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Home: Interpreting the Meaning of Pictures/Illustrations


CCE 5. Interpreting the meaning of pictures/illustrations 

Multiple Choice Example

Short Response Example

(One page is given for the response.)


Truth (cartoon) This single-item unit required students to extract essential meaning from a cartoon about the search for truth.

Answer: B

Milky Way This single-item unit required students to understand the essential meaning of a cartoon. Students were required to interpret the illustration as referring to dullness and mundanity, and then to relate that to the general understanding of the Milky Way galaxy, which is of grandeur, awesomeness and beauty. 

Answer: D

Short Response An A-grade response needed to identify an atmosphere, explain how two observable features within the panels conveyed this atmosphere and to reveal how a feature in the final panel contributed to the atmosphere. Some responses merely explained the progress of the story across the panels instead of explaining how the atmosphere is conveyed. This was not what the stem required. Students should remember to consider all the stimulus provided and to give clear and detailed explanations. An error sometimes made is that only cursory links or references are provided which do not give enough information and depend on the reader to infer meaning. Identifying specific details of features (e.g. dim, yellow lighting) rather than just the feature itself (lighting) can help with a detailed explanation.

Model response

There is a tangible sense of fear and foreboding across the comic panels. The night time setting, derelict buildings, shadowy figures and dim lighting adds to this atmosphere. The first panel establishes the cold, alienating street scene. It is clear this is not a place where you would feel safe at night. The street lights, lit windows and car headlights offer some comfort from the darkness but this does nothing to ease the atmosphere of fear and foreboding when the shadowed figure in panels 2, 3, 5 is seen following the first man. The cloaked man’s mysterious presence, furtive actions and concealed appearance all contribute to this tension as we sense his motivations are sinister. The organisation of the panels and the artist’s ability to conceal elements (faces) and reveal details (mist in panel 3, cracked walls in all panels) adds to the fear, as a clear picture of what is going on or about to happen isn’t apparent. The relief as the pursued man finds safety in the building is temporary as panel 6 reveals the masked man staring up at the window. The sharp, skeleton-like features of the mask and even the shirt adds fear as they look sinister and also conceal the character’s face and identity. This causes suspicion in the viewer about the masked man. We can assume by all these elements that the masked man is intent on something untoward in the room above the cold, dark, disquieting street.