Common Reading 2005 - 2006

Study Questions

Chapter One: The Sheik

  1. This is a graphic memoir. A graphic memoir tells a person’s life through text and drawings. Why does Art Spiegelman use mice instead of people to portray the characters in the story? What do the mice represent?

  2. On page 11, Spiegelman tells us that his father’s second wife Mala was a survivor too, like most of his parents’ friends. Why does Spiegelman call Mala a survivor? What does he mean?

  3. What kind of relationship does Art Spiegelman and his father, Vladek have? Use specific pictures and text to support your answer.

  4. Why is the chapter called “The Sheik”?

  5. Why does Vladek choose Anja over Lucia? What do you think of his choice?

  6. Why does Vladek ask Art not to write about Lucia in his book? Why doesn’t Art listen to his father? Do you think it is right for Art to break his promise?

Chapter Two: The Honeymoon

  1. Why does Ms. Stefanska go to jail? What role did Anja play in Ms. Stefanska’s going to jail?

  2. On page 31, Vladek says that he left Anja and their new baby to go to Bielsko to run his new factory and find an apartment for them to live in. How does Anja respond? Have you or members of your family ever had to separate in order to start a new job or new life? How did it feel for the people who moved on? How did it feel for the people who were left behind?

  3. When do Vladek and Anja realize that the war is coming? How do they know? Use specific pictures and text to support your answer.

  4. What happens after Vladek and Anja return from Czechoslovakia? What are they afraid of?

  5. Why does Vladek consider taking Anja and Richieu to the town of Sosnowiec? Do they eventually go to Sosnowiec? Where does Vladek go?

  6. Why doesn’t Vladek tell the doctor in the hospital about his glass eye? What does this say about Vladek’s character?

Chapter Three: Prisoner of War

  1. On page 43, Vladek tells Art that he must finish the food on his plate during dinner. Why is Vladek so insistent?

  2. How does Vladek’s father try to keep him out of the army? Was he successful? Do you think Vladek’s father made a smart decision? Explain.

  3. What does Vladek mean on page 50, when he says, “Well at least I did something.” Do you believe that he is justified in feeling this way? Explain.

  4. How are the Jewish prisoners of war treated? Do they live under the same conditions as the other prisoners? Explain.
  5. The image to the right portrays a sign saying , “Workers Needed.” Why is this sign posted? What does Vladek decide to do? Does he plan to work? Explain.

  6. How does Vladek survive the work camp? What motivated him?

  7. Why doesn’t Vladek get off the train in Sosnowiec? How does he end up in the city of Lublin? How does he eventually get to Sosnowiec?

  8. What happens to Vladek’s father while Vladek was away? How does Vladek’s father feel?

  9. Why does Vladek throw away Art’s coat? What would you have done if you were Art?

Chapter Four: The Noose Tightens

  1. By the time Vladek returns to Sosnowiec from the prisoner of war camp, what has happened to the food supply?

  2. What happens to the Jewish businesses? How do Jewish people earn enough money to live at this time?

  3. What does he mean? Who is he talking about? Do you think his feelings are justified? Explain.

  4. How does Vladek’s friend, Ilzecki save his son during the war? How does Vladek try to save his son Richieu? What happened?

  5. Why do the Germans hang Nahum Cohn and his son? What effect does this hanging have on other people?

  6. How does Vladek feel about the hangings? Why does he feel this way?

  7. Who are the Jewish police? Why is Art surprised to hear about the Jewish police?

  8. Do Anja’s grandparents go to Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia? What happens? How does Vladek find out?

  9. What happens to Vladek’s sister Fela? Why does Vladek’s father join her? Explain his thinking.

  10. On page 93, Mala says that Vladek is more attached to things than people. Why might Mala say this? Do you believe this is true?

Chapter Five: Mouse Holes

  1. How does Art respond to his father when Vladek calls to ask for help with fixing the drainpipe?

  2. What is “Prisoner on the Hell Planet”? How is this comic different from Maus? How is it similar?

  3. What happens to Richieu in the Ghetto in Zawiercie? Why?

  4. Why does Vladek build a bunker? Does this bunker help the family survive? Explain.

  5. Vladek lets his cousin know that he can pay him for his help. Why? Does it matter?

  6. On page 116, Vladek refers to Haskel as a “kombinator.” What is a “kombinator”? Why does Vladek call Haskel a “kombinator”? Do you agree with him? Why or why not?

  7. Why does Anja’s nephew Luke refuse to go to the hidden bunker? Does he make a smart decision? Why or why not?

  8. Why does Art Spiegelman portray the paths in the image to the right as a swastika? How does this image express Vladek and Anja’s situation?

  9. Why does Vladek keep the 14 karat gold cigarette case and lady’s powder case from Srodula, Poland?

  10. Vladek questions why he ever remarried after Anja’s death. Why do you think he married Mala? Do you think Vladek and Mala have a good marriage? Explain.

Chapter Six: Mouse Trap

  1. Why does Art worry about the way he’s portraying his father, Vladek in the book? Should Art worry about this? Explain.

  2. Is Vladek happy about Art’s book? Explain. Why would Vladek compare Art to Walt Disney?

  3. How does Janina, the governess react when Vladek and Anja come to her for help? Why?

  4. Why does Vladek ride in the official streetcar with the Germans, rather than in the second car with the Poles?

  5. Do you think Mrs. Motonowa is justified in throwing out Vladek and Anja? Explain.

  6. Why does Vladek consider going to Hungary with Anja?

  7. How does Vladek escape from the children who were playing on the street and screaming, “A Jew!!!”

  8. Why do the Jews speak in Yiddish in front of the Polish smugglers? Was this a good idea? Explain.

  9. What do you think happened to Abraham? Why do you think he sent a letter from Hungary in Yiddish telling Vladek and Mandelbaum that everything was okay and that they should come to Hungary?

  10. What happens to Anja’s diaries? Why does this upset Art? Why does Art call his father a “murderer”? Explain his response.

After Reading

  1. How do you think Vladek and Anja survive Auschwitz?

  2. Why do you think Anja kills herself?

  3. Explain what you believe will happen to Vladek and Mala’s marriage?

  4. What will happen with Vladek and Art’s relationship? Why?

  5. Why did Spiegelman write this book? Why did he call it Maus?

  6. Why did Spiegelman portray his father’s story as a comic strip?

  7. Maus portrays the Holocaust or a genocide. A genocide is a d eliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group . Do you know of any recent genocides? How are these genocides similar to the Holocaust? How are they different?

  8. What would you have done if you were a Jew living in Poland during the Second World War? What would you have done if you were a Pole? A German? Why?

  9. How did people survive in Poland during the Second World War? How do you think these survivors felt after the war? Why?

  10. In Maus, Art interviews Vladek about the Holocaust. How reliable do you think Vladek’s memory is? Why?

  11. What happens to people who live under a terror regime for a long period of time? Should people adapt to a terror regime? Explain.



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