Composition/Analysing a cartoon
Choose one of the following topics. Write about 200 to 250 words.
- Growing migration to urban areas in the 21st century: discuss the implications for rural communities.
- “The impersonal hand of government can never replace the helping hand of a neighbor” (Hubert H. Humphrey, 1911-1978; US politician). Comment on this statement.
- A turning point in a person’s life: write a review for an English edition of your school magazine, describing a turning point in a literary work by an English-speaking author and how it affects a character’s life.
- Describe, interpret and comment on the following cartoon.
(From: Geoff Tibballs, The Mammoth Book of the Funniest Cartoons of All Times, London 2006)
The 21st century has been and still is an age in which migration to urban areas has changed the face of the earth. Life in and around the cities attracts people with promises of work, a good infrastructure, entertainment, (higher) education and thus an overall increase in the living standard and the quality of life.
This has had dire consequences for rural communities: It is especially the young and able or young families who look for chances to have a broader access to schools, universities and jobs that are not a necessary part of community life. Aspirations to continue farming, work as a sales clerk or do hard manual work have declined decidedly. This leads to a superannuation of the population in many districts.
The consequences of this include a loss of traditional shops, companies or crafts which will not be continued by the next generation. But it also has a dire impact on the cultural life in rural communities. With no young left to keep traditions, like festivals, song, dance, stories et cetera alive, communities are suffering a severe cultural loss and even a loss of identity. Because it has been one distinguishing marker of the small communities, that proximity and identification contribute to a close-knit society, and it would be a pity if this was lost.
“The impersonal hand of government can never replace the helping hand of a neighbor” (Hubert H. Humphrey, 1911-1978; US politician).
This statement is put forward in a way that its truthfulness cannot be denied. But the reason for this is that government and neighbourly help operate on two very different levels.
It is the government’s first and foremost task to serve the people. This means that all its efforts should be directed toward consolidating the good that has already been achieved (like equal rights for men and women), and working on those conditions that still need improvement (for example equal pay for men and women). This is administrative work that is essential for the welfare of a state. The ideology behind this work is that of mutual respect and support, of a humanitarian school of thought.
And this is what neighbourly help is all about. It is support on a personal level. You are surrounded by people you know, people who care about you and who can and will lend a helping hand, if necessary.
This direct human contact and support cannot be provided by any institution. Thus the statement rings true. But a functioning state needs both: a close-knit community and a government which concerns itself with the problems and needs of the people, as the one cannot work properly without the other.
A turning point in a person’s life.
Almost everybody experiences the moment when a single bit of knowledge changes them and the way they perceive the world or themselves. It is a point of no return, something you cannot always pinpoint at that precise moment, but in retrospect. Growing up often consists of several such moments, and authors have made use of their dramaturgical effects for a long time.
One of my favourite examples is Will in Nick Hornby’s “About a boy”. Will is a middle-aged man who refuses to grow up, i.e. to commit himself to serious relationships and to take responsibility for his actions. A perchance encounter with Marcus, a much-too-grown-up boy, results in both forming a bond and profiting from the proximity of the other. As a result, Will has to face Marcus’ mother Fiona, who is suffering from depression. And despite his innate wish to keep as much distance from her as possible, he ends up eating pizza with her when Marcus is allegedly visiting his father. And in the course of the conversation they are having, he finds out that he is actually interested in her emotions, and that he cannot completely distance himself anymore from other people. This is the moment when he starts developing and recognizing his real affection for Marcus. He realizes that life is “like air”, and that one cannot keep it out forever, one has to live it and breathe it.
To me, this shows very pointedly the fact that life is ever-evolving and ever-changing, and that it sometimes takes a single moment in which you have a glimpse at what it means to grow up and assume your responsibilities.
The cartoon is taken from Geoff Tibballs’ “The Mammoth Book of the Funniest Cartoons of All Times”, which was published in London in 2006. It depicts a rural scenery with a slightly hilly landscape. In the foreground, dominating the right half of the cartoon, there is a cottage which is half visible. It is surrounded by a stone wall, and possesses a little garden up front. In this garden, there is a man and a woman. The woman is faceing the man, and her facial expression shows discontentment or maybe discomfort as the corners of her mouth are pointing down and her eyes appear to be wide open. The man is depicted from the side, looking through binoculars as he faces another cottage which is situated in the background of the cartoon on the left side. There is a truck, presumably a moving truck, parked to the right of this cottage.
The caption of the cartoon says: “Oh my God! The new neighbours, they’ve got a telescope!” This statement can be attributed to the man looking through the binoculars, and thus the punch line is established. It is clearly an allusion to the biblical saying that one should not concentrate on the speck of dust in one’s brother’s eye when there is a plank in one’s own eye. In a more modern context, this can be interpreted in many different ways:
It can be seen as a critical comment on the lack of social contact or skills in modern society, where direct interaction with other people does not take place anymore, and is instead replaced by virtual contact. In this case, the binoculars represent modern media.
At the same time it might be an allusion to the hypocrisy of people who are always quick to judge others for an alleged behavior that they are guilty of themselves.