Although Theodor Geisel is widely known for his work as Dr. Seuss, he also worked as a political cartoonist through which he revealed and criticized human nature. His strong sense of nationalism is depicted through his political cartoons, and often ridicules the actions of Germany, Italy and Japan within them. Wanting to contribute to the American war effort, Geisel began submitting three to five political cartoons each week to the magazine PM. Being too old to be drafted into the military, Geisel thus joined a division which was committed to making recruitment videos (Krull). This would allow him to spread his influential messages through a new type of media, animation. He continued to make videos for this division, creating a series of recruitment videos that were well received by the American youth; and also contributed to two Academy Awards winning videos, an accomplishment unknown to most of the public (Independent Lens).
     In previous decades, political cartoons were drawn in a way that was humorous, but appealing only to those that could really grasp the idea. This style prevented the younger generations from grasping the full message from these critically important drawings. When Geisel began to draw cartoons regarding America, his unique style was widely known throughout the country due to his popular books. Geisel's incorporation of his iconic characters allowed his cartoons to truly appeal to all people; something the cartoons of previous decades lacked. Now, political messages would be conveyed not only to adults, but children as well. This brought about an increase in the amount of people that knew the challenges the country faced.
     Geisel saw the effects World War I had on American foreign policy during the 1930's and 1940's. Americans acted in such a way that showed the natural inclination of humans to avoid repeating mistakes; they tried to remain isolationist to prevent them from getting involved in European affairs thought to bring nothing but despair. In the majority of his early political cartoons, Geisel criticized the American foreign policy of isolationism, portraying this policy as being a danger not only to the United States, but the world as well (Minear).




     This political cartoon, made on April 29, 1941, is a great example of Geisel’s attitudes towards the American foreign policy at the time. Since this was made just months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, many in America were still weary of involving themselves in European affairs, due to the effects of World War I (Minear). This cartoon depicts Americans placing ostrich hats on their heads, which is advertised to alleviate the “Hitler headache” (Seuss). What Geisel was trying to convey was that isolationism was not the right policy to pursue, the country look scared, much like ostriches sticking their heads in the ground when they are scared. It also blemished America's international reputation, as seen in Geisel’s reference to “ridiculous hats”.


     This cartoon, published on May 22, 1941, also criticizes the American policy of isolationism. America is depicted as a big bird sitting on a tree with its eyes closed, oblivious to the surrounding trees. The Nazi-Germans are seen as a small birds pecking down other trees, which are representative of the major European countries. Geisel illustrates all the European trees as being broken down already, with the Nazi bird pecking at the “England” tree (Minear). Geisel is trying to show the American people that, although they are far away, the Germans will eventually reach our “tree”, and when that time comes, it will already be too late.


     Although most of his political cartoons addressed foreign affairs, Geisel also drew cartoons that scrutinized the racial prejudice that was apparent within the United States (Minear). He tried to expose the underlying prejudice that naturally resides in most people; people are afraid of change and of things that are different. Geisel saw this and pushed for more racial equality in the military, and believed that racial diversity would be the key to winning the war.




     Published on June 11, 1942, this cartoon serves as a solution to help the American war effort. It shows Uncle Sam spraying out the “Racial Prejudice Bug” out of the minds of the Americans (Minear). In the quote “What this Country needs…", Geisel expresses his belief that, without racial segregation and discrimination, the American problems would be solved, and they would be able to move forward with the war effort.

     Geisel, publishing this cartoon on June 29, 1942, shows how the American war industry was blatantly discriminating against the Black labor force (Minear). The spider webs on the black keys symbolize this discrimination, with the maestro only using the white keys labeled “white labor”. Geisel tries to provide a solution for this problem, because although the piano seems to be working without the use of the black keys, a “real harmony” would be achieved if those unused keys were put to good use. This “real harmony” can be seen as a better American military strategy, and also a racially divers military.


     Many Americans felt resentment towards the Japanese after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Even those living within the United States felt this hatred, often dealing with many governmental policies that stripped them of their rights, such as the Japanese internment (Minear).
     This cartoon was made on February 13, 1942. It criticizes the American interment of the Japanese, and the false accusations of them. Geisel depicts all the Japanese people lining up, from Washington all the way down to California, to obtain packages of dynamite (Minear). This serves as a representation of the racism of the Americans; he condemned their preconceived notions that all Japanese were spies, waiting for the “signal home”. Although much of the feelings the Americans had were understandable, Geisel tries to remind the people that their racism is only diminishing their international image.







     When America first entered the war, it proved to be victorious in the majority of their early battles. Along with manipulative propaganda, the American people gained an exaggerated sense of American valor, resulting in their overconfidence and arrogance (Minear).When things are going good, we as humans fall into the comfort zone in which we are not as motivated as before. Geisel witnessed this attitude in the American people and drew cartoons that criticized this mentality, for he knew that this newfound confidence was not a guarantee.
     America was underestimating the power of both Germany and Japan. The Japanese had proven their efficiency, especially in their successful siege in the Philippines. Although Americans had defeated Japan at both Midway and the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Japanese seemed to be encroaching in the Pacific, managing to conquer two islands off the coast of Alaska. This opened the eyes of Americans who believed the threat of immediate war with Japan was still an ocean away (Bailey, Kennedy, and Cohen). America was too confident in their abilities and Geisel realized that if America refused to respond to immediate threat, the country would be at danger. He advocated that America needed to intensify its war efforts.
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