A Visual Analysis of a World War II Poster.

Essay by billzfan11College, Undergraduate October 2005

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"Keep this Horror from Your Home," an American propaganda poster produced during World War II, uses many visual and textual elements to encourage Americans to buy war bonds by portraying the Japanese as rapists. The author of the piece is unknown, but it is obvious that the creator of the poster carefully chooses the color, patterns, scale, text, and representation of the piece to send a very strong social and political message. There is little doubt that the underlying message was directed towards all Americans during World War II, and not towards a single community or group of people. The viewer does not need an art background or even the slightest political awareness to understand the meaning of the poster. Rather, the poster is simple and straightforward. The central focus of the poster is on the Japanese man, whose facial features are clearly exaggerated to instill fear and disgust in the eyes of the viewer.

In contrast, the frightened and vulnerable expression of the American woman, who is helpless in the grasp of the Japanese soldier, fuels the viewer's hatred for the Japanese even more. Its message is palpable to the extent of the quickest glance, yet there is more evidence hidden beyond the surface of the poster. Its full visual potential can be realized only after analyzing the various visual and textual elements in exacting detail.

After examining and exploring the poster in depth, it becomes apparent that the color scheme plays an important role in assigning the role of the victim and of the enemy. The Japanese soldier has very dark skin whereas the American girl being threatened and possibly raped has fair skin. The dark versus light contrast always seems to symbolize the struggle between evil and good. The technique in which the creator of the poster...