Vladek Spiegelman

Posted: November 28th, 2013





Vladek Spiegelman


Most people’s characters are influenced by what they have gone through in life. Although there are some in-built characters, which occur naturally in people, most people develop their character through life’s experiences. Some people will start stealing in order to acquire a basic meal, not because they are necessarily thieves. Another person will be rude and posses a negative attitude towards people, because they were bullied or looked down upon by others. Another person might be self-disciplined due to the military training he had to go through, but not because he is naturally self-disciplined. Vladek Spiegelman character is not different. He developed a number of characteristics, owing to the hardships he has had to go through in life. His self-determination, controlling and pessimistic characters will be discussed in this paper.


Vladek, the author’s father, is a self-determined man. Surviving the Holocaust experience, in itself shows his determination to survive. When Anja, his wife decides to commit suicide after the death of their son in the Holocaust, he tells her that though dying was the easiest route to take when faced by a problem, the best route encompassed living and struggling for a better life. According to Vladek, one had to struggle in life. Giving up was not part of his plan. This strong character helped him support his family to overcome all the adverse experiences they experienced during and after the warring period. His family had been relegated from being a well up business family to prisoners in a camp, yet he had managed to see them through all those experiences. Giving up in such circumstances would have devastated his family further. He had no option, but to be strong through self-determination.

At the beginning of the story, we learn that Vladek had married twice. His first wife Anja had almost withdrawn from marrying him during their courtship period, but he managed to convince her at the end. His self-determination had helped him save a lot of money for his family. Unfortunately, this same money became the cause of his unhappy marriage to his second wife Mala. After marrying his first wife Anja, his father-in-law, who was a wealthy businessperson, gave them one of his apartments to live in. He also accorded Vladek part of his the shares in his company. To become part of the company, he contributed the wealth he had accumulated, before they moved to Auschwitz. Like the self-determined man he was, he did not give up even after he moved to Auschwitz. He tried black market trading, doing skilled labor, amongst other activities to make ends meet. He was able to forge a living for himself and his wife, in the oddest circumstances.

Even though the narrating Vladek seems different from the Vladek in the Holocaust days, various similarities can be identified between the two. For example, a trace of the exceptional energy he once possessed is still visible. To ascertain this, it is asserted that he is on a stationary bicycle, as he narrates the story to Art. He is determined to tell the story to his son, as a means of passing down the importance of the spirit of struggling for a better life to his future generations. In this case, his self-determination enables the audience to understand the various aspects of life in the Holocaust period, as told from two perspectives. Even though he was old and frail due to his weak heart, he was still determined to tell his side of the story. His self-determination made him act as the pillar of the family. He holds his family together through out the story. Even though Vladek’s family faced various challenges, Art managed to survive through them. Though Vladek was faced by such failures as his separation from his first wife Anja, they did not deter him from moving forward. He even stood strong for his family, following the death of Richieu in the Holocaust. This was necessary as though he loved his wife; she was not as strong as he was.

The fact that his enemies were many as compared to his friends, Vladek had to be self-determined. As Art puts it in an animated way, the Jews were the mice and the Germans were the cats. The mice should always be prepared and determined to live, as the cat is always ready to hunt them down. Giving up on living meant death. Vladek puts it better when trying to explain the determination to live and to move forward. When Art as a young boy, tells his father that he had fallen and his friends had moved on without him, His father tells him that he would have never recognized the meaning of the friends, had he not been locked up in a room with a group of strangers for five days void of any provision of food. Due to the fact that the Germans were always plotting something against the Jews, Self-determination was compulsory for survival.


Vladek’s controlling character is evident in various parts of the story. For example, when it comes to his money, he is very controlling. In fact, it is so intense such that it becomes part of the problems facing his marriage to Mala. Mala claims that he does not provide her with enough money to cater for her needs. Conversely, Vladek’s asserts that the reason for his behavior lies on the fear that she will misuse or take away the money he had painfully earned. In his opinion, it is better to control the use of his money rather than allow it to be misused in the name of love. This characteristic not only impacts on him negatively, but also makes him live an unhappy life, especially in his second marriage. Essentially, the negative impact of this character extends to his son.

He likes being in control of his life. In order to accomplish this, he tries all means to make sure that he makes ends meet for him and his wife Anja. This sense of being in control enables him to aid his wife through the mourning period after the death of their son. He was still required to keep his family together, even through the worst of the situations. Additionally he had to ascertain that he was as strong as he was even before the loss of their son. This could not have been accomplished without a sense of control over his life. Inherently his controlling nature negatively impacted on his relationship with his son such, that no close bond existed between them. He never even consoled him when he fell down on his skates; instead, he tried to make Art take control over his life too. Surviving the Holocaust meant that one had some sense of control over his/her life and others too.


Vladek approached life with a lot of zeal and energy. He managed to take care of his family, even in the most difficult times. However, this same zeal and energy made him a pessimist. He did not view Anja’s mourning as a normal reaction to grief, but he viewed it as a sign of weakness. He felt that she lacked the energy to struggle for a better life. In fact, his own pessimistic character did not allow him to properly mourn the death of his son and his wife, Anja. Towards the end of the story, he calls Art, Richieu and is said to mourn the death of Anja to the day he died. This pessimistic attitude led him to live an unhappy life with his family. He may have provided everything for them and accumulated some money for himself, but he was an unhappy man.

He did not bring up his son in a loving manner as other parents did. He treated him like an adult, even when he should have been treated like the child he was. For this reason and others, Art and his father did not share a very close relationship. This is also evident in the way they greet each other, when Art comes to listen to his father’s narration on the Holocaust days. Although his pessimistic attitude might have been viewed in a positive way, due to the strength it accorded him, it had a negative impact not only on his life but also that of his family. His mind did not differentiate a time for happiness and a time for mourning. It also did not know when to control or when to reprimand.

Due to his pessimistic character, he lived in fear of his wife Mala. Instead of loving her, he thought that she had a mission of taking away the money he had painfully earned throughout his life. In general, he spent more time taking care of his money than loving her. Consequently, Mala became stubborn due to the feeling that she was not being taken good care of. She complained that Vladek was not giving her money to take care of her needs. In the long run, they ended up living unhappily. As also evidently portrayed in the story, Vladek’s life revolves around the Holocaust. He seems to categorize his life in terms of the period before the Holocaust and the period after. As a result, the Holocaust becomes a very significant period in Art’s life too. The pessimistic character enables the audience to identify with the other side of Vladek. They identify his fears and his challenges, even as a character.


Vladek’s characters were a consequence of his life’s experiences. His self-determination enabled him to be strong for his family and for himself. This character enabled him to stay alive all through that horrific Holocaust experience. It also enabled him to be strong enough to tell the story from a personal perspective. Even though he was not very close to his son Art, he was willing to pass down the story and the will to struggle for a better life. His controlling and pessimistic characters played both a positive and a negative role in his life. While his controlling character made him control his life to the end, his pessimistic character made him to be too harsh on his child and loose out on life’s happiness. In conclusion, the above three characters help in the development of the story. The audience is able to view the Holocaust period from a different angle. Essentially, the audience acquires a clear understanding of the will to live as asserted through self-determination. In that period, one not only wanted to live, but he/she had to have the determination and actually do something about it. Life was not just handed over on a silver platter; people had to fight for it.





Movie Culture

How did movie culture develop? What concerns evolved along with the popularity of film?

The movie culture mainly developed for the sake of entertainment. The people wanted someway they could amuse themselves and the movies greatly fulfilled these desire. They did not want just picture or a play; they wanted motion, action and all the amusement that comes with movies. Most people were concerned about the movies’ influence on entertainment, companies and even individuals. The Censors was concerned that the movies had a powerful influence. The people were worried about the movies’ impact on the young people. These teenagers used to sit in groups and watch movies even without a parent’s supervision. The movies also raised concern on the number of fanatics it had attracted. Some people were watching more than the average number of films that were expected in a week. In other cases, the people wanted to emulate the actors and be stars as they were.

Who attended movies? Why did people want to make their own films? What advice was given? What do we discern form this piece? How does Merton affirm what we have learnt so far? 1933 – What questions did the investigators ask? What were the results?

The movies were attended by all the people from all lifestyles and of all ages. However, the somewhat poor and middle class people concentrated the majority since they were much cheaper than theatre plays. People wanted to make their own films because they wanted to tell their own stories and to fulfill the amusement desire. Film writing is a career for all. It encourages originality. If one has ever seen a movie and said to him/herself that they could come up with a better script, they should go ahead and write one. Merton affirms that the movie making industry a great influence and the young people especially.

In order to establish the influence of movies on children, the investigators asked a number of questions. These concerned the kind of scenes watched by the American children when attending theatres, the comparison between the community mores and the movie mores, children attendance, child’s capacity to remember, the scenes’ effect on the attitudes and ideals, the direct or indirect effect of the motion pictures and the capability of the children’s discrimination against the morally bad movies. It was found out that the movies were greatly influential and was hard to put a separation ‘line’ between good and bad.

How and where did the first audiences emerge? What was it like to go to the movies in the beginning? Why did so many people attend this form of entertainment?

The first audiences at the turn of the 20th century began in the early movie theaters. The patrons used to read aloud what was flashed on the screen. There was an “A-h-h-h!” as a response from the audience. Occasionally, a person in the audience would shout something in response to a scene. Everybody would then laugh. It was a nice communal experience by the end of the movie. Many people attended these form of entertainment because it was amusing and exciting to the whole audience.

What concerns evolved? Why did people begin to speak about controlling the content of films? What fears are revealed?

The concerns about the motion pictures not only being a form of entertainment but also being an influential force started arising gradually. The people started speaking about controlling the content because they saw it was influencing the children and the young people greatly and thus it could influence them in the negative way. Fears such as the young people were starting to act or behave like the way the stars were behaving started attracting attention. This was mostly a concern when it came to violence, drug and substance abuse and sexuality.

Who organized the first censorship organization and why?

The first individual to organize for a censorship organization was William H. Short. He did this in order to identify the exact amount of effect the motion pictures had on children.

What was fun culture? How did it evolve? Who were the funs?

The fan culture came up with the growing ideas about gender roles, spectatorship and celebrity in the American and the European cultures. The word fan was mostly common in the sports world with the presence of such common games as Baseball. Since theatrical entertainment also has a lot of personality influence especially in 1900, the fan culture slowly found its way in. The fans have moved from being the working people and women, to the schoolchildren, teenagers, young adults and even older people.

How did fans behave? What impact did fans’ behavior have on the film industry?

Fans mostly behaved differently in the presence of a film star or the film itself. Most did not get to meet the stars in real life so they had posters, pictures, newspaper clippings or other evidences close by them. Due to the fun behavior, the film industries increased their filmmaking. The film industry also influenced other industries in terms of consumer behavior. They would have the face of a star on a particular product to encourage sales.

Full-length features eliminated the idea that average people could participate in the film industry, why? What is significant about document 2 and 3 in the light of this change?

An actor/actress’s appearance greatly influenced the fans. Gorgeous stars attracted a larger fan base than average looking people. It came to a point where a star could influence a particular trend. For example, stars greatly influenced the young people in terms of looks. If a star was slim, most women, especially, tried their best to “look” like the star. The two documents give a deeper explanation of a star’s influence to the fans and thus of significance to other markets.

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