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 Social and Political Commentary Cartoons

 Social and Political Commentary Cartoons

Yr 9 Academic Extension Term 3


A political cartoon is a type of drawing used to present opinions, comments, or criticisms of a situation, person, or event. This cartoon uses SATIRE to make a comment about some person, situation, issue, event, criticising this target and making some comment about society and or people in general.

Some definitions of satire.


Definitions for satire from the web

‡         The technique which employs wit to ridicule a subject, usually some social institution or human foible. The satirical intention, however, is not simply to deride, but to inspire reform. 2) Satire amuses by making its object appear ridiculous, but beneath the laughter is a serious criticism of human folly or excess from the reference point of a standard of behavior which has been violated. It cannot function without this norm of correct behavior, whether implied or stated. Horatian satire is light, gentle. Junevalian satire is biting, stinging angry. See COMEDY.


‡         A work or manner that blends a censorious attitude with humor and wit for improving human institutions or humanity. Satirists attempt through laughter not so much to tear down as to inspire a remodeling. If attackers simply abuse, they are writing invective; if they are personal and splenetic; they are writing SARCASM. Satire existed in classical antiquity. Early American satire naturally followed the English in style. Before the Revolution, American satire dealt chiefly with the political struggle.



‡         Writing that seeks to arouse a readers disapproval of an object by ridicule. Satire is usually comedy that exposes error with an eye to correct vice and folly.

‡         A literary work which belittles or savagely attacks its subject. A distinction is sometimes made between direct and indirect satire. [Contributor: Dr. Ismail S. Talib, National University of Singapore.]

‡         Ridicule of a folly or vice in order to expose/correct it

‡         The use of humour to ridicule and hopefully provoke change in society.

 Cartoonists use many different techniques to achieve their goals:

‡        Anthropomorphism  this means "turn into a person",  giving ideas, places, objects and animals human characteristics. Uncle Sam is a figure representing America, Hitler may personify evil / war; dogs, cats and other animals or objects can made to act, think and talk like people.

‡        Caricature - exaggerating or distorting one or more physical features of a person to create humour, to belittle or mock someone of high standing ; exaggerate certain features to make someone clearly recognisable;

‡        Exaggeration  Ζcartoonists may exaggerate  certain features of an setting or an incident to draw something to our attention, to make really obvious, to increase the irony;

‡        Incongruity Ζ is the placing of wildly contrasting or different characters, objects or settings together Ζ this will create humour because of the great contrast between the two states;

‡        Symbolism - using a recognizable item to communicate an idea Ζ a dove for peace, Hitler or the swaztika to represent war / hate etc; symbolism is also used for what associations certain objects may carry or hold;

‡        Irony- (see definition below) irony is used often in the form of contrast, where the cartoonist shows one thing in strong contrast to another to either create humor or draw our attention to something, eg hypocrisy.

‡        Stereotyping Ζ stereotypes are a very important part of the cartoonist weapons of satire; a stereotype is a visual shortcut, where certain costumes, objects, actions, accessories or features can be used to represent a whole group Ζ eg a stethoscope and white coat make a doctor; place him in a Mercedes and he's rich, maybe even greedy;

‡        Parody Ζ this is copying or imitating someone actions  or what someone has done, in an exaggerated manner, causing humour often because the copy accentuates or distorts the original, making some defect very obvious; (a caricature is an exaggerated drawing of features, a parody exaggerates what is done);

‡        Pun Ζ a pun is a play on words, where one word can mean two things (telling the Boston strangler to get a grip on himself, a teacher giving Andre Agassi a serve in class, a chant that goes "we're number one and you're number two"..) or the sound of a word can have two or more meanings (wear/where).

‡        Comic codes and conventions -  (see separate sheets); this is an accepted way of doing things, of what people understand by certain signs and symbols; they are the rules of creating comics that we all understand without having to be told. (Having a frame around the drawing,  using speech balloons and thought bubbles,  using certain lines, shading, symbols (#@$*!)  etc to represent things in the real world.

Model for interpreting a cartoon :

1.       Describe accurately what you see in the cartoon. List the objects or people that you see in the cartoon.


2.       Describe what is happening in the four quadrants (divide into four) of the cartoon.

3.       Which objects/people are symbols? What do you think each one means?

4.       Are there any important clues (words, places, numbers) in the cartoon? Are lines, shapes and shading used at all symbolically? (ie shading can represent darkness or evil, some lines indicate a character's movement.)


5.       What comic conventions have been used which add meaning? (See sheet on comic conventions.)

6.       What is the political or social issue presented in the cartoon?

7.       What is the cartoonist's viewpoint on this issue? How do you know?

8.       Who might agree/disagree with the cartoon? Why?

9.       Describe how you were able to interpret this cartoon;  ie why  have you drawn certain conclusions. Explanation in depth.

In brief :

WHAT is in the cartoon; what does it consist of?


WHAT/WHO is being satirised; ie what is the target of the satire?


WHAT is the purpose or intention of this cartoon?


WHAT  techniques have been used to convey this ?


IS the cartoon an effective one and why?


SSome Satirical Techniques

Irony is one technique being adopted in this cartoon. Irony can be detected in different ways;

‡         verbal irony ( where the meaning intended by the speaker is not the same as meaning conveyed by the words chosen, or feelings expressed by a speaker towards a subject are a direct contradiction to the way he describes that subject and the connotations that subject has for the listener) ;

‡         dramatic irony (where character 'a' or an audience knows something that character 'b' does not know and does not suspect, usually because character 'b' does not realise that the words of character 'a' are not what character 'a' intends. As you can see, verbal irony can be a part of dramatic irony) ;

‡         structural irony (when any of the above are part of the structure of an entire play/story/novel) ;

‡          'surprise' irony (when the event or situation we LEAST expect occurs just after we have been speaking about it) ;

Reversal is another technique; his is where the reverse of what we are lead to believe or expect is the intention of the cartoon


Analogy (a situation compared to an equivalent one) is yet another technique used; this is where the ideas in one set of circumstances or one situation is compared directly to another so that we make some connection between the two circumstances.

Definitions of IRONY

‡         A contradiction or incongruity. In literature, irony often falls into one of three categories. "Verbal Irony" occurs when words mean in context the opposite of what they say considered by themselves. "Situational Irony" occurs when one event is expected by another oppositional event occurs. "Dramatic Irony" exists when a literary character and the reader (or two characters) view a particular situation from opposing perspectives with one knowing/understanding more than the other. In formalist criticism, recognizing irony can be a key to articulating the oppositional elements contribution to the complex organic unity of the literary work.

‡         A broad term referring to the recognition of a reality different from appearance. Verbal irony a FIGURE OF SPEECH in which the actual intent is expressed in words that carry the opposite meaning. We may say, "I could care less" while meaning "I couldn't less." Irony is likely to be confused with SARCASM, but it differes from sarcasm in that it is usually less harsh. The effectiveness of irony is the impression it gives of restraint. The ironist writes with tongue in cheek; for this reason irony is more easily detected in speech than in writing, because the voice can, through its intonation, easily detected in speech than in writing, because the voice can, through its intonation, easily warn the listener of a double significance.

‡         A device by which a writer expresses a meaning contradictory to the stated one. There are many techniques for achieving irony. The writer may make it clear that the meaning he intends is the opposite of his literal one, or he may construct a discrepancy between an expectation and its fulfillment or between the appearance of a situation and the reality that underlies it. See Also: DRAMATIC IRONY, STRUCTURAL IRONY, VERBAL IRONY

‡         At its most basic, a difference or gap between the presentation/representation of something and its reality. In other words, when what something appears to be and what it is are not the same. Irony can be engaged or detached: Engaged irony uses the gaps between reality and representation to make a point or expose something; detached irony exploits gaps for immediate effect, like humor, satire or surface criticism.

Humour Study : "English Power Book 4

‡         Read pages 110 Ζ 119 and answer questions  1-5, 7-14.


‡         Next read pages 136, 137 and answer qu's 55 Ζ59.


‡         Select any TWO editorial cartoons from "The West" or "The Sunday Times" and answer the following questions, 100 words for each editorial cartoon. Cut each out and attach to your answers.


"What comment is this cartoon making about society and what techniques has the cartoonist used to achieve this?"


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