The book alternates between Art's dad, Vladek, telling about life in Poland before and during the Second World War and the current life of Art, Vladek, and Art's stepmom Mala in the Rego Park region of New York City. The book is mostly a recount of Vladek living in Radomsko, Częstochowa, Sosnowiec and Bielsko in the late 1930s before the War and the tragic tale of how he ended up being a prisoner in Auschwitz. The characters are drawn as anthropomorphic animals. The Jews are depicted as mice, the Germans are cats, Americans are drawn as Dogs, and the Polish are depicted as pigs. The story also deals with the complex father-son relationship between Vladek and Art.