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The Influence of Emotionally Charged WWII Propaganda

This post was created to share an essay assignment that I completed during my sophmore year at Mountain State University. This post includes the assignment details, as well as my assignment submission. I have entitled this post “The Influence of Emotionally Charged WWII Propaganda” as this is the title of my essay.

I am a computer science major who takes takes pride in the fact that my GPA is exceptional, with little effort, in the required general course studies.

The Influence of Emotionally Charged WWII Propaganda

English Composition II – Essay 2 Assignment

Essay 2
Our second essay will create an argument about the nature and purpose of World War II propaganda posters used in the US prior to and during US involvement in the war. The essay we write will actually include the posters as evidence for the argument. This assignment is intended as our “easy” essay assignment. I say this for a few different reasons.

First, the argument that I want you to formulate here should only do two things: identify what each selected poster was trying to motivate Americans to think or do, and then analyze the emotional appeals (propaganda) being exerted in each selected poster. As to the first thing, this is really easy, because the posters typically say right on them what they want you to do or believe: enlist in the armed services, work harder at your job for the war effort, conserve materials, get a job, buy war bonds, and so on. As to the second thing, identifying the emotional persuasion in each poster (that’s what ‘propaganda” is), this is also pretty easy to do because only a few basic emotions are typically played on in these posters: fear, guilt, anger, pride, patriotism, and so on. Once you start looking at the posters you’ll easily recognize both of these things.

Second, there are really only two basic ways to organize an essay of this sort, given the two things mentioned above as our objectives. You can choose either of these organizational strategies, and either one works out just fine. Because the objectives are two-fold, then you can organize an essay around either what sorts of purposes the posters had, or what sorts of emotional appeals they made. Paragraphs will begin then with claims about one or the other, even though both goals will be addressed in each paragraph. So, consider the two paragraphs shown below: Thesis: During World War II, the US government employed numerous propaganda posters to motivate Americans about a variety of war-related issues. These posters played on basic human emotions as the primary means of motivating US citizens.

Paragraph focusing on what the posters tried to motivate Americans to think or do:
Many posters encouraged Americans to buy war bonds as a means of directly and economically supporting the war effort. This was necessary because there was no strong tax base at that time, and America was not financially ready to fight a war. A great many of these posters used fear as an emotional motivator. For example, Figure 1 shows a scene with three small children in it, anxiously looking away from their play as a Nazi Swastika overlays the ground. The poster reads “Don’t Let That Shadow Touch Them! Buy War Bonds!” Clearly the use of children in the poster and their looks of anxiety are meant to play on the audience’s fear for their children’s safety and well-being. Still other posters (see Figure 2) used fear for the same purpose by showing a threatening image of Hitler creeping toward America, warning us that “Our Homes Are In Danger Now!”, and thus the only way to prevent such a threat was to buy war bonds. Not all posters that attempted to persuade Americans to buy war bonds used fear as a motivator. Some, like Figure 3, used patriotic images to inspire citizens to go out and do their duty buy buying war bonds. In this poster, we see a happy, satisfied man returning from the bank after having purchased a war bond. The poster says “Even Though He’s Not on the Front Lines, He’s Fighting This War!”, telling people that they could still be an active part of the war effort even if they weren’t in the armed forces. Here, the image of the satisfied man further suggests that he is able to maintain his manly pride through buying a war bond, even though he’s not fighting directly.

Paragraph focusing on the emotional appeals the posters used:
Many posters used during the war tried to motivate Americans to participate in the war effort in one way or another by making them feel guilty. Guilt was a common feature of many of these posters, regardless of what they were trying to get people to think or do. In one famous poster (see Figure 1) we’re shown an image of a man driving his car, and seated in the passenger seat is a ghostly image of Hitler. The poster reads “When you ride alone, you ride with Hitler,” clearly playing on feelings of guilt for wasting precious fuel that might have been used for the war effort. In yet another poster (see Figure 2), we’re shown a young woman who is holding a letter that is obviously from a loved one who is fighting overseas. She is looking anxiously into the distance, obviously very much missing her man. The poster reads “Longing won’t bring him back sooner. Get a war job!” While the purpose of this poster was to motivate women to become involved in the war time labor force, clearly the emotional appeal here is one of guilt, informing women that if they’re just sitting around at home, they’re not helping to bring their loved ones safely home again.

So, as you see, one paragraph focuses on what the purpose of these posters were about, while the other paragraph focuses on a particular emotional appeal and provides various examples of it. Either strategy works, and each paragraph accomplishes the two stated goals: identifying the purposes of the posters, and analyzing the emotional appeals (propaganda) in them. When it comes time to put together an outline, maybe come back and review the examples here for a bit of direction. Good luck with this second essay everyone.

Requirements: Use three research sources OTHER THAN the poster sites. 3-5 pages, typed double-spaced. Correct APA textual citations and References.


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