The purpose of this assignment is to interpret a political cartoon by analyzing how the cartoonist uses both visual and verbal elements and techniques to make an argument. The cartoon must address a current technology topic and issue.
Write a 3-4 page essay that analyzes a political cartoon argument. In your analysis, include
3-4 strongest visual and verbal techniques the cartoonist uses and connect this to how these tools appeal to the
strongest rhetorical device. The techniques and rhetorical appeals are explained on the handout “Political
Cartoon Analysis Guide.”
Make sure to choose a cartoon that has sufficient visual and verbal elements.
The essay must follow MLA format, typed, double-spaced, [check settings in
paragraph layout—use double space and not multiple, set “before and after” settings to 0/0, use 12font Times
New Roman and 1” margins. For this paper there is only one source: the political cartoon. Also on the works
cited page, the cartoon should be included.
When integrating evidence from the cartoon to support and to prove the reason (the
main point) you must use a signal phrase (the cartoonist’s name—you may use the last name since the full name
is already used in the introduction, include quotation marks around actual words taken from the cartoon, cite it
(“Title of the Cartoon), and explain how and why this evidence proves how the technique is used to appeal to
the strongest rhetorical appeal and thus the cartoonist’s thesis statement. When adding another quote or
paraphrase from the cartoon to prove your element choice, insert an appropriate transition. Avoid simply
dumping in evidence. There should only be two quotes or paraphrases in a
Political Cartoon Analysis Guide
The rhetorical purpose of a political cartoon is to persuade an audience toward the cartoonist’s position on an issue. An issue is a question that people dispute over or take different sides on. Cartoonists use both visual and verbal techniques to persuade an audience of their thesis statement (their response to an issue question). A rhetorical analysis of a political cartoon is interpreting how both visual and verbal techniques are used to appeal to pathos, ethos, and/or logos in order to persuade the audience. The classical philosopher Aristotle defined rhetoric as “the ability to see the available means of persuasion.” Aristotle defined three kinds of rhetoric: pathos, ethos, and logos.
Pathos: This is a persuasive appeal to the sympathies, values, beliefs, and emotions of the audience. Appeals to pathos are accomplished through visual images as well as through verbal. How do the techniques the cartoonist uses appeal to the audience’s values, beliefs, and emotions? What techniques does the cartoonist use to appeal to readers’ emotions, sympathies, and values? This is an appeal to manipulate the emotions of the audience.
Ethos: This is an appeal to the character of the cartoonist. It refers to the cartoonist’s trustworthiness and credibility. The audience must perceive the cartoonist as knowledgeable, trustworthy, and fair. How well does the cartoonist persuade readers that he/she is knowledgeable, reliable, credible, and trustworthy? What techniques are use to appeal to ethos?
Logos: This is an appeal based on sound reason. It refers to the quality of the message itself—to its clarity in asserting a thesis or point. Logical appeals state facts and show how facts are interrelated.
Techniques/Tools Used to Persuade an Audience
Cartoonists use simple objects, or symbols to represent a larger concept or idea. For example, cartoonists use animals, buildings, and things, which are generally or universally recognized. Cartoonists assume that readers already know what the symbols represent. For example, the donkey for Democrats, an elephant for Republicans. What do the symbols in your political cartoon stand for? What ideas do the symbols embody?
Caricatures are distortions or exaggerations of the physical features of someone or something in order to make a point (thesis). 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.
Labels are sometimes used to identify important features. Cartoonists often label objects or people to make it clear exactly what they stand for. Does the label make the meaning of the object clearer?
is a comparison between two unlike things that share some characteristics. By comparing a complex issue or situation with a more familiar one, cartoonists can help their readers see it in a different light. Decide what the cartoon’s main analogy is. What two situations does the cartoon compare?
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 discrepancy (differences) 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 (thesis) more effectively?
The color choices cartoonists make are more than aesthetic decisions; colors have been known to affect (and reflect) a person’s mood or emotions PATHOS] current style trends and cultural beliefs and symbols. Refer to the handout on colors.
Grade Sheet: Political Cartoon Analysis Paper
Introduction: (5)—Begins with a statement related to the issue in the cartoon; Engaging introduction that includes background information on the political cartoon. Writer begins with a statement related specifically to the thesis. It is not a cliché or empty announcement about advertising; All Background information is provided about the cartoon: writer, audience, where did the cartoon appear? Etc. Background to the issue and the timing of the cartoon: its importance or purpose. Introduction is at least five sentences and no more than eight.
Thesis Statement: (5)—.It is the last sentence of the introduction and it is introduced by an appropriate transition. It is one clear, concise sentence that makes a claim about the technology topic. The specific elements are not included.
Organization: (3)—Each body paragraph begins with a Transition to indicate a sequence. (First, furthermore, in addition, etc.). The techniques of the cartoon are organized from least important to most important. The Last sentence of each body paragraph Links to the next technique. Transitions connect body paragraphs; Overall the essay flows smoothly.
Body Paragraphs/Content: (20)— All topic sentences clearly state one technique used in the cartoon to support the cartoonist’s main point and the claim about that technique. There is no support (evidence) material in the topic sentence. There is one context sentence that follows the topic sentence (the Main Point). Evidence: There is sufficient evidence from the cartoon to support the technique included in the topic sentence. Analysis: For each evidence (direct quote or paraphrase) from the cartoon, the writer explains HOW it used to support the cartoonist’s main point. Techniques: The choice of persuasive elements makes sense and clearly supports the cartoonist’s main point about the issue visually and verbally presented by the cartoonist. Balance: Paragraphs are generally balanced. They average in length six to ten sentences.
Purpose, Audience, Point of View: (5) Purpose: The purpose of this essay is to show HOW a cartoonist supports his or her main point about one issue. The writer of the draft has clearly shown HOW the elements of the visual argument support the cartoonist’s main point. Audience: The student’s draft keeps the audience in mind: the audience is students and the instructor. Language is appropriate, terms and names are explained if necessary. Point of View: 3rd person point of view throughout the paper. This is an analysis, not a personal opinion. NO FIRST PERSON POINT OF VIEW (“I” OR “YOU” OR “WE”) . Conclusion: (5): Begins with an appropriate transition and then restates the cartoonist’s main point/thesis statement. Summarizes all the techniques used as point of analysis. There is a final remark that emphasizes the cartoonist’s thesis and overall effectiveness. Conclusion does not introduce any new material not introduced in the body. The conclusion is 5-8 sentences. MLA Format: (5) Draft: double-spaced (not multiple), spacing is correct, draft is typed, 12font Times New Roman, paragraphs are indented, the heading is correct: student’s name, instructor’s name, English 1, date (day month year), last name and page number in the upper ½ right hand corner of each page.
In-text Citation: (5): Does the writer correctly integrate evidence from the cartoon into the paragraph with a signal phrase and the correct parenthetical reference? Signal phrases: Include the cartoonist’s full name (first last)—the first time introduced. Then after that, last name only. Citation: The parenthetical citation is placed at the end of the sentence; it is not in the middle of the sentence. Explanation: An explanation (1-2 sentences) of how the evidence supports the main point or technique used by the artist follows the parenthetical citation. .
Work Cited Page: (5). Writer correctly formats the work cited page: 1” margin, student’s last name and page number is in the upper right hand corner, all entries are alphabetical order, double spaced, between and within entries. Work cited entry is correctly formatted: internet or print. Figure 1: The political cartoon is included on this page.
Mechanics, Grammar and Style: (5). Web sites and titles of newspapers/magazines are in italics. There are no spelling errors, capitalization, punctuation errors. There are no grammar mistakes: fragments, run-ons, syntax, semi-colons, comma splices, dangling modifiers. No errors in punctuation: period placement, comma placement. Sentences are varied and do not begin with the same word. Active verbs. (No “be” “was” “is”—subject/verb agreement.
Title: (2) Title is creative and suggests the main point. Does not make a suggestion, nor is it in bold letters, or in quotation marks.
Planning Graphic for Political Cartoon Analysis Essay
Title: A Catchy Title that Suggests the Main Point
Introduction (5-8 sentences)
Hooks readers’ interest with sentences
that introduce the reader to the topic
Gives background on the political
cartoon—the issue, the cartoonist’s
name, the title if there is one, the
purpose, the audience.
Ends with your interpretation of the
cartoonist thesis statement—what is
the cartoonist’s statement on the one
The thesis statement should be the
last sentence of the introduction and
clearly state the main point of the
What is the claim the cartoonist takes
on a current issue?
Do not include a list of persuasive
strategies in the thesis statement.
Body Paragraphs: Follow this format for
each body paragraph:
M= Strategy/Tool #1+ Claim
Evidence from the cartoon that supports
the rhetorical strategy. Remember to use a
signal phrase and follow with the citation.
A = E
xplain how the evidence supports the
strategy or tool used to support the cartoonist’s
Last sentence transitions to the next
Body Paragraphs should average 8-10
sentences. Remember to integrate evidence
from the political cartoon by introducing it with
a signal phrase, and cite it ( ). Do not dump
evidence from the cartoon into the paragraph.
You must explain and analyze how each
example from the cartoon supports and proves
your particular rhetorical strategy and tool.
Limit is one-to-two types of evidence per
paragraph: quotation or paraphrase.
Restates thesis: the cartoonist’s
perspective on an issue
Summarize the three or four techniques
End with a final remark that emphasizes
Evaluate the effectiveness of the cartoon.
Do not use “In conclusion” or “To sum up”
: Follow MLA format for the work
cited entry. There is only one source for this
paper. Double space between and within the
entry. Indent second line ½” and note
placement of commas, periods and italics.
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