Analyses of Political Cartoons

Amany Abu-Hijleh and Audrey Zhang

"Tsk tsk - Somebody should do something about that,"

April 3 1956, by Herb Block

Exhibit: Herblock's Presidents


This political cartoon makes a statement on the subject of President Dwight Eisenhower's lack of leadership on domestic problems. It was published in the Washington Post in 1956, two years after the Supreme Court's 1954 ruling for desegregation. In this cartoon, the burning house that can be seen through the window is labeled as the civil rights situation in the United States, while the fireman chief and other man symbolize the government, who actually have the power to fix the situation. Block uses exaggeration to an extent in over-emphasizing the hypocrisy of the fire chief (government) in not taking action. Essentially the entire cartoon uses a fire chief who shirks his duty in not extinguishing the fire burning down a house as an analogy for the Eisenhower administration's lack of action on the issue of desegregation. The irony in this cartoon lies in the fire chief's (Eisenhower's) hypocrisy; he comments that someone ought to fix the situation when he is the one with the most power and responsiblity to actually do so. Herb Block drew this political cartoon in order to criticize President Eisenhower's belief that desegregation should proceed more slowly. He argues that Eisenhower is making empty talk about how segregation should change, but not actually taking action when it is his presidential duty to do so.

"Read me what it says, Dad,"

June 8 1977, by Herb Block

Exhibit: One Nation, Indivisible


This political cartoon comments on the state of the education system of the United States in the late 1970's. In the cartoon, the young man who has just graduated symbolizes the generation of students in the public education system, and the diploma symbolizes the low standards of education at the time. Block utilizes exaggeration by depicting the young man as illiterate and labels the school he has graduated from "Slapdash High School" to emphasize the lack of education the student has gotten. The entire tableau is an analogy for the larger education system in America and its low standard. In the cartoon, the irony is that the graduated student has supposedly met the standards of the education system yet lacks rudimentary skills such as literacy, forcing him to ask his father to read his diploma to him. Herb Block drew this political cartoon in order to condemn the contemporary standards of the education system. He is making the argument that the students, products of U.S. public education, are actually extremely uneducated and lack necessary skills.

"What–us tell fibs of some kind?"

March 3 1996, by Herb Block

Exhibit: The Sorcerer's Apprentice


In the 1900's, the CEO's of the seven top leading tobacco companies stated to the public that they genuinely did not believe that tobacco contained harmful substances and side effects. The people are those CEO's with their lies above, the Pinocchio noses symbolizing their increasing number of lies as they talked to the public. Block used labeling by pointing out that they were the cigarette company executives; furthermore, the title was written sarcastically, making the reader denote it as some kind of false shock. Block notes soon after creating the cartoon that files were found containing a huge amount of evidence against their barely candid assertions. Herb Block expresses his disgust with the dishonesty of the tobacco and cigarette company with the use of this cartoon through sarcasm and labeling.