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Political Cartoons - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Political Cartoons Political cartoons can be found in newspapers, magazines, and on social studies tests. They help capture important times or events in history into one picture versus lines of text. While they may be funny if you understand the issue their main purpose is to persuade you.

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Political cartoons can be found in newspapers, magazines, and on social studies tests. They help capture important times or events in history into one picture versus lines of text. While they may be funny if you understand the issue their main purpose is to persuade you.
In the late 1800's an increase in newspaper and magazine circulation provided a rich environment for the rise and use of political cartoons. Political cartoons communicate powerful ideas often in a humorous, enlightening manner, by incorporating the events of the period into an easily understandable format most people could relate to even with limited reading abilities.
In the 1870s, a New York politician named William Tweed became deeply embroiled in a bitter scandal involving the disappearance of more than 200 million taxpayers's dollars. The scandal was, of course, covered by the newspapers, and the people of New York were upset. There was, however, a turning point in this event--a point at which the event became a scandal that would cost William Tweed his career and his freedom. The turning point involved some editorial cartoons by a cartoonist named Thomas Nast
In response to the event, Thomas Nast launched a series of cartoons about the "Tammany Ring," the group of politicians involved in the scandal. The demise of William Tweed, a New York politician in the 1870s, a defining moment in American political cartooning. Tweed is attributed with exclaiming, "'Stop them damned pictures. I don't care so much what the papers say about me. My constituents can't read. But, damn it, they can see pictures!'" (Fischer, 2). Political cartoons had the ability to reach both the literate and the illiterate, and Nast's cartoons outraged the public against Tweed and the Tammany Ring. Tweed was imprisoned, but escaped, only to later be identified (so the legend goes) in Spain by a customs clerk who recognized him from Nast's caricatured version. In his suitcase was said to be a complete set of Nast's cartoons that portrayed him (Fischer, 2). Nast, in his role of cartoonist, changed political history and transformed the political cartoon into a stationary entity on the editorial page. Nast's cartoons greatly increased circulation in the periodicals in which they appeared.
Two steps that will help you read a political cartoon:
  • You need to:

a. identify all the pictures elements

b. understand the meaning of each element and piece these meanings together

Since political cartoons capture major events or ideas into one picture they can be highly sophisticated and difficult to understand. The better your knowledge of current events and symbols the easier it will be for you to understand political cartoons.
  • A good political cartoon makes you think about current events while also trying to sway your opinion. The best political cartoonist can change your opinion on a topic without you even realizing it.
  • Be sure to look at how things are labeled. Read the words to yourself and make sure you are clear about what they mean.
As time passes and political cartoons get old, they become more difficult to understand and interpret because you, the reader, are not a part of the “spirit of the times” When looking at old political cartoons you must understand what was taking place during that time period.
  • Sometimes cartoonists overdo, or exaggerate, the physical characteristics of people or things in order to make a point.
  • 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 by exaggerating them.
  • Cartoonists often label objects or people to make it clear exactly what they stand for. 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. By comparing a complex issue or situation with a more familiar one, cartoonists can help their readers see it in a different light.
  • 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.
  • 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 more effectively?