INTRO TO UNDERSTANDING
Mrs. Angela T., Mrs. Ana C., Mr. Moura, Mr. Costa
CILC’s Virtual English Course Fall 2014:
What are Political/Editorial Cartoons?
• Political cartoons are an art form that serves as a
window into history. It shows us what people
think and talk about at a given time and place.
Is this a/an political/editorial cartoon?
Does it have a social or political message?
Uses of Political Cartoon
• Presents a particular viewpoint on political,
economic, or social issues
• Make use of humor, symbolism, historical
events, and stereotypes to draw attention to an
idea, event, or person
• Stimulates debate on an issue
How Do I Know what the Cartoon is
• Cartoonists use simple objects, or symbols, to
stand for larger concepts or ideas.
The White House
• Powerful people are usually fat, large people
• Weak people are usually skinny, small people
• Green – environmental
• Red – communist
• Good guys usually wear white
• Bad guys usually wear black
After you identify the symbols in a cartoon, think
about what the cartoonist intends each symbol to
• Sometimes cartoonists overdo, or exaggerate, the physical characteristics of
people or things in order to make a point. Therefore, when you study a cartoon,
look for any characteristics that seem overdone or overblown. (Facial
characteristics and clothing are some of the most commonly exaggerated
characteristics.) Then, try to decide what point the cartoonist was trying to make
• Cartoonists often label objects or people to make it clear exactly what they stand
for. Therefore, watch out for the different labels that appear in a cartoon, and ask
yourself why the cartoonist chose to label that particular person or object. Does
the label make the meaning of the object more clear?
• An analogy is a comparison between two unlike things that share
some characteristics. By comparing a complex issue or situation
with a more familiar one, cartoonists can help their readers see it in
a different light. Therefore, after you’ve studied a cartoon for a
while, try to decide what the cartoon’s main analogy is. What two
situations does the cartoon compare? Once you understand the
main analogy, decide if this comparison makes the cartoonist’s
point more clear to you.
• Irony is the difference between the ways things are and the way things
should be, or the way things are expected to be. Cartoonists often use
irony to express their opinion on an issue. Therefore, when you look at a
cartoon, see if you can find any irony in the situation the cartoon depicts.
If you can, think about what point the irony might be intended to
emphasize. Does the irony help the cartoonist express his or her opinion
Groups of people may be represented in an over-simplified and
inaccurate fashion to call attention to them or to the central issue.
Political cartoons refer to current events and issues. Consequently, the
political cartoon may lose some of its effect with the passage of time.
VIII. Comparison / Contrast
Differences or similarities can be highlighted by placing similar or
different items or people together.
Special thanks to Mrs. Patty Des Rochers for the tips on analyzing cartoons!
Let’s do some together… ASK YOURSELF:
• What issue is this political cartoon about?
• What is the cartoonist’s opinion on this issue?
• What other opinion can you imagine another person having on this issue?
• Did you find this cartoon persuasive? Why or why not?
• What other techniques could the cartoonist have used to make this cartoon more
Other steps to help understand Cartoons:
• Step One: Say what you can see on the four quadrants
• Step Two: Ask questions
• Step Three: Determine the target of criticism
• Step Four: State in a short declarative sentence the cartoonist’s
• Step Five: Decide whether you agree or disagree with the
Describe what you see in the cartoon.
What issue or event inspired the cartoon?
What people or objects in the cartoon are symbols? What does each one symbolize?
How does the cartoonist use words to clarify the meaning of the cartoon?
How does the cartoonist use caricature and/or satire to make a point?
What is the message or meaning of the cartoon? (This usually reflects the opinion of
Do you agree with the cartoonist’s point of view?
How effective is the cartoon?