· The Jews are represented by Mice
· Germans are represented by Cats
· Polish are represented by pigs
· Americans are represented by dogs
· French are represented by frogs
· Swedish are represented by reindeer
· British are represented by fish
· Roma (gypsies) are represented by gypsy moths
It could be argued that the Jews are portrayed as Mice in a satirical fashion, to depict the Nazi’s portrayal of Jews as vermin. However there’s also the fact that Spiegelman’s girlfriend seemingly chose the ‘mouse’ character to depict her.
With the exception of the Americans (dogs), the animal characters are all drawn alike. For instance, most of the Jewish mice resemble each other regardless of sex or age. Clothing and other details are used in order to tell them apart: Spiegelman himself, for instance, is always wearing a white shirt and a black sleeveless over shirt; his French wife, Françoise (herself portrayed as a mouse, because she converted to Judaism), wears a striped t-shirt. When travelling clandestinely in Nazi-occupied areas, the Jews wear pig masks to disguise themselves.
Spiegelman explained that he chose pigs to represent the Polish because of their resemblance to American cartoon characters such as miss piggy and porky pig, as many times in Maus, the Poles are very selfish and don’t want anything to do with the Jews.
The use of animals may also be used in order to detach the reader from reality. This may have been done to appeal to a younger generation of readers, despite it being a story of survival and death during the Holocaust. But instead of fully detaching the reader from the book, Spiegelman shows a human aspect by illustrating how his father tells his story and by showing the emotions and relationships of the characters throughout.