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In the Classroom > Picturing America Lessons > The Four Freedoms

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Suggested Answers for "The Four Freedoms" Questions

What does your eye focus on first? Why?

The speaker is the first thing noticed- in particular his face. It is the highest thing in the image; a plain dark background highlights it; his face stands out distinctly because of the colors Rockwell chose, and the listeners' faces pale a bit in comparison; his clothing is more colorful, we see more of it as compared to his audience & this makes him stand out as well.

Describe the speaker's facial expression.

calmly determined, sincere

How is he dressed in comparison to the other men around him? What might you then surmise?

Others are in suits & ties while he is more casually dressed in work clothing. He appears to be of the working class but the freedom of speech pertains to all, & he deserves to be taken as seriously as the men in suits around him.

One senses that the speaker is saying something important and is being regarded with respect. What did Rockwell do to make us think that?

He stands and gazes up; all eyes gaze up at him; a triangle is formed with listeners at the base and the speaker's head at the top; we, as the viewers, gaze up at him as well.

Describe the mood of the gathering. How did Rockwell accomplish that?

friendly, civil, attentive (from John Frohnmayer's essay about "Freedom of Speech", attendees are described as "relaxed and confident"- Norman Rockwell's Four Freedoms: Images that Inspire a Nation, pg. 101.) Rockwell poses the listeners casually and comfortably; expressions on faces are not negative. Heads are turned and tilted toward the speaker.

Look carefully for a clue to the purpose of the gathering.

town meeting- one of the attendees holds a copy of a town annual report

Describe what you think is going on in this scene.

It is an open discussion or debate at a town meeting. Each town resident has the right to express his or her opinion on the subject under discussion. In reality, the speaker in the image is gas station owner, Carl Hess, from Arlington, VT. He served as Rockwell's model to paint, representing Jim Edgerton.

What was going on in the world then?

WWII- World War II officially began in 1939 and America entered the war after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. Roosevelt delivered his "Four Freedoms" speech on Jan. 6, 1941- almost exactly 11 months before Pearl Harbor was bombed.

Parents checking on sleeping children

"Freedom from Fear"

Woman serving turkey at Thanksgiving

"Freedom from Want"

People praying

"Freedom to Worship"

What connection do these posters and ads have to Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" speech?

"Never!"- unlike other conflicts that occurred overseas, this war might hit home. The nation's safety and freedoms are at risk, along with all that we stand for.

"Philco"- brings in the rights associated with the four freedoms- to "live peaceably", "happiness and security for our homes", a "good living"

"What's in a Name?"- We are fighting for our freedoms in different ways overseas and at home. For instance, Edgar, Moses, and Conrad fight for freedom from fear and Hortense fights for freedom from want

"The Outfit's Waitin' for you, Joe!" - if America's defense at home is kept strong, attack here will be less likely

How might the public have been feeling at this time?

People were worried, scared, but many wanted to help in any way that they could. They were trying to keep a positive attitude and look to the future. People were also determined, and thousands across the country lined up to enlist.

Aside from selling something, what purpose did these posters and ads serve?

When considered together, these companies might be seen as trying to help the country keep a positive attitude during tough times by reminding people of the country's good and the power and high quality of our industries, and by reminding them that the future will be brighter. A number of companies producing goods during the war years made predictions and promises based on the four freedoms in an attempt to keep up the public's spirit, and remind them to purchase each company's goods.

What was it about these paintings that held the general public's interest and made them so popular?

Rockwell purposely depicted common everyday people and scenes to help the general public to understand more easily the four freedoms and their importance. He often depicted people he knew.

What purpose might they have served beyond describing the importance of those freedoms?

They showed positive images, highlighted the nation's strengths - all during very bleak times, to help give the nation hope for more peaceful and prosperous times. Through his paintings, he encouraged and inspired people on the homefront to keep contributing to the war effort and keep fighting for their rights as best they could. These images also reminded Americans of the ideals upon which the United States was founded and what was at stake. Note the newspaper headline in "Freedom from Fear".

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