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American Progress by John Gast (1872)

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Allison Song

on 25 January 2014

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Transcript of American Progress by John Gast (1872)

American Progress by John Gast (1872)
The painting was created in 1872, during which manifest destiny was a prevalent belief in the United States. The title, "American Progress," reflects the idea of manifest destiny, the development and civilization of the American west.
Subject

The goddess is seen bringing light to the west, which symbolizes the spread of civilization in the frontiers of the west.

The painter contrasts the appearances of the people beneath. Those behind the goddess, the people of the developed side, are dressed in white, walking along a carriage on a well cared for road. The people ahead, the people of the parts yet to be developed, are seen running with a spear, not dressed properly, and running along horses.

The images that hint civilization of the east are significant. Telephone poles, well-built houses, carriages, railroads, and ships in the far distance symbolize the different stages of the transportation revolution and suggest a more comfortable, luxurious lifestyle than that of the west.
Contents
The emphasis and focus of the painting is on the goddess, and the rest of the work serve to support the main concept of manifest destiny. This emphasis on the goddess, who symbolizes the beneficial impacts of manifest destiny, reflects the painter's positive attitude towards his subject. The goddess is also dressed in luminous white, a color that suggests purity, goodness, and progress.
The places and environments of the two different sides also contribute to the contrasting moods. The west is depicted as wild with strong rivers and uncontrolled grasses and while the east is depicted as settled and civilized.
Attitudes
The Native Americans of the West seem to be running away from something. It is unclear whether they are running away from Americans' westward expansion or from an unknown danger. This conflict symbolizes the constant fear and the struggle for survival in the west.
Narrative
The plowing of the field symbolizes the agricultural revolution which significantly expanded the food supply and enabled the citizens to enjoy more pleasant lives. Furthermore, the trains and the railroads represent the Railroad revolution, which allowed for better transportation systems, communication systems, and a more elevated standard of living.
The painter also contrasts the lighting. The developed side is bright, symbolizing the happiness and prosperity civilization brings, and the undeveloped side is dark, suggesting the gloom and hardships of "barbaric" lifestyles.
Symbolism
The artist's purpose in creating this piece was to advocate for and illustrate the goodness of westward expansion. This piece enhances the prevalent support for manifest destiny in the nation at the time. The artist strongly believes in the goodness of his subject, westward expansion.
Conclusion
Visual Rhetoric

American Red Cross Poster
Subject
The subject of the poster is American Red Cross's recruitment for volunteers.
Contents
The poster depicts a nurse with a red cross bandage on her arm. She has her arms open, which symbolize the organization's welcoming attitude towards volunteers and its urgent need for volunteers.

Furthermore, the nurse has a solemn expression, which symbolizes the seriousness of the situation.

Moreover, at the top of the poster, 'HELP' is written in bold capital letters. The use of strong emphasis on the word help creates a sense of urgency that attracts attention.
Attitudes
The emphasis on the color red is significant because red is a strong color. The color suggests blood, fire, urgency, and danger.

The background is painted in a dull color, which suggests barren and dry landscapes, adding to the devastated atmosphere of the work.
Narrative
The tanks and tents in the background symbolize an ongoing war. This conflict intensifies the urgency, which calls for the audience's help.
Symbolism
The most significant symbol on the poster is the cross. The red cross on the bandage on the nurse's arm, on the war tank, on the flag among tents, and the medical vehicle all symbolize the American Red Cross organization and its beliefs. They symbolize their purpose to alleviate suffering and make a positive impact on the world.
Conclusion
The poster was created to inspire people to join in the American Red Cross's efforts in helping the wounded either directly or indirectly.
The artist expresses the heroism of the organization and is a strong advocate of the beliefs the organization stands for and the works it accomplishes.
Subject
This political cartoon deals with imperialism. It was published in 1907, during an era of American imperialism over Central American countries, such as Honduras and Nicaragua as depicted in the cartoon.
Contents
Uncle Sam is portrayed as a threatening figure with a huge stature and hostile expression. He is seen pointing his finger at the Central Americans, telling them not to step on his feet. He refers to them as "boys," which indicates a sense of superiority over them.
The title adds to the threatening atmosphere of the work. The piece is titled, "A Hint," which implies that there will be unstated punishments if the Central American countries do not take America's
"hint" and obey its orders.
Attitudes
The exaggeration of the difference in sizes between Uncle Sam and the Central Americans symbolize the extreme disparities in economic, military, and political powers between them.
The depiction of Uncle Sam as oppressing, threatening, and evil criticizes America's imperialism over these countries and its treatment of these countries. The words, "Don't step on my feet, boys," suggests that the United States was only interfering in these countries not to save them from economic and political failures but only for its own interests and agendas.

Narrative
The Central Americans seem to be quarreling between themselves. This argument symbolizes the internal struggles within Central America during the period. The quarrel intensifies the conflicting mood of the cartoon.
Symbolism
The Central Americans are depicted similar to African Americans. They are drawn to have very dark skin and exaggerated features. This symbolizes the link between American imperialism and European imperialism over African countries. European imperialists were known to have been harsh conquerors, defeating native wills and carrying on their agendas regardless of the conquered nations' opinions. The symbol points to the disturbing similarities that are beginning to develop between American imperialism and European imperialism.
Conclusion
The artist's purpose in publishing this political cartoon was to reflect some of the prevalent beliefs of the time and to convey his personal beliefs against American imperialism. He criticizes the methods of imperialism and the treatments of the Central American countries as bothersome children.
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