I could not finish this assignment without taking a quick look at my beloved Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) and his contributions to WWII propaganda.
I will bookmark this topic for more in-depth consideration in the future, as I have run out of time for completing the portion of this blog that will serve as my assignment for my LIS 518 course. But I wanted to briefly highlight how Dr. Seuss’s contributions of satirical editorial cartoons (typically single-panel works) to New York magazine during WWII represent another example of a children’s illustrator moving into a quasi-propagandist role in a wartime context and transitioning to target an adult audience (Scott, 2011). Though Dr. Suess was personally a strong supporter of the Jewish causes, in addition to demonizing the enemy (they were quite racist!), his editorial cartoons largely expressed his staunch non-interventionist stance to criticize both sides of the conflict (Minear, 2013; Popova, 2012; Dr. Seuss, 2016).
While his wartime work incorporated themes that were common in other wartime propaganda, aside from its stance what set Dr. Seuss’ work apart from other wartime propaganda was its translation of his signature non-human characters occupying human roles. While these non-human characters could have easily been transformed into enemy monsters, they were typically used in domestic caricature (including criticism of American governmental processes), while enemy icons (such as the leaders Adolf Hitler, Hideki Tōjō and Benito Mussolini) were consistently recognizable humans or animals (such as serpents) with these icons’ recognizable human faces. Cultural/national animal symbols were utilized, particularly for Allied nations:
Lion = Britain
Eagle (which looks more like a turkey) = US
Kangaroos = Australia
Bear = Russia (plus an “abominable snowman” that symbolized the harshness of the Russian winter)
Elephant = India
Giraffe = Africa
Camel = Near East
The effectiveness of Dr. Suess’ wartime work stems directly from the cultural impact of his children’s books (Minear, 2013; Popova, 2012). The characters and styles in his wartime work would have been familiar to adults, who were reading his children’s books to their own kids, thus creating an immediate affinity. Additionally, the educational context within which Dr. Seuss’ children’s books were positioned conferred authority to his wartime work and thereby increased its recognition and influences amongst adult audiences.
Not recasting his signature non-human characters as enemies in his wartime work was likely a very deliberate decision for Dr. Seuss, anticipating the market impact this could have created for his post-war publications.
While I did not have time to read it, Richard H. Minear’s 2013 book Dr. Seuss Goes to War is on my post-course reading list. Here are some illustration excerpts:
Dr. Seuss. (2016, July 23). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dr._Seuss
Minear, R. H. (2013). Dr. Seuss goes to war: the World War II editorial cartoons of Theodor Seuss Geisel. The New Press. Retrieved from https://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&lr=&id=ZH_XBQAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PT11&dq=dr.+suess%27+world+war+ii+propaganda&ots=KtN5Zj3YEI&sig=_tEB54U5_exIQOYC_vNFxRgNvMM#v=onepage&q=dr.%20suess%27%20world%20war%20ii%20propaganda&f=false
Popova, M. (2012, August 10). Dr. Seuss’s World War II political propaganda cartoons. Brain Pickings. Retireved from https://www.brainpickings.org/2012/08/10/dr-seusss-wartime-propaganda-cartoons/
Scott, C. A. (2011). Comics and conflict: War and patriotically themed comics in American cultural history from World War II through the Iraq War. Dissertations. Paper 74. Retireved from http://ecommons.luc.edu/luc_diss/74