'Taken over' - Cartoon Interpretation
Cartoon by John Frith published in the Bulletin,
8 October 1941
(courtesy Frith family)
Click on the cartoon below to see a larger image.
Before you try the guided interpretation activities, here's some useful
contextual information that will help you understand the political situation
in Australia leading up to late 1941 when Curtin became prime minister.
There's also some background about the cartoonist and the newspaper that
carried the cartoon.
- At the outbreak of war in 1939 Robert Menzies was Prime
Minister. He led the United Australia Party (UAP) which was in coalition
with Arthur Fadden’s Country Party.
- The 1940 election results left the Coalition with slightly
lowered numbers in the House of Representatives (coalition – 36
seats, Australian Labor Party (ALP ) – 36 seats). The balance
of power in the 74 seat House was held by two independents who chose
to vote with the coalition.
- Menzies put pressure on Curtin to form a ‘national
government’. Curtin resisted believing that a strong opposition
was important in war time but suggested an Advisory War Council with
equal government and non-government members, to which Menzies agreed.
- Menzies leadership of the UAP was called into question
in 1941. He resigned and the coalition leadership passed to Arthur Fadden.
- Fadden’s government was short lived. When the
new budget was introduced the Opposition attacked it and when it came
to a vote, the 2 independents threw in their lot with Labor, thus removing
the coalition from office.
- On October 7th, 1941 John Curtin became Prime
Minister of Australia.
The newspaper: The Bulletin
described itself in the 1940s as 'The national Australian newspaper' with
the rider 'Australia for the white man'. It was generally pro-private
enterprise and anti-union. In the war years it was particularly supportive
of the Australian fighting male, including a lot of humour about Aussi
soldiers and the Australian way of life in its articles and cartoons.
Born London, c1906, died Melbourne, Victoria, 2000
John Frith came to Australia in the midst of the Depression years. He
drew cartoons for the Bulletin (c1929–44),
becoming principal caricaturist and co-art editor with Ted Scorfield.
In 1944, the Sydney Morning Herald decided
to feature a daily cartoon and Frith took on the job, working with the
paper until 1950. In 1950 Keith Murdoch invited Frith to join the Melbourne
Herald where he worked for the next 18 years.
He retired in 1969 but continued to draw cartoons and produce other works
right up until his death in 2000. His cartoons are powerful, witty and
insightful. He was also a skilled caricaturist, a sculptor and a colourful
Information from obituary of John Frith by Ned
Wallish in the Age, 7 November 2000.
Interpretation Activity 1
||words on the building - 'Australia & Co.'
||the welcome mat
- What sort of building is depicted in the
- Why is there a welcome mat outside?
- To what does ‘Australia & Co’
Interpretation Activity 2
||the names written immediately
above the doorway
'Prop: R . G. Menzies
A. Fadden (call me Artie)
- Who is the new proprietor of Australia &
- Why are the first two names above the door
crossed out? Hint
Interpretation Activity 3
||the figure on the right
- Who does this figure represent? Answer
- How is this character depicted? Hint
- How does the cartoonist show that the new
proprietor is really getiing down to business? Hint
Interpretation Activity 4
||the two figures in the doorway
- Who might these figures represent? Hint
- What are they doing? Hint
Interpretation Activity 5
||the words 'Under new management'
and 'Business better than usual'
- Who do you think has put these words on the
shop window and why? Hint
- What do the words and the way the proprietor
is drawn tell you about how the cartoonist views the new prime minister?
Interpretation Activity 6
||the caption 'Taken Over'
- What does the caption mean? Hint
- What makes this cartoon funny? Hint