WWII Cartoon by Dr. Seuss

Theodor Geisel, May 22, 1941, Cartoon, PM Newspaper, Mandeville Special Collections Library at The University of California, San Diego.

Theodor Geisel, more famously known as Dr. Seuss, also created a number of political cartoons for the liberal, New York-based newspaper PM during World War II. Geisel created many cartoons, critiquing aspects of WWII; the cartoon above criticizes American isolationism in particular. The cartoon depicts the majority of Americans’ beliefs concerning Hitler and his conquest of Europe. Many Americans believed that Hitler and the Nazi party would tire after conquering all of Europe, particularly after defeating England,  and would lack the supplies and stamina to wage war against the US. Geisel also seems criticize the apathy toward subjugated European countries that the majority of Americans felt. The bird in the Uncle Sam hat–the United States– can see the carnage around him, however he looks to have no intentions of protesting the German bird’s actions, nor intervening on behalf of the destroyed trees– European countries. The bird representing the US is carefree, and sits twiddling his thumbs, an act associated with inactivity.

 The caption in the cartoon has a whimsical air to it. The bird representing the United States seems to not take the dire situation in Europe seriously. He does not understand or realize that in the likely event of England falling to Hitler, the German forces will attack the US. It seems that the US bird is mocking those who worry about the safety of the country, which could have been a genuine sentiment of the isolationists at that time, or it could have been Geisel’s way of ridiculing them.


4 thoughts on “WWII Cartoon by Dr. Seuss”

  1. It is important to note the significance of cartoonist during the time of the second World War. Although supposed to be whimsical and entertaining, as you said, these cartoons served as both a source of domestic news for the readers and a national base for common sentiment. The cartoons rallied the public to believe that their country was in the wrong and that a change had to be made. A cartoonist grabs the readers attention with the eccentric drawing and lures them to dig deeper with charged undertones. This image is a great capture of both the political climate at the time and the events that ensued.

  2. As he did in many of his children’s books and other cartoon illustrations, Dr. Seuss uses, as Harper noted, “whimsical” drawings in order to convey his opinion on a situation (in this case, the way the US is handling Nazi Germany’s advance across Europe). While it is true that the use of cartoon creates a facade of “distance” from any real danger, Dr. Seuss uses it ironically. Here, the cartoon animals and trees initially appear to be familiar and superficial, as cartoons often are. One may think no real danger exists in the sphere of cartoon forests. Of course, an understanding of the irony and sarcasm employed, as well as Geisel’s knack for social and political criticism, would reveal that much is to be taken from the illustration. Like sydmc5773 said, Geisel used “charged undertones” within the cartoon in order to create a sort of public alarm or outcry concerning the situation. The depiction of the United States as a smug and ignorant bird, whose tree seems to be next on the Nazi woodpecker’s to-do list, is Geisel’s way of harshly criticizing America’s role in the policy of appeasement and inactivity during the first part of WW2. The cartoon seems to be purposed to leave viewers of the time with a sense of impending danger that might inspire them to demand US action (as Geisel, evident in this cartoon, strongly supports).

  3. I like what both sdymc5773 and maryhorn2014 said about the political cartoon shown above. Cartoons like these put pressure on the United States during World War II to change their foreign policy. It also show how long the United States was taking to respond to the threat as shown by the quantity of fallen trees in the background. Now in retrospect it is interesting that the United States took this stance since so much has changed since World War II.

  4. I find this picture very interesting because it shows that our attitude about world events really hasn’t changed. It is so common in America to hear people say the old rhetoric of why should I care what is going on half way across the world? It’s a shame that we as a country continue to voice such strong opinions about isolationism when we are heading into an increasingly globalized world. What happens across the world can soon affect us, like it did in World War 2.

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