How do I compare two cartoons?

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Once you learn how to compare two cartoons answering the question becomes simple regardless of subject. No matter the question you will always get accompanying text with the cartoon. It is important to read this text; it will give you important information that will help you understand the source better. Normally the information will be the date it was published, who wrote it and how/what is being shown in the cartoon. This will give you good context to the background of the cartoon. If you are studying the Cold War for example and the cartoon dates from 1947 think about what was happening at the time. What major events happened in that year? What events happened before that year? You are not expected to know every cartoonist, or even any cartoonists, but the text will give you some clue about them. Using the Cold War as an example if you have an American cartoonist it is almost certain that they will be anti-communist. This context will help you look at the cartoon itself now.

With context in mind analyse the cartoon. An easy way to do this is to write on your exam paper labelling what you can see in the cartoon. Do the people seem heroic, stupid, selfish or selfless? Is there any text and what does it say? In an exam you will even get marks for simply stating whether certain people are portrayed negatively or positively so this is an easy method to gain marks. When you’ve labelled your cartoon or cartoons go back to context. How do people’s views or major events link to what is shown in the cartoon? If you have a cartoon from 1930 making President Hoover look stupid then you can tell that the cartoon is making fun of his efforts (or lack of them) to solve the Depression. Finally we have to look at the purpose. Why does the author want to make Hoover look stupid? Does the author want to inform, persuade or entertain the reader? Think how this relates to the question. This can vary from cartoon to cartoon but with what was stated earlier you can easily work it out.

Finally we have to compare our sources. A good format for your essay regardless of the question is: Introduction, Similarities, Differences, Conclusion. An introduction is simple. You will get marks for stating what event/people are shown in a cartoon, the year and what purpose the source has. Your first few paragraphs should then detail what is similar between the sources. Do they have the same purpose, the same view or cover the same event? Always you must remember to offer a brief explanation why this is done and why a person or event had this effect on the ready (remember your context!) in order to answer your specific question. Then we make a paragraph or two for differences in relation to the question. Do they differ on audience, whether they are for or against something and even who wrote it? Using the Cold War as an example a paragraph could center around one source being written by an American author and another could be written by a Russian author. Don’t forget to relate this to the question as well! Finally in your conclusion you can simply state what your cartoons show about the past. There you have a simple way to compare two cartoons.

Lewis T. GCSE History tutor

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is an online GCSE History tutor with MyTutor studying at Edinburgh University

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