Global Issue: Revised

 I have selected Politics, Power and Justice as my broad global issue. More specifically, the issue of socioeconomic classes and their wealth. I have narrowed it down further to Poverty’s Impact on Education.


All around the world, children are unable of attending school due to the lack of funds or because help is needed at home. Due to their circumstances, they aren’t able to gain exposure as a learned individual would. Automatically, there are fewer opportunities available to them.

This political cartoon titled “Elephant in the Room” is published in Auckland, New Zealand by a cartoonist named Chris Slane. The publishing date is not recorded on his website or on the cartoon. Slane, the speaker, is a freelance cartoonist that specializes in cartoons about privacy, security and information. His work slogan on his website is “licensing funny images to information specialists.” Thus, the audience could be corporations that wish to buy Slane’s cartoons or the readers of the New Zealand Listener, in which he publishes often. The New Zealand Listener, a current affairs magazine, is a compelling, accurate read “that is not afraid to rattle cages but is a positive, energizing force” and this fits with the humorous but serious style prevalent in his cartoons.

It can be inferred that the intended audience is open-minded folk who wish to understand the world through a critical and accurate lens.  The genre is a political cartoon that is colorful but carries the burden of a serious message — as all of Slane’s work does. The purpose of this political cartoon is to raise awareness and to promote discussion on the topic of the effects of poverty on children. He makes his purpose clear by characterizing poverty as the elephant in the room, indicating that poverty is the obvious and difficult situation that people do not want to talk about but should discuss. The cartoon doesn’t refer to a specific place or period in which children are unable to receive proper education, meaning that there isn’t specific context that is needed to understand the issue. However, the cartoon appears to depict an early school setting. Thus, the cartoon specifically comments on socioeconomic class pressure obstructing elementary students from a solid education.

The political cartoon titled “Elephant in the Room” by cartoonist Chris Slane strives to inform and promote discussion on poverty’s effect on education by employing techniques such as symbolism, hyperbole and imagery. 

The lone speech bubble in the cartoon states “Please, Miss, there is something in the way.” The author has made an analogy in this statement, as he claims that poverty and elephants are similar as they are large, foreboding and are in the way. It is clear through the large label of ‘poverty’ on the elephant that the elephant symbolizes poverty. Furthermore, additional features on the caricature of the elephant are exaggerated to deepen the similarity between the elephant and poverty.

The author mainly hyperbolizes the elephant’s dirtiness and age. The elephant has dirty feet, holes in his ears, wrinkles and stains on his fading grey skin, and a sullen dreary look on his face. All of which resemble or connote the mood and circumstances people in poverty. The colors of the people seem to become less bright as we inspect the children that are under the elephant. Their books and papers also look rumpled. This also symbolizes the lack of resources that poverty-ridden students have to complete schoolwork.

Additionally, the cartoonist uses various techniques of imagery to illustrate further the effects of poverty on children. The cartoonist uses space to indicate relationships between the people present in the cartoon. The large gap between the teacher and the student represents the chasm of poverty that students will have to cross somehow to get out of their situation. The teacher becomes salvation, and the space in between is the large obstacle of poverty. Sometimes, students who are poor are placed into a low academic track because of the facilitator’s initial assumptions or their inclination to sweep poverty under the rug instead of helping the students grow. This is mostly due to the teachers not knowing how to help. The body language of the teacher in the cartoon denotes this shock and she is at a loss for what to do.

It is interesting to observe the author’s stylistic choice to have a girl hold the elephant’s tail. Elephants hold each other’s tails to provide comfort to each other. They also hold each other’s tails when moving in a pack to be safe. This could mean that people in poverty deeply understand each other’s situation and try to comfort each other.

Ultimately, the author’s uses the cliché idiom of the ‘elephant in the room’ and various cartooning techniques such as hyperbole and symbolism to strengthen his argument to convey a clear message to a thoughtful, fair audience that poverty’s effect on education should be discussed more and done something about.

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