Students will

  • Interpret political cartoons and place them in the context of the Vietnam War.
  • Identify the techniques used by cartoonists to express political opinion.
  • Explore viewpoints on the Vietnam War.


Vietnam War: Political Cartoon Analysis

Online Resource

PowerPoint of cartoon images

In the Classroom

1. Analyzing Political Cartoons

Form groups of three to four students. Distribute the handout “Vietnam War: Political Cartoon Analysis.” Tell students that they are going to analyze a series of political cartoons representing different U.S. perspectives on the Vietnam War. (Note: The cartoons do not present a comprehensive spectrum of views on the Vietnam War, and you might want to share this point with students.)

Review the introduction of the handout with the class, emphasizing the techniques cartoonists use to convey an opinion on political issues. Tell students that it is not only the message of these cartoons that is important, but also how that message is conveyed.

Assign each group one cartoon to analyze. (You may choose to have groups analyze more than one cartoon.) Have students discuss the cartoon and then answer the questions provided. Inform students that they will be presenting their work to the class.

2. Drawing Connections

Have each group present their political cartoon. Since you might have multiple groups analyzing the same cartoon, you may wish to have them present together or on different questions from the activity.

In each cartoon, what was the cartoonist’s message? How did the cartoonist express this message? Ask students to point out the different techniques used and their significance. Why do students think the cartoonist chose these particular techniques? How did the techniques used affect the message? What information about U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War do these different cartoons convey? Do the cartoons represent different points of view? Do any present similar points of view? Can students identify the values represented in each cartoon’s message?

3. Gauging Public Opinion

Now ask students about the context in which the cartoons were created. When were the cartoons published? What key events in the Vietnam War took place during these years? Ask students to imagine how the American public might have reacted to the political cartoons when they were featured in U.S. newspapers. What types of newspapers might have published these cartoons? Why? If the cartoons stirred controversy and debate, how might the editors of the newspapers responded to either public support or outrage? Last, ask students about the value of these political cartoons. What are these political cartoons able to convey about the Vietnam War-era to a contemporary audience? Are there any limitations?

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