Cartoons have been around for as long as people could draw and write. But what are 'cartoon's exactly? The following activities help you understand the diverse conventions of this text type and how they can be used to various ends.

  1. Study the following 10 political cartoons taken from various Russian, Soviet and US artists over the past decades. What kinds of stylistic and structural features do they have in common, even though they offer two different perspectives on US/Soviet/Russian relations?



    Caption: "Here again blood and oil is being poured."

    Caption: 'Soviet Union offers to stop nuclear weapon tests"

    Note: Little bear represents the Ukraine, the big bear represents Russia, and the vultures represent those who want war.





  3. Study the following political cartoon by KAL, which has been deconstructed with ‘shout out’ boxes and definitions. Return to your discussion on Texts 1-10 and discuss how these terms are relevant to the pages from your analyses of those cartoons.


    Feature Example
    Exaggeration:Cartoonists often exaggerate the facial features of political figures as a comment on the person’s character. This is a process known as caricature

    The caricature of Vladimir Putin depicts his lack of emotion. He seems detached, cold and determined.

    TopicalPerhaps a better name for 'political' cartoons would be 'topical cartoons', as they comment critically on current affairs, recent events, political leaders and the news.

    Vladimir Putin was in the news in 2007, as he was running for President of Russia for a second term.

    Symbols: Political cartoons must succinctly communicate abstract ideas through concrete objects. Icons and symbols do this effectively.

    The bear is a common symbol for Russia. The star on the bear’s hat is a common symbol for the Soviet Union, which are ironic symbols in a post-Soviet Russia.

    Labelling and captions: Cartoons often use labels and captions to help readers understand their message and use of symbolism.

    The pedestal reads: ‘The new and improved authoritarian Russia’, which is ironic after Soviet times.

    Irony: Many political cartoons highlight the irony of a particular situation. Irony is when one means the opposite of what one says. Situational irony occurs when one’s actions have the opposite of the intended effect.

    The cartoonist suggests that Boris Yeltsin freed Russia from its authoritarian past so that it could elect a dictator. This is rather ironic.

    Graphic weight: Graphic weight refers to the use of dark and light shades to capture the reader's attention, focus on an object or create negative space

    In this cartoon, the graphic weight appears in the microphones, suit and bear, suggesting Putin displaying power to the media. 

    Speech bubble: Speech bubbles are a form of direct narration, where the reader reads what characters say, word for word. Thought bubbles, often depicted with cloud-like bubbles, give readers insight into what people are thinking.

    Vladimir Putin's words declare quite succintly what he has accomplished, on the left, and what he aims to achieve, on the right.

  5. Texts 11-16 provide you with 6 more political cartoons about the impeachment of Donald Trump. Was is the message of each artist and how is it constructed using the structural and stylistic features of political cartoons as presented above? What do you need to research before you can understand the humour of each cartoon? 







  7. You may use a political cartoon during your individual oral. Find a collection of political cartoons by the same cartoonist, to create a non-literary body of work, relate it to a global issue and a literary work that you are exploring in class. Create an outline based on one of the political cartoons from your non-literary body of work, an extract from the literary work and a global issue. Deliver your oral and ask for feedback from your teacher. See this page for an example of an individual oral on a political cartoon. Here is a list of interesting cartoonists for you to explore. Explore 15-20 cartoons by the same cartoonist to meet the 'body of work' requirement for the individual oral. 
Last modified: Wednesday, 19 February 2020, 2:26 PM