The graphic narrative depicts Jews as mice, while Germans are depicted as cats. Other animals are used to represent other nationalities, religions, and races. Almost all the characters of a single "nationality" were drawn identically, with only clothing or other details helping to distinguish between them individually. It is the only comic book ever to have been awarded a Pulitzer Prize.
In particular, Art Spiegelman portrays Vladek's difficult personality and Art's attempt to make sense of it. He was exceedingly stingy and made life very difficult for both his first wife Anja (Art's mother, a concentration camp survivor who committed suicide) and his second wife Mala (also a concentration camp survivor). Art contrasts the contemporary Vladek with the historical Vladek, whom he only knows indirectly through his research. He comments about the difficulties of presenting Vladek's story accurately.
Maus is also the recipient of the Angoulême International Comics Festival Award, the Urhunden Prize, Eisner Award, Harvey Award and been nominated twice for the National Book Critics Circle Award.