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Analyzing Editorial Cartoons: The President and a Senate Leader

Lesson Plan Objectives | Historical Context | Analyzing the Cartoon | Sources

 

 


ID: 1969/SB33/4/46
Date: January 31, 1969

Larger Image: 118.92KB

Lesson Plan Objectives

As students analyze the editorial cartoon, they will

  • Understand the context in which the cartoon was drawn
  • Discover the basic elements of the cartoon
  • Find and interpret the icons that appear in the cartoon
  • Identify the cartoonist’s message
  • Develop skill in seeing and understanding persuasive techniques used by cartoonists
  • Identify qualities of cartooning such as sensory, formal, expressive, technical, and judgmental

“A cartoon does not tell everything about a subject. It's not supposed to. No written piece tells everything either. As far as words are concerned, there is no safety in numbers. The test of a written or drawn commentary is whether it gets at an essential truth.”

“The Cartoon by Herb Block” posted at http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/swann/herblock/cartoon.html

 

 

Historical Context for the Cartoon

From the end of the Eisenhower presidency in 1961 until Richard Nixon took office in 1969, Everett Dirksen was the most prominent elected Republican in the country. As such, he was the spokesman for his party on all matters of public policy, foreign and domestic. As Dirksen biographer Neil MacNeil wrote, “In a real sense . . . the power he wielded as a leader of Congress depended on his position as the leader of the opposition party. He could not have the independence he enjoyed under their Presidencies [the Kennedy and Johnson presidencies] with a Republican in the White House.” MacNeil, Dirksen: Portrait of a Public Man, 342]

The cartoon featured here was published at the end of January 1969, shortly after Richard Nixon’s inauguration, before the rivalry between the two blossomed fully.

Immediately, Dirksen cancelled his famous weekly press conferences. “At the slightest inadvertence, something might be said . . . which would be slightly modified sixteen blocks away,” Dirksen explained—the White House was now in charge. Dirksen’s power would be diminished.

The two clashed on other matters, too. Dirksen, for example, challenged the new president on several of his appointments to federal agencies and sub-Cabinet posts.

“Cartooning is an irreverent form of expression, and one particularly suited to scoffing at the high and the mighty. If the prime role of a free press is to serve as critic of government, cartooning is often the cutting edge of that criticism.”

“The Cartoon by Herb Block” posted at http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/swann/herblock/cartoon.html

 

   
   

Analyzing the Cartoon

What follows are guidelines for analyzing or interpreting a cartoon. Not all of them will apply to every cartoon, of course.

Visual Elements

  1. List the objects or people you see in the cartoon. Sometimes cartoonists overdraw, 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 through exaggeration.

  2. Which of the objects on your list are symbols? Cartoonists use simple objects, or symbols, to stand for larger concepts or ideas.

  3. What do you think each symbol means?

Words (not all cartoons have words)

  1. Identify the cartoon caption or title.

  2. Locate three words or phrases used by the cartoonist to identify objects or people within the cartoon. Cartoonists often label objects or people to make it clear exactingly 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 clearer?

  3. Record any important dates or numbers that appear in the cartoon.

  4. Which words or phrases in the cartoon appear to be the most significant?

  5. List adjectives that describe the emotions portrayed in the cartoon.

Interpretation

  1. Describe the action taking place in the cartoon.

  2. Explain how the words in the cartoon clarify the symbols.

  3. Explain the message of the cartoon.

  4. What is the cartoonist’s opinion on this issue?

  5. Who would agree or disagree with the cartoon’s message? Why?

  6. Did you find this cartoon informative? Why or why not?

  7. Did you find this cartoon persuasive (not all editorial cartoons are drawn to persuade, however)? Why or why not?

“The political cartoon is not a news story and not an oil portrait. It's essentially a means for poking fun, for puncturing pomposity.”

“The Cartoon by Herb Block” posted at http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/swann/herblock/cartoon.html

 

Sources

The Dirksen Center | Everett M. Dirksen | Robert H. Michel | Ray LaHood | Congress for Kids | Communicator | Dirksen Center Projects

The Dirksen Congressional CenterCopyright 2007

Subject Headings Chronological Listing Value of Cartoons for Educational Purposes