In 1941, war loomed around every corner of America. It lurked like a plague, taking the lives of innocent people and instilling hatred and mistrust in the American society. Homes were broken, careers were lost, and hope soon faded as tension grew overseas. It was during this time when Theodore Seuss Geisel decided to battle evil the only way he could—through drawing.
Long before “The Cat in the Hat” and “Green Eggs and Ham”, Dr. Seuss, as he is most commonly known, drew political cartoons in hopes of restoring the dignity of America. Although he was already famous for his witty pesticide advertisements, a giant leap occurred in Seuss’s career when his anger towards Nazism caused him to send his first political cartoon to a liberal newspaper called PM.
Through his cartoons, Dr. Seuss tried to rid the world of wickedness by encouraging the American people to contribute to the war effort. In Dr. Seuss’s portrayal of Adolf Hitler, his opposition towards the Nazi party is evident through his drawing style, the underlying messages behind the cartoons, and symbolism.
Dr. Seuss’s unique drawing style illustrates his hatred towards Nazism. Although he is known for his loveable, rounded, and floppy-like cartoons, Dr. Seuss depicts Hitler in a cruel manner.
In his cartoons, Hitler was a chiseled chin, arrogant man. His head is high and his eyes are closed, indicating his snobbish and conceited attitude. The harsh crooked lines that detail his face mark his pompous expression. It is as though he is showing the public that he is greater than the foundations of America.
This shows the reader that Hitler is aware of his power, and in doing so, makes the reader loathe the image. Through this depiction of Hitler, Dr. Seuss encourages the American public not to let him feel that pride. Dr. Seuss also mocks Hitler’s appearance by drawing his signature mustache and hairstyle.
As always, Hitler’s hair is parted to the right side with a strand of hair coming down his left eye. This makes Hitler appear boyish instead of powerful and ruthless. Dr. Seuss also draws his mustache in a way that makes Hitler resemble Charlie Chaplin.
These two characteristics of Hitler convey the image as comedic as well as powerful. Hitler is depicted as a cross between an elephant and a snake. Again, Dr. Seuss is mocking his nature. An elephant can be seen as a slow, dim-witted creature while the snake has a more sneaky and treacherous nature. It is evident that these two animals alike are not the brightest or the most respected in the animal kingdom.
Dr. Seuss might have used this image to ease the feelings of fright in society. During this period of time, fear was a growing epidemic in America. However, this image demonstrates that America shouldn’t cower over a brainless dictator.
The messages conveyed in Dr. Seuss’s cartoons exhibit his anti-Nazism views. He emphasizes America’s negligence of countries overseas. In this picture, a woman representing America is holding a book called Adolf the Wolf. The caption in this cartoon states: “And the wolf chewed up the children and spit out their bones…but those were foreign children and it really didn’t matter”.
Dr. Seuss is expressing his concerns about the innocent lives being slaughtered on behalf of Hitler. He feels that America should put aside its self-interests and instead take action against the ruthless dictator. Through his drawings of the two small children beside this woman, Seuss is conveying a message for the future. It as though he is urging his generation not to instill ignorance and hatred in the minds of children.
In order for history not to repeat itself, it is vital for younger generations to learn from past mistakes. The Nazi party is represented by a gigantic beast. Hauling this beast in a cage is a bald eagle wearing its stars and stripes hat. The catchline of this cartoon states: “Cages cost money! Buy more US Savings Bonds and Stamps!” In this cartoon, he is implying that there is still hope.
This image conveys that America will triumph against evil and put the Nazis in jail. Justice, in Seuss’s eyes, is not far from being served. In one comic, Hitler tells a man dressed as a palm tree: “Shultz, you will be dropped from an airplane into the jungle of Brazil. Using charm and ingenuity, you will immediately woo and marry some young Brazilian palm tree. With advance ground-work such as this, my invasion of South America is practically in the bag”.
This cartoon is telling the American public that Hitler’s plans are unwise and far-fetched. This image also conveys that Hitler’s tactics are not full proof and that America will soon find victory in war.
Inevitably, the Dr.’s prescription of hope was successful. Professor Richard H. Minear of the University of Massachusetts states: “Hitler is the prime subject of all of Dr. Seuss’s WWII cartoons. Without him, Dr. Seuss might well have remained a successful commercial artist with a sideline in children’s literature” (Political Dr.Seuss).
This quote marks the success of Seuss’s political cartoons. It was his drawings of Hitler that made him a renowned political cartoonist. These cartoons lifted the spirits of many people in the 1940s. Many people found these cartoons to be encouraging, and their comical elements served as relief during rough times.
The symbols within Dr. Seuss’s political cartoons demonstrate his wrath towards Hitler and his party. A gigantic creature bearing the Nazi sign represents Hitler’s party. The beast has a foolish look about him, which makes the reader come to the conclusion that all Nazis are stupid and vulnerable. Again, this comedic representation of Nazis is conveying that there is nothing to fear.
This beast in imprisoned, and is being dragged by the American bald eagle which represents American victory. This image illustrates that America will not be defeated by evil forces. The smile upon the bald eagle indicates that America’s pride will not be shattered and that happiness will once again, be restored.