A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots. by Marcus Garvey. How do family traditions and cultural legacies contribute to and/or inhibit an individuals self-identity? In Malcom Gladwells book, Outliers, one focus is on cultural legacies. Gladwell believes that it is a powerful force and that people need to understand the importance of it. It could be negative or positive, but it affects people and has deep roots. It continues generation after generation affecting long lives. This is very evident when you hear a name of a specific location. Instantly, people say that area is full of crime, or it is a beautiful place to live, or other comments about that particular place. His belief is that where someone lives and grows up makes a difference in someones life. Also, that cultural legacy is a key factor to success. People dont rise from nothing. We do owe something to parentage and patronage ..and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot (Gladwell 19). The culture they are born in or where they grow up helps determine that persons future Gladwell believes.
Gladwells beliefs of cultural legacies being a key factor in determining success can easily be applied to Art Spiegelmans story about the Holocaust and the story of his father. In the graphic novel, The Complete Maus: A Survivors Tale he describes the Holocaust memoir and he describes the experiences of his parents when they were in Poland during the 1930s as the Nazis invaded and persecuted Jewish people. His story is written in a unique form portraying his characters as animals. He shows two different time periods in his novel. The first one takes place in present time in Florida and the stories of his fathers past are discussed. Art interacts with his father, named Vladek. Through these stories, it moves to the second part as Vladek explains his experiences as a Jew in Poland when it was German occupied. Vladeks life while in the concentration camps is revealed. While Gladwells belief in cultural legacy as a powerful force that affects peoples success rate, Vladek and his cultural legacy is complicated because in Spiegelmans book, he created a new way of elaborating on these conditions through comics and a different way of communication which changes the cultural legacy. Spiegelman used a dual time frame which shows the person Vladek was when he was a young man and then after experiencing the Holocaust, the person he became which left him with the inability to take risks, and how he had to do things in order to survive and to protect his family, showing how the Holocaust could affect the cultural legacies of an entire family and generations to come.
Art Spiegelmans book, Maus, is unique since it details two different time frames, the reader was able to capture and understand who Vladek was before being involved in the Holocaust experiences. Art is the narrator but also a character in the book, Artie. He illustrates through the graphic novel an understanding of what is what like in World War II and the story of Vladeks survival of the Holocaust. In part one, Artie captures what his father was like when he was young before going to war and living and seeing all of the violence. When Art was interviewing his father for the story, he said, I was, at that time, young, and a really nice, handsome boy. (Spiegelman15) That statement shows that Vladek sees he was different before that time compared with who he is now. Art sees that the war did change him by his demeanor. He is grumpy often and has a more hostile personality. This is shown by the numerous arguments he has with Artie.
The two different time periods is what makes Maus unique. One is the present time which takes place in Florida and frames the story of Vladek and his wife, Anja from the past. In his comic book, he depicted the Jews as mice, the Germans as predatory cats, the Poles as pigs because the Polish were pigs in the camp. This relates to the old tail of the cat and mouse. In the present time period, Art interacts with his father, Vladek. From these interactions, the story moves to the past as Vladek recounts his experiences as a Jew in German-occupied Poland. The second part of the story describes Vladek’s life in the concentration camps. At an early age, Vladek was a very typical young man who had relationships with girls and who did not take life seriously because he had never experienced disturbing, shocking, or painful things. He was very smart and was able to easily talk to people.
After serving in the war and being a Holocaust survivor, Vladek is a changed man. He has constant memories of fear, pain, suffering, and loss. However, Artie his son, did not see that side of him. Instead, he saw a miserable, grouchy, stubborn, neurotic father who could not get close to him. Artie found those qualities very hard to bear and difficult to understand. A father should be kind, loving, and caring and that is not how Vladek was with his son, Art. Artie was roller skating when his skate broke. His friends skated away from him which left him all alone. The sad mouse went to his father for comfort but instead of giving that. His father stated, ? -Friends? Your friends? If you lock them together in a room with no food for a week Then you could see what it is, friends! (6). Vladek cannot understand friendship, trust, or understanding to a child who is struggling with a situation. Instead, Vladek is cynical and shows what a different person Vladek is now surviving Holocuast. That difference he cannot change even for his own child.
Vladeks personality changed dramatically after surviving his experiences and Art experienced his own as the next generation who had to adapt to the changes of both of his parents trauma and the loss of his brother. Vladek was not a person to take chances. He consistently saved food since he had to do that for survival while in the concentration camps. This made it hard for Artie since his father was obsessed by food during his childhood. Vladek retorts. Yes! So it has to be. Always eat all what is on your plate (43) Vladek cannot get over wasting food and also his desire to protect his family. Artie as a child just sees him as an angry father and someone compulsive about food, not a warm caring relationship that father and son should have.
Valdek and Anja went through terrible ordeals as the Nazis invaded and persecuted the Jewish population. Vladek experiences in Holocaust and his life in the concentration camps affected the cultural legacies of not only their family but generations of family. Vladek changed because he had to survive. Those continued while raising his own son. He loved his family but most important, he was to protect them even if that meant being compulsive and not the typical nurturing parent. Losing his other son, and later his wife to suicide, left him with scars and truly a changed man. His own son, Art questions himself as a father since he does not believe his was the type of parent he wanted to be. Instead, finding out about what both his parents went through, gave him an insight into why his father acted the way he did. Finally, it gave him a deeper and more understanding view of his parents, their struggles, and the truth. The dual time frame showed that people change with life and that the experiences they go through, change who they are and affect the families and cultural legacies for generations to come.