The Importance of Caricatures in History and Society

by Youssef El Ganaini | May 9, 2017

At first sight, caricatures might seem like just a little child drawing some weird cartoons and coloring them.

But it’s not like that. At all!

Caricatures are – simply defined – cartoonish-like drawings that are shown exaggeratedly to convey a message, usually a political one.  The creative thing in caricatures is that these artists don’t just draw something cute. They want the viewer to think, to evolve, to get inspired and to change. Usually, they show flaws in society, and they have been used a lot during the French Revolution. (oh and by the way, you don’t have to be a history guru to read this, just saying). The politics part is not what interests me, but what I am going to talk about is the artistic and symbolic part, and for that I’m going to take a caricature out of the French Revolution from an unknown artist.


The caricature’s name is “a faut espérer q’eu jeu la finira ben tot” which translates to “Hopefully the end is near”. The title itself tells us a lot about how the artist was feeling at the time he drew this.

This caricatures is from 1789 (which is the year of the French Revolution). At the time, France was going through some deep problems, and tension was at its peak. The French Society was a huge problem, as the poor people, which represented 98% of the people, weren’t getting their rights as the privileged 2% were. These 2% represented the Clerics and the rich guys.

Obviously, the artist was on the people’s side. He used an extremely creative way indeed, as he symbolized the society through three people: A really old poor guy, who is probably an ill farmer, a cleric and a rich guy. He showed us an old poor farmer, who is working day and night for the rich people. We get that through the axe he’s holding and that he’s lifting both classes: the clerics and rich guys. Also, he’s wearing dirty clothes, which proves this even more. As for the cleric, he’s wearing a cross and Christian Clothes. The fact that he’s sitting on the poor guy’s back conveys the message that he rules him, he tells what’s right and what’s wrong. The rich guy, who’s also wearing clean clothes, and him  are just hurting him.

But why is this caricature so important? If this artist drew the caricature a year later after the French Revolution, would it still be so important? No, because it would lose its prominence. He used an extremely smart period. The artist wanted to inspire people. He wants to tell them,”we’re not slaves, we don’t deserve to be tortured.” He could’ve just drawn a painting of a cleric shouting at a poor guy. But he didn’t, because he wanted to symbolize the people as the rightful, and the clerics and the rich guys as the wrongful. This way, he used the power of art to make his caricature speak for the people. “A picture is worth a thousand words” is just the best way to describe how important caricatures are, because they’re worth even more than a thousand words.

Whoever this artist was, he was a real monkey!