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“Gesture Life” and “Maus”: Post-World War II Injuries


An elevated risk for many physical and mental illnesses has been found in epidemiological research conducted on traumatized individuals. According to Hauber and Zank, it is thought to be related to long-term alterations in fundamental immunological, neurological, and endocrine processes that take years to show pathologically (Hauber and Zank 1). It may be possible to determine a link between injury and overall health over long periods, but nothing is understood about whether it can be accomplished in older individuals. Due to the mental and physical strains of protracted war activities, the military calls this disorder Combat Stress Reaction. This work was written in order to highlight the trauma of post-World War II based on A Gesture Life and Maus: A Survivor’s Tale.

A Gesture Life

Chang-Rae Lee tells this narrative of a Franklin Hata with a shady past in A Gesture Life. According to Page, his debut novel was published in 1995, and Chang-Rae Lee immediately became a critical and popular hit (Page 1). During the conquest of Korea by Japan, Franklin Hata, whose Japanese name is Jiro Kurohata, was born to Korean parents in Japan (Miyata 1). Franklin Hata, affectionately referred to as “Doc” by his neighbors, is a familiar face in town who keeps a polite, intentional distance. In Bedley Run, he blends in softly and gracefully with the locals, but his friends know more about his past than he lets on. A Japanese American immigrant is explored through a series of flashbacks and reminiscences in Lee’s novel. Hata’s history, his roots, and his identity must be erased in order for him to go on.

Hata, who was adopted by a Japanese family, leaves his real parents, who were the tanners, and assumes the identification and lifestyle of his new Japanese relatives, abandoning his Korean background. Revived into a new existence, this young guy proves himself deserving of their support by immersing himself in their education and culture. Hata renounces his native identity, burying it behind his comfort with the new culture he has acquired for himself due to the treatment of Korean inhabitants as second-class residents. Enlisting in the Japanese army turns him into a national agent, and his personality becomes entwined with the troops rather than his personal. He maintains his Japanese personality because it makes him more “accepted” among his peers.

He also tries to emulate a “typical” nuclear American life after the war by moving into a lovely home, adopting a daughter, and trying to complete his family by marrying Mary Burns, a widow. In the finale, his horrific war memories are put to the back of his memory, and all affiliation with the Imperial Army is obliterated as completely as possible. Hata’s character alters and transforms completely and systematically with each new stage of his life. He reshapes himself to better match the expectations and intents of others around him, eliminating aspects of himself that do not fit the template. In his mind, this is the only way he thinks about how to exist.

He is a passive observer in a dispute that relies on his actions. According to Rasmussen, a Korean comfort woman — Kkutaeh — is shifted and replayed in Hata’s troubled relationship with his adoptive daughter, Sunny (Rasmussen 1). K is damaged due to his failure to intervene when needed; her tiny, perfect fetus is torn from her uterus and thrown on the grass, never to be born. When Sunny is in her late teens, he insists on an abortion, even though she has second thoughts about it. He gets the doctor to do it, even posing as his daughter’s helper and invasively operating on her throughout the surgery. In his opinion, it is the proper thing to do. Making things happen when he should not. Hata’s history will always haunt him. His genuine personality is lost in the process of trying to keep up the facade that he has so carefully constructed over the years.

Doc Hata Summary

Throughout the tale, Doc Hata serves as the narrator, narrating every detail through his eyes. A look at Hata’s experience in America and Asia reveals that American immigrants’ inherited memory of an event in history is no more local after they become citizens of the United States. According to Kim, however, it also lowers them to the unsteady reflexivity in current-day American life (Kim 183). On top of that, he tells us a little about his time at Bedley Run as well as a little bit about growing up, World War II, and his relationship with Sunny. This story is not told in chronological sequence but rather in a series of irregular vignettes.

People learn about Hata’s life and customs through various flashbacks in the narrative. Doc Hata is a ritualist; he does not like the idea of retiring, so he keeps doing what he is doing. The dock works tirelessly to overcome his stress. It distracts him and he feels better this way. To him, routine is the key to success in life. After a while, he breaks out of his comfy routine.

Maus: A Survivor’s Tale

Maus tells the narrative of Vladek Spiegelman, a Polish Jew Holocaust survivor. According to Gale, Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, by Art Spiegelman, is a two-volume definitive book about the author’s family, all Polish Jews, who managed to survive the Holocaust (Gale 1). Via these two narratives, it becomes evident that the Holocaust did not stop in 1945 for the Spiegelman family (Haghanikar 121). Maus, in particular, creates a counter-discourse to the standard depiction of the Holocaust survivor as a one-dimensional hero-saint (Smith 197). His cartoonist-son is confronted with the tragedy of his father’s past.

To depict many countries and ethnicities in this Comix, which Spiegelman developed as a form to reflect his graphic narrative as well as his history and autobiography, Spiegelman makes use of animals. Due to anthropomorphism in recounting Holocaust tales, readers can be more impartial in their approach to such a problematic issue. Maus does not shy away from the atrocities of Hitler’s Third Reich, but it also explores many other significant themes. Due to its visual style and highly intimate literary approach, Maus is an excellent resource for understanding the Holocaust.

Vladek is constantly on the lookout for ways to sell his skills in exchange for better treatment for himself and his wife, Anja, until he reaches Auschwitz. In the face of adversity, he manages to save and scrimp. The prisoner code tattooed on Vladek’s bicep is a positive omen, yet Vladek appears to have earned his excellent fortune via his actions. The older Vladek, who relates the narrative to his son, pales compared to this heroic Vladek.

Many of his medical illnesses are the consequence of the extreme physical hardship he endured in the camps, which has left him weak. It takes him a long time to tell a story, and his weak heart strains under the effort. When it came time for them to survive, they seemed obsessed with everything, no matter how small, whether it was pill counting, nail sorting, or money counting. However, even the other Holocaust victims in the story find this type of neurotic obsessiveness uncommon.

Due to his age, the hero Vladek sounds hollow. Because people never hear Vladek talk about how he felt while going through the ordeal. Vladek, for example, is the one who persuades Anja to remain living after learning of the loss of their son. Grief, despair, misery, and rage appear to have no place in the battle for survival. Maybe that is why Vladek, in his older years, tells Art his story. Despite his physical and psychological weakness, it allows Vladek to continue his battle for life. A method to pass on to his kid the hope that “to die is simple” and that there is plenty to gain merely through the battle for life.

Vladek Spiegelman Summary

A Polish Jew who survived the Holocaust, Vladek immigrated to the United States in the 1950s and has lived there ever since. Maus, by Art Spiegelman, is mainly set during World War II, which was a tumultuous period, to say the least (Mukherjee 1). A miserly, anal-retentive, self-obsessed man with neurotic and compulsive tendencies, nervous and stubborn qualities that may have allowed him to escape the camps, but which irritate his family, are the attributes he exhibits in his poor English. “It has nothing to do with Hitler, with the Holocaust,” Vladek begs his son not to include episodes from his history in the book (Spiegelman 23).

Racist views are evident when Françoise picks up a black hitchhiker, which he thinks would steal from them. Compared to his treatment during the Holocaust, he displays little understanding of his bigoted remarks about others.


World War II affected both characters in different ways. Dok Hata is used to fighting all his life, which is not good. Wars always end, and there comes a time of peace when the military has to work somewhere. Doc Hata has become a conservative because he cannot do anything new. Such a disease really exists in the real world, when a person who has gone through war will further process in order to burden himself and not think about bad events. Vladek’s story is about something else; his racist views are apparent to everyone. I believe that this position in life appeared due to the Holocaust. The racist movements at that time were very relevant. The stories tell about two different lives after the war. Both characters faced problems after the war, but they have different solutions since the problems are fundamentally different.


World War II had a distinct impact on each character. All his life, Dok Hata has been battling. In the midst of a war or a period of peace, the soldiers must continue to function in some capacity. Due to his inability to accomplish anything new, Doc Hata has evolved into a traditionalist. Real-life examples of this arise when a person who has been through a war would continue to process to avoid thinking about unpleasant events. In Vladek’s narrative, there is more to it than that; his racism is evident to everyone. There were several racial movements during that period. As a result of World War II, two different types of lifestyles were led. Both characters had issues after the war, but their remedies differed because their problems were fundamentally different from one another.

Works Cited

Gale, Cengage Learning. A Study Guide for Art Spiegelman’s “Maus.” Gale, Cengage Learning, 2016.

Hauber, Daniel, and Susanne Zank. “WWII Trauma Impacts Physical and Mental Health in the Oldest Old: Results from a German Population-Based Study.” Aging & Mental Health, 2021, pp. 1-8.

Haghanikar, Taraneh Matloob. “The Character in the Mask.” The Character in the Mask: An Analysis of Mask in Art Spiegelman’s Maus, vol. 7, Ohio State University. Libraries, 2016, p. 121.

Kim, Min Hoe. “Revisitation of Historical Memory and Ethnic American’s Unstable Positionality in A Gesture Life.” 새한영어영문학, vol. 61, no. 1, 2019, pp. 183-198.

Miyata, Masumi. “The Representation of the Blackness/Darkness in Chang-Rae Lee’s A Gesture Life.” 2019, pp. 1-11.

Mukherjee, Sayan. “We All Bleed History: Alternative Historical Viewpoints Expressed in Maus, All Quiet on the Western Front and Schindler’s List,” 2021, pp. 1-11.

Page, Amanda M. Understanding Chang-Rae Lee. University of South Carolina Press, 2017.

Rasmussen, Kim‐Su. “The Sublime Object of Adoption: On Transnational Adoption in Chang‐Rae Lee’s A Gesture Life.” Orbis Litterarum, vol. 73, no. 1, 2018, pp. 1-28.

Smith, Philip. “Drawing Vladek, Staging Shylock: Art Spiegelman’s Maus in American Holocaust Discourse.” Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics, vol.10, no. 2, 2019, pp. 197-209.

Spiegelman, Art. Maus: A Survivor’s Tale. Pantheon Books, 2011.

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"“Gesture Life” and “Maus”: Post-World War II Injuries." StudyKraken, 8 Dec. 2022,

1. StudyKraken. "“Gesture Life” and “Maus”: Post-World War II Injuries." December 8, 2022.


StudyKraken. "“Gesture Life” and “Maus”: Post-World War II Injuries." December 8, 2022.


StudyKraken. 2022. "“Gesture Life” and “Maus”: Post-World War II Injuries." December 8, 2022.


StudyKraken. (2022) '“Gesture Life” and “Maus”: Post-World War II Injuries'. 8 December.

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