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Understanding political cartoons


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Understanding political cartoons

  1. 1. It’s No Laughing Matter Understanding Political Cartoons
  2. 2. “ To the Finish"
  3. 3. How Do I Know what the Cartoon is Saying? <ul><li>5 Things to Look for: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>1. Symbolism </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Cartoonists use simple objects, or symbols , to stand for larger concepts or ideas. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>After you identify the symbols in a cartoon, think about what the cartoonist intends each symbol to stand for. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  4. 5. How Do I Know what the Cartoon is Saying? <ul><li>2. Exaggeration </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Sometimes cartoonists overdo, or exaggerate , the physical characteristics of people or things in order to make a point. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>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.) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Then, try to decide what point the cartoonist was trying to make through exaggeration. </li></ul></ul>
  5. 6.              No caption                                                  This grim Harper’s Weekly cartoon reveals the existence in the 1860s of serious concerns for public safety on the passenger railroads of the New York City region. After the presidential election of 1864 and as the Civil War drew to a close in April 1865, public health and safety concerns regained prominence in the pages of Harper’s Weekly . Editorials, news stories, illustrations, and cartoons reported the deaths caused by the alleged negligence of railroad and steamship management or workers, comparing the accidents to “murder,” “manslaughter,” and “slaughter.” Railroad travel, according to the newspaper, was becoming increasingly hazardous, particularly in the winter months. Editor George William Curtis suggested a strategy to improve the situation. He encouraged newspapers to publicize poorly-run railroads and steamships, and for passengers to sue the companies for negligence. Furthermore, he called for the state legislatures to regulate them. In the case of New Jersey, however, Curtis endorsed congressional regulation because he believed that the New Jersey state legislature was too dominated by the railroad companies to pass effective safety laws. This cartoon reminds readers of a recent accident in the train tunnel to Bergen, New Jersey, across the Hudson River from New York City. Every day, hundreds of passenger trains passed through the Bergen Tunnel, owned by the Erie Railroad Company. It was a 4400 foot-long, unlit cavern with no signalmen assigned to it. The accident which promoted this cartoon occurred when a train broke down just before emerging from the tunnel. The only safety precautions taken were a colored lantern hung on the caboose and flares set on the track. Another train’s engineer, seeing or hearing nothing, barreled into the back of the disabled train. In the cartoon, death is doubly emphasized by the skull-shaped tunnel and the skeleton which floats within it. The foolishness of the danger is communicated by using the term “Merry-Andrew,” which means clown or buffoon. The accident’s commonplace nature is announced by the sign over the tunnel, “Here We are Again!” The second editorial of this issue discusses the accident under the headline “More Railroad Murders,” referring to the passengers as “slaughtered sheep in that dark den.” Robert C. Kennedy
  6. 7. How Do I Know what the Cartoon is Saying <ul><li>3. Labeling </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Cartoonists often label objects or people to make it clear exactly what they stand for. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>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. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Does the label make the meaning of the object more clear? </li></ul></ul>
  7. 8. Ohio”                              January 26, 1884           Charles G. Bush                                                                       
  8. 9. How Do I Know what the Cartoon is Saying <ul><li>4. Analogy </li></ul><ul><ul><li>An analogy is a comparison between two unlike things that share some characteristics. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>By comparing a complex issue or situation with a more familiar one, cartoonists can help their readers see it in a different light. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>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? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Once you understand the main analogy, decide if this comparison makes the cartoonist’s point more clear to you. </li></ul></ul>
  9. 11. How Do I Know what the Cartoon is Saying? <ul><li>Irony </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Irony is the difference between the ways things are and the way things should be, or the way things are expected to be. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cartoonists often use irony to express their opinion on an issue. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>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. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Does the irony help the cartoonist express his or her opinion more effectively </li></ul></ul>
  10. 12. Columbia: “Hands off Gentlemen! America means fair play for all men!”
  11. 13. Once you’ve identified the persuasive techniques that the cartoonist used, ask yourself: <ul><li>What issue is this political cartoon about? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the cartoonist’s opinion on this issue? </li></ul><ul><li>What other opinion can you imagine another person having on this issue? </li></ul><ul><li>Did you find this cartoon persuasive? Why or why not? </li></ul><ul><li>What other techniques could the cartoonist have used to make this cartoon more persuasive? </li></ul>