Symbolism In Uncle Sam's Thanksgiving Dinner

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Over the course of history, the way America perceives immigration has changed significantly. The immigration of non-white peoples during the late 1800s became a significant part of American history. People came from various parts of the world came to find better jobs to support their family. The cartoon “Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving Dinner”, originally by Thomas Nast in 1869 and later parodied by G.F. Keller in 1877, depicts a meal shared between the different races of America. Both cartoons utilize symbolism to convey very opposing perspectives regarding immigration during the late 1800s. Not only do they elaborate on immigration issues, but they also address the separation of race and culture during that time. The original cartoon by Nast shows…show more content…
He also uses symbolism, but instead, he conveys a vastly different perspective. While the table still represents diversity, the food served at this meal and the fashion in which it is served shows the reality of social classes and stereotypes. As seen in the cartoon, the Chinese man, distinguishable by his queue, seems to be eating a rat while his neighbors stare in disgust. Rats are creatures associated with filth, poverty, and disease, and by directly associating the rat with the Chinese man, these implications are carried over. Keller also illustrates a Native American at the table, but he is literally squatting on a box while others occupy a chair. The cartoon illustrated a more accurate picture of what was actually going on in the United States. During the 1870s and 1880s, white people looked down on every other race. No matter how educated or diligent a person might be,…show more content…
One of the ways in which this can be seen is through Uncle Sam, who is a prominent figure in both cartoons. Nast’s portrayal of Uncle Sam seems to be very humble and kind. His humility is shown through his actions as he serves the people at the table. However, Keller’s version of Uncle Sam seems superior and self-centered. Where as Nast’s comic shows him serving others, Keller’s shows him waiting to be catered to by the black servant, thus proving his superiority. Another difference can be seen in the guests present; while Nast includes men, women, and children, Keller only shows men at the table with one woman who is standing by the kitchen. Furthermore, Nast utilizes a round table to avoid hierarchy, and thus promotes equality of race and status. Uncle Sam is seated at the head of the table in Keller’s parody, thus degrading everyone else present. Also, towards the back, you can see people who seem to be of Asian descent in the doorway. They are standing, watching, and trying to get into the room to eat; however, they seem to be blocked by a white man in the doorway. It’s interesting to see how those in the doorway are not allowed in, even though one can clearly see an open seat on the bottom left hand corner of the picture. Even then, those allowed to dine are not allowed to enjoy the meal equally as in the case of the black servant and the Native

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