Cartoon analysis

This paper analyzes a cartoon image by Tom Toles which was published in the 21[st] January Issue of the Washington Post. The image combines text and imagery to drive an intended message by the artist. The paper uses relevant theory to assess how the artist employed image dynamics in communicating with his intended audience in light of the prevailing circumstances then.
The current cartoon depicts the inauguration ceremony for President Barack Obama for his second term at US Capitol in Washington D.C.. The inauguration seems to be taking place at the white house with multitudes of people witnessing the event. The cartoon combines image and words very well. However, the words spoken in the cartoon convey immense meaning though they are from the crowd supposedly uttered by a person not individually acknowledged in the cartoon. The cartoon itself has nothing incriminating or comical since all activities depicted there are normal. There are thousands of people witnessing the inauguration of the president. That alone is not funny and is actually a representation of the real developments and events of 20[th] January 2013. As such, the words in the cartoon hold a more significant position in interpreting and understanding the image. The words uttered by an individual in the crowds “it`s historic that the inauguration of a minority is now routine” touches on various issues.
Using analogical reasoning, it can be said that the author of the carton intended to portray the progress of equality in the US and at the same time showing the ease with which the incumbent defeated his Republican opponent (Smaling, 2003). The fact that the president belongs to a minority community and even made history as the first black American president when he was elected in 2004 is a pointer of the advances made by minority groups. Since the abolition of slavery and abolishment of the Jack Crowe rules, the American society has experienced monumental changes. One of them is the rise decreased racism. People are likely to be judged on their merits rather than skin color and ethnicity when running for office or in the workplace. This shows that Americans are more open to diversity a mark of democracy.
Another interesting manner in which the author captures ethnic balance in the US is the color of the people depicted. There are different shades of color for the public from red, brown, to black. This alone indicates the aspect of cultural diversity. It shows that Americans are ready to embrace their differences in race and color and live in harmony. The fact that there different ethnic groups depicted by color have intermingled and none of appear to be clustered together also reinforces the idea of a united people.
However, the image presents the people as united while the words “it`s historic that the inauguration of a minority is now routine” have a potential different meaning. The tone of the words indicates that the issue of minority groups playing a more central role in society is not common (Phye, 1997). Actually, the persona uttering the words is somehow surprised that people from minority groups are getting into public offices with ease that did not exist before. Nonetheless, since there is no time reference in the “now” indicated by the person and the previous period, it is impossible to tell what time was the inauguration of minority not routine.
The image alone cannot drive the intended message without the words. The huge crowd of people and the depiction of the Capitol Hill show an ordinary historic day in UIS presidents whereby a president is being sown in. While this might be normal, the fact that the president being sworn in holds a special place in the history of the world and in America makes all the difference. The image alone captures the inauguration of the president. The words on the other hand infer a deep meaning to the image. The words bring out the issue of race and minority groups. At a time when the US is dealing with illegal immigrants and attempts to stamp out racism, it is important to portray the election of a black president in the US, one who also enjoys the support of white people as a positive stride towards equality and an end to racism and also as a mark of mature democracy.
The intended audience for the cartoon is thus the American people in general. The cartoon itself is a celebration of achievements of the American society in terms of fighting racism and upholding democracy. While the president has in the past being labeled as the a product f the American dream, the words “it`s historic that the inauguration of a minority is now routine” are just a reaffirmation that the American dream still exists. Without the words, the imagery would have no inferred meaning.
The cartoon holds meaning to the intended audience through analogical reasoning. People are aware of the American history in terms of racisms and segregation laws. People are also aware that the country has been under increased threat of terrorism since the September 11 attack. Americans all over the world have been a threatened lot. With the economy also faltering, there was little to look forward to for the American people. The author thus intended to communicate a sense of togetherness. Using analogy to understand the history of President Barrack Obama and American history on slavery, racism, and segregation encourages Americans to hope for better things to come. There inauguration of a black president is just representative of many things to come in future than will challenge the accepted norms. In essence, the author gives hope to hopeless and more so the minority groups. Such a message can be interpreted very positively by minority groups such as gays and homosexual people. These are the people who have been repeatedly looked down upon. The image and the history behind a black president give them hope for a better future and increased acceptance by the mainstream society.
As discussed above, the author had an intended audience in mind. The meaning to the imagery and the words are an expression of his ideas and perception of the world. Whether the audience got the intended message or the message was interpreted differently varies from one individual to the other. Such subjective opinions and understanding of the message are beyond the control of the author. However, using accepted models of thinking, the paper has analyzed the message of the cartoon using analogical reasoning. The history of America as a country and the history of barrack Obama as a child of immigrants add more meaning to the message. Without understanding the history of the country and the president, it is impossible to get the meaning of the imagery as intended by the author.
Jackson, D. & Newberry, P. (2012). Evaluating Causal Arguments. In Critical Thinking: A
User`s Manual, 1st Edition Wadsworth, Cengage Learning
Phye, G. (1997). Handbook of Academic Learning: Construction of Knowledge. New York:
Academic Press
Smaling, A. 2003. Inductive, analogical, and communicative generalization. International
Journal of Qualitative Methods, 2(1), 52-67
Toles, T. (21.012013) Washington Post. 21[st] September 2013. Accessed online from,