By: Hannah Cho ‘07
Theodor Seuss Geisel, or the beloved Dr. Seuss, not only wrote children’s
books about One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, but also illustrated
political cartoons on topics ranging from tax exemptions to racism.
One of his most controversial cartoons, however, was a caricature of
a Japanese man next to Hitler, published in the newspaper “PM” on
March 5, 1942.
The Japanese man in this cartoon is portrayed with a pig snout, a
mustache similar to Hitler’s mustache, buck teeth, glasses, and squinted eyes.
Having just come off of World War I, the American people’s disgust and
hatred of Hitler were used as fuel in this cartoon to transfer the detest of
Hitler to the Japanese people, represented by Emperor Hirohito in this caricature.
The depiction of Emperor Hirohito as the “typical” Japanese man
also causes the Japanese to lose their identity as individuals and to instead
be seen as a collective group of enemies.
The Japanese man portrayed in this political cartoon, also by Dr. Seuss,
has the same characteristics of a pig-nose, glasses, slanted eyes,
etc. that were
used to distinguish Emperor Hirohito. The repetition of these characteristics
on all Japanese portrayed in Dr. Seuss’s cartoons also fuels the loss
of the individuality of the Japanese people. In the cartoon above, Dr. Seuss
goes as far as to use the caption “Wipe That Sneer Off His Face” to
call upon the characteristic “sneer” he uses in his caricatures
of the Japanese. It calls Americans to act against the sneer, to “wipe
it off” the Japanese man’s face by buying war bonds.
These portrayals of the Japanese as all the same and just members in a group
or bees in a colony promote the dehumanization of the Japanese. Rather than
in World War I where the Germans were seen as innocent, but lead by an evil
ruler, Hitler, the Japanese were all equally seen as evil, from the common
citizen to the emperor. The distinguishing characteristics were also seen in
Japanese-Americans, which caused the hatred and racism to extend from the Japanese
to the Japanese-Americans. Attitudes such as these that classified all Japanese
as the enemy allowed internment camps to be used and accepted by Americans,
although just recently the American people had learned of the inhumane concentration
camp the Nazi regime had used.
Even though the idea of classifying the Japanese as non-distinguishable members
of a group did not stem from Dr. Seuss’s cartoons, Dr. Seuss did exacerbate
the dehumanization of Japanese through his political cartoons. He spread the
racism already present against the Japanese in his illustrations, while he
also attempted to raise awareness and stop the prejudice against the Jewish
people and black racism. Although Dartmouth College may theme its winter carnivals
on Dr. Seuss’s books and celebrate the fact that Dr. Seuss was a former
student, less than the majority of the college students know of the racist
cartoons Dr. Seuss illustrated, the dark side of Dr. Seuss.
“The Political Dr. Seuss.” Springfield Library and Museums
Minear, Richard H. “A Political Catalog of Cartoons by Dr. Seuss.” <http://orpheus-