The Humor of the Grim Reaper

The Grim Reaper got its start in English lore during the 14th century.  The symbol for death is a necessary reminder that death is always lurking in the shadows and that we may be its next suctim.  Perhaps this would have been a better post for October, but I have been collecting cartoons that feature the Grim Reaper, and I think it’s time that I opened the closet and pulled them out for closer examination.

While earlier, more superstitious societies may have taken this symbol of death  more seriously, in our age of science, the image is outdated and quaint.  That makes it a perfect vehicle for satire.

The following cartoon points the reaper’s scythe at the Republican Party and its opposition to the Affordable Care Act.  On December 1, 2013, Jim Morin used the reaper to question the motivations of those opposed to the ACA.  The 44,000 deaths per year due to lack of health insurance may or may not be because of the lack of affordable care.  It may be because of people’s choices of how they spend their money, but the cartoonist suggests that the GOP will take the heat over this as it did for the Hurricane Katrina debacle.

Grim Reaper 12-1-13

 

The Boston Marathon bombing elicited many political cartoons using the Grim Reaper.  It is the ideal symbol, because the reaper greets people after a long grueling ordeal—presumably equating a 26.2-mile-run with life itself.  The following cartoon by Steve Benson ran on April 16, 2013, the day after the attack.

Grim Reaper 4-17-13

Two days later, Steve Kelly used the Grim Reaper to make a less specific point about terrorism, suggesting that terrorism is an uphill battle that must be conquered in a similar manner that Heartbreak Hill is an uphill battle in the Boston Marathon that runners must conquer.

Grim Reaper 4-18-13

 

The Grim Reaper is not always coming for a person, at least, not in the cartoons.  There are many situations in which people find themselves confronted by inconvenient deaths.

'If I had a nickel for every time I was mistaken for him, I wouldn't have to work. Now, hand over all of your AA batteries.'

 

This is the light version of cartoons using the Grim Reaper.  Hopefully, someone will take on this issue more thoroughly.  And, in my usual manner, I expect that I will be writing a blog on cartoon images using Santa Claus sometime in February.

 

(c) Larry Bush, 2014

 

 

 

 

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2 responses

  1. Nice piece. Your last example reminds me of an old, hazily remembered New Yorker (probably) cartoon: Death (at the apartment door) is saying, “Relax, I’m here for the toaster.”

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