Visual rhetoric is the use of images in order to further an argument, and encompasses the analysis of the visual images and text as well as their arrangement on a page. (www.owl.english.purdue.edu). Through the nature and form of the visual images as well as the corresponding text that is used, the two images which are the subject of this essay, both convey differing, contradictory messages on the same issue of gun control.
The first image is a black and white cartoon image. Editorial cartoons are communicative tools because the cartoonist makes use of visual symbols for the purpose of communicating with his or her audience. In order to be classified as a visual rhetoric, an artifact must possess three elements (a) it must be symbolic (b) it must involve human interaction and (c) it must be presented to an audience for the purpose of communicating. (Foss, 2004: 304). Both the images qualify as visual rhetoric because they are utilized to symbolically convey a message on gun control and both images involve human characters.
The first image is entirely in black and white and utilizes black text on a white background which shows high contrast levels. Since this image is purely in black and white, it utilizes shading in order to heighten contrasts. Lines are clean and simple and the drawing creates the effects of light and shadow through strategic shading. The image utilizes approximate symmetry, whereby the figures are organized around the central fulcrum point on the street, with the family arranged on one side and the odd looking man on the other.
The element of stunned surprise and shock of the family of four at the sight of the man with the gun is conveyed through the backward slanting lines that are used. The larger size of the odd looking man is counterbalanced by the varying sizes of the family. The picture maintains an overall balance with the houses and playground in the background appearing smaller, thereby conveying the impression of distance. The use of dots and shading on the gun toting individual highlights the impression of general scruffiness, while the clean faces of the family suggest their contrasting nature.
The text size is proportionate to the other figures in the image, and has been capitalized in order to make it more distinct and readable in black against a white background. The focal point of the image is the family of six and the odd looking man, however the greater amount of space devoted to the gun toting character suggests the relative importance of this character as the focal point to the whole image.
In the second image however, it is color rather than shading that provides elements of contrast. The figure in the image stands out in stark contrast to the pitch black border, which also forms the backdrop for the text. The use of white text on a black background is however, not ideal. This image is focused almost exclusively around the gun, especially by pushing it directly into the foreground and lighting the area around it.
The background is notably stripped of any distracting elements and is a plain gray background. The picture has been taken in such a manner that it is designed to draw attention to the gun, which is the subject of the message. The man's hand that is holding the gun is disproportionately large as