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The Challenge: Symbolism and Irony

The GED Social Studies Test requires that students interpret editorial cartoons.

Encourage students to identify anything they know about the literal facts and the historical or social context of an editorial cartoon. Their next task is to figure out what comment the cartoonist is making, through irony and symbolism, about the situation.

Remind students that irony is often expressed by an exaggerated opposite of what is meant. For example, a caricature of a famous person might symbolically exaggerate his or her glorious, friendly smile—and the cartoonist may in fact be suggesting that the person’s friendly smile is completely phony.