Adolf the Wolf: Analyzing the Dr. Seuss Political Cartoon



Apologies for the poor resolution: It’s the result of hunting for old political humor.

Resolution aside, this 40’s-era political cartoon designed by Dr. Seuss reflects the United States’ sentiments towards the tyranny of Adolf Hitler, and the events leading up to the beginning of the Second World War (and arguably, the events that occurred after the initiation of the fighting, but before America’s involvement). The picture sets a mood of indifference, perhaps even enmity, towards the Europeans, particularly the nations that were victimized by and assimilated into the Fascist regime. Simply put, Seuss implies that America cared not in the slightest for those ill-fated nations that were flattened under the Nazi steamroller–nations like Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Austria.

The ‘America First’ sweater hints at the daunting American crisis of the time–the Great Depression. With countless Americans jobless and crippled by poverty and a shattered financial institution,  the focus of the U.S.’s efforts were entirely internal, to the point that the rest of the world could be lilt aflame by the Fascists before America would turn its gaze away from itself.

Additionally, the cartoon hints at the anti-foreigner convictions many Americans developed due to the influx of immigrants at Ellis Island in New York, and Angel Island in California. The Depression gave many Americans an opportunity to lash out aggressively against minority races, particularly the Eastern Europeans who had escaped the tyranny of Nazi Germany. The Americans saw these newcomers as an added threat to an already unstable economy, and they would have nothing of them.

Finally, the image may be alluding to America’s disinterest in WW2 before the events of Pearl Harbor. Apart from the government’s financial backing of Great Britain, Americans for the most part would have nothing to do with the war, a conflict taking place far overseas, and having no direct effect on the homeland, harkening back to the “But those were Foreign Children and it didn’t really matter” comment.

17 thoughts on “Adolf the Wolf: Analyzing the Dr. Seuss Political Cartoon”

  1. I agree with you that this image portrays the idea that most Americans were disinterested with being involved with WW2. However, it does appears as if the “American Fist” adult is trying to scare the two children who could represent the American people as if the military wanted to dehumanize the Fascists so that they would have the support of the population and could go to war.

    1. Nope. it is well known that The US and other countries did not step up to take in Jewish refugees when they had the chance. It was pretty unfathamable that the Halocaust would happen but that is the point of making the comparison now. The belief that some people do not need what we have is an error in judgement.

  2. I really like how you broke this image down and found out all the hidden messages from Dr. Seuss. At first glance, I would not have took as much away from it as you did. I agree with you completely on the meanings of the picture and I like how you used historical context to really know what Dr. Seuss was thinking. I think that Dr. Seuss is really criticizing America here and their indifference to the vulnerable European nations and their “foreign children” that have come to America.

  3. This image contains a large amount of messages that relate to World War II and the American war involvement. I really enjoy political cartoons, and this one makes several points that are amusing and can be readily observed.

  4. I agree with Charlie in regards with the cartoon. I did some additional research and it turns out this cartoon was made sometime during America’s participation in the war, as Seuss did not begin political-cartooning until we joined. With that in mind, it seems more reasonable to me that this is more of a commentary on how America is getting people behind the war effort through demonizing the enemy. Something else to note is the facial expressions on the children, they are shocked by the story, and would probably be more likely to back America’s involvement as a result.

  5. I think you did a great job of explaining the meaning behind the political cartoon, which seems out of the ordinary for Dr. Seuss in the first place due to his reputation as a child oriented author. In addition to your analysis, I want to say something about the kids resting on the arms of the chair. The mother (or teacher, etc.) is shown as indifferent and almost casual about the story she is reading to the children. She seems to have become numb or careless towards anything that happens outside of the States, almost as if that’s how Americans were conditioned to be at this point in our history. The kids, on the other hand, are shocked and almost scared of how the story is told because of the lack of morals and feelings from Adolf the Wolf. This made me think about how kids are born and raised, and how they are usually grown into somewhat of a representation of the adults in their lives. Kids seem to naturally be born with a sense of rights and wrongs and are generally raised knowing how people should be treated. They see how awful the Wolf is being and are probably thinking that they should try and save the foreign children not because they know them personally, but because they feel like it would be the right thing to do. The adult seems to feel the opposite, that there is nothing wrong about what Adolf the Wolf is doing.

  6. After I read your writing, I again realized how visualization can be used sneakily to convey certain ideas. The way you broke down the image into all those meanings are amazing. I guess such sarcastic cartoons are giving their full potentials especially when they are used in politics.

  7. This message is eerily similar to the Alt Right and Trumps message today. Except now they are spreading fear of the Muslim people and the Hispanic people. The people that want to “make America great again” are the same people that chant “America First”.

  8. Who would have thought that we haven’t learned that lesson yet.
    But there are some that say the Holocaust never happened.
    Evil is real. And abroad again in our land.

  9. After reading this I was quite horrified that America didn’t do anything to help. The cartoon really shows how many of us turn a blind eye to those in need. In the line “don’t worry they were foreign children” quite portrays the holocaust with America’s relationship well.

  10. Dr. Seuss is able to show the way America acted during Europe’s time of crisis. His cartoons revealed the way we turned a blind eye to what was happening and let millions on millions of people die brutal and unfair deaths.

  11. I agree with both Grace and StacyI believe that Dr. Seuss did convey ideas that tied well to the holocaust. The America first shirt and the ‘Its okay they are foreign children” convey the fact that Hitler was not concerned for the Jews.

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