy and placed in separate camps. This was the case during the Holocaust, where men and women were placed in different camps. Loss of death or physical separation from loved ones is apparent. Another form of separation is emotional separation. Families do not remain the same after experiencing such crises. A study of the holocaust by Kellermann (2013) indicates that most survivors suffered from a post-traumatic stress disorder and could not accept being separated from their loved ones. Parents who were also survivors of the Holocaust refused to let their children leave home (Prot, 2010). Therefore, the separation was a huge problem.

Political conflict also leads to racial, class, and religious segregation. Persepolis, which tells the story of Satrapi during the 1979 Iranian Revolution, brings out some of these concepts. Today, there are a lot of Muslim stereotypes, especially the association of violence and terrorism with this community. It is apparent that since the battle between the Middle Eastern and the West began, there have been many religious and racial stereotypes between the Muslims and White nations. Sides and Gross (2013) indicate that Americans evaluate Muslims less favorably and associate them with violence and being untrustworthy. This goes way before the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. Also, it is of high importance to notice that such perception of Iranians, as well as people from Muslim countries in general, has developed on the basis of the Cold War’s aftermath. The Islamic revolution has changed the balance of powers and the United States’ influence in the Eastern region considerably because the new Iranian government decided to implement independent policies in terms of economy and politics. This shows that war does lead to social discrimination, with race, religion, and nationality being the influential factors.

Satrapi (2000) explains the influence of the Iranian revolution and its role in the class conflict between the two countries. She tells the story of her family, who were Marxists and communists but yet had a maid and lived a privileged life that those in the lower classes. In Spiegelman’s (1986) book, he uses mice to represent Jews and Cats to represent the Germans, showing the racial and national discrimination caused by the war. Comparing this metaphor with the situation in Iran prior to and during the Islamic revolution, it should be observed that it could not be applied to the events in Iran to the same extent. It is essential to notice that the situation in Iran was considerably more complicated because various social groups were involved in the revolution, and they all wanted the best for their country.

It is of immense importance to draw parallels between the topic that were identified in the books by Spiegelman (1986) and Satrapi (2000). As it was previously mentioned, of the most prevalent themes in Maus is the sense of guilt and traumatizing character of the Holocaust survivors’ experience. According to the study by Prot (2010), the Holocaust has caused the following consequences in terms of its influence on people: fear and non-acceptance of separation, fear of closeness along with difficulties with defining social and personal identity. It is possible to compare the results of this study with the research by Sides and Gross (2013) that depicts the current state of interaction between the United States and the Muslim world. It could be suggested that Muslim Americans often experience very similar feelings since they are not accepted by the society in which they live (Sides & Gross, 2013). The parallel is apparent because both of the problems under consideration have their origins in the war-related rhetorics and actions. Since the question of the interaction between American society and the Muslim world is still an ongoing issue, it is possible to propose that the experience of the Holocaust survivors, as well as studies on this topic, would be an important source of information to solve this problem.

These negative consequences are manifestations of the negative social impacts of war. Not that war is good, but it is apparent that it leads to development. Countries grow, build more relationships, and society learns to survive and rebuild together. However, before nations and societies get to the point of rebuilding and experiencing better growth, it takes much time and mediation. In some cases, countries fail to develop at all due to constant back-and-forth conflicts. In the end, societies lose and experience much destruction. From the research and analysis of Spiegelman and Satrapi’s novels, one can see the negative consequences of wars. They lead to further conflict, which, if unresolved, becomes more complex. The conflict may advance to class, religion, and racial separation. In Maus, the Holocaust elicits interpersonal and intrapersonal conflict, where the survivors are not willing to let go, even after the war.

In conclusion, the research paper aimed to explore the negative social consequences of war and to review two novels whose theme was war. Just as Spiegelman and Satrapi identify in their books, war contributes to physical and abstract separation in society. The latter involves emotional isolation, class, race, and nationality. Such effects, if not rectified, lead to more battles that are complex.


Kaufman, J. P. (1983). The social consequences of war: The social development of four nations. Armed Forces & Society, 9(2), 245-264.

Kellermann, N. P. (2013). Epigenetic transgenerational transmission of Holocaust trauma: Can nightmares be inherited? The Israel Journal of Psychiatry and Related Sciences, 50(1), 33-39.

Prot, K. (2010). Research on consequences of the Holocaust. Archives of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, 2, 61-69.

Satrapi, M. (2000). Persepolis: The story of a childhood. New York, NY: Pantheon Books.

Sides, J., & Gross, K. (2013). Stereotypes of Muslims and support for the War on Terror. The Journal of Politics, 75(3), 583-598.

Spiegelman, A. (1986). Maus: A survivor’s tale. New York, NY: Pantheon Books.