Objectivity and Rationality: One’s Best Resource

Spiegelman also shows throughout Maus that objectivity and rationality tends to be the best resource in times of distress. The living, breathing example of this in the novel is Vladek himself, who displays incredible ingenuity and resourcefulness in such deplorable conditions.

However, a notable example rises in page 64 of the first book, where Vladek passes off as a Pole in order to board a train and escape to Sosnowiec. In order to ensure his escape, he swallows any type of pride or subjectivity that obliges him to identify as Jew and does what is necessary to get himself on the train. He was objective, and he obtained his desired outcome through the most rational action possible. Conversely, if he had identified himself as a Jew and not “falsify” his ethnicity, he would have been sent back to the camp in a heartbeat.

Another example where Spiegelman hints the idea of rationality and objectivity as the best resource at times of need is in page 29, where an interaction at Auschwitz between Vladek and Mandelbaum, a very rich man from Sosnowiec. Mandelbaum had gotten the short end of the stick at Auschwitz and received ridiculously mismatched shoe sized, lost his spoon, and was given an obnoxiously large size of clothing. He asks Vladek for a spoon, but Vladek, in order to avoid both of them a beating from the guards, does not give it to him at the moment; Mandelbaum proceeds to crumple in a corner and plead to God for help. This is a moment of relative irrationality, because his best course of option at the moment is to actively continue to search for what he needs… even Vladek acknowledges at the end, that in such conditions, God would not help them, and that they were on their own.

This shows that Spiegelman believes that regardless of the existence of God, one must be rational and objective at all times and take the best course of action to satisfy one’s need. Mandelmaum’s need is eventually satisfied, but if it weren’t for Vladek’s thoughtfulness and generosity, he would have never been able to satisfy his need for a spoon and shoes.

Regardless of one’s position, identity, or status in life, it is rationality and objectivity which takes an individual to the optimum decision and the best odds of success at satisfying one’s needs.

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