Originally Posted by Philanidas
I thought it was amazing at how each animal was symbolic to each of the countries that took part in WW2.
This may have been done to appeal to a younger generation of readers, yet still telling a story of survival and death during the Holocaust. But instead of fully detaching the reader from the book, he shows a human aspect by illustrating how his father tells his story and by showing the emotions and relationships of the characters throughout.
I don't think appealing to the kiddies was the point, Spiegleman was playing off of the long-standing tradition of the "beast fable", using fairy tale elements and talking animals as a safe way to make pointed social commentary. The individual animal creatures are reductive metaphors; the Nazis used to refer to the Jews as "vermin" and the Poles as "swine", for example. Of course, as we see in the comic, ethnic identity is really nothing more than an illusion. Everyone is wearing masks, and the value of the masks is so relative that they can be interchanged or disguised.
For example, while on the run the Jewish characters wear pig masks to represent their passing as Poles, representing how easily many Jews could pass as non-Jews, which undermines the basic concept of racial demographics as they were viewed at the time. Race is nothing more than an act we put on or an identify we conciously assume. Spiegleman's French wife is drawn as a mouse because of her relation to him despite the fact that her conversion was all for show. People percieve things as they expect or as they feel they should be instead of neccesarily how they really are. In one of the most pogniant examples, the German camp prisoner insists that he is not a Jew and should be released. In the panel we see him as a mouse, but then in the nex panel as a cat. If the difference between the races were really as broad as the Nazis and others would have us believe, we could no more mistake a Jew for a gentile as we could a cat for a mouse, but as we see in this scene, the lines between those distinctions are in acutality blurry and sometimes nonexistant.
We see the world as a cosmopolitan mass of different races, ethnicities, and nationalities, but "Maus" shows us that these are merely masks we wear, like children playing games and picking sides on teams. But in "Maus", the masks never come off. Are we all human underneath our disguises, or do we as a society still lack the conviction to remove them and see?