NPR Choice pageHe knows that Vladek, for all the strength, resourcefulness, and courage he displayed during the war, is not an uncomplicated hero, and that it would be misleading to depict him as such — especially given his own lingering feelings of resentment toward Vladek, which an unambiguously positive portrait would disguise. Vladek showers Artie with warmth and affection, even as he stifles him with unsolicited advice and manipulative demands for attention. He expresses unwavering love for Anja, and on multiple occasions insists that their love for each other gave them strength to survive the most difficult moments of the war. His inability to sort through these conflicted feelings in the same way he examines his difficult relationship with Vladek leaves Artie in a state of unresolved tension, even after hundreds of pages and panels. Though his story does not have a neat or satisfying ending, Artie must release his pain before he can finish his work and move forward with his life. A difficult story like theirs cannot be redeemed easily, and given the scope and magnitude of the disasters that shaped them, may not be redeemable at all.
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W e tend to consider the words justice and redemption as two separate things: legal actions and spiritual events. But in life and in literature, they are most often blurred and intertwined. We seek justice in our understandings of family, community, nation, history, humanity and self — and we search for redemption in those places as well. Redemption is also often sought in contemplation of the natural world, the cosmos, and re-evaluations of our sense of self and spirit. High church, low church or no church, we all struggle with these questions and find common cause, if not peace, in knowing this of each other. Both justice and redemption also share the burdens of transgression, of wrongdoing and of evil. In either event, our humanity is relieved as we make judgments.