They seem to be wordier versions of Family Circus; just a touch of sarcasm attached to a caricatured family dynamic.
In the words of Homer Simpson:
You know what you two need? A little comic strip called "Love Is…". It's about two naked eight-year-olds who are married.
I read both strips having an eye towards them being sarcastic, and they made sense to me. I don't have a great interpretation for the panel on the left, other than "let them eat cake", poor girl. The strip on the right - the woman believes in bigamy simply so her husband, implied to have exorbitant expectations, can have his (presumably) housekeeping needs met. I infer that she is no more interested in bigamy than in single-handedly satisfying her husbands outrageous demands.
I think the most likely explanation is hinted at by the title - The Evening Argument. Perhaps these little vignettes are intended to spark a lively conversation regarding the topics addressed in the cartoon.
I expect the next year's strips would be a laugh riot of topical humor about ration stamps, women working in aircraft plants, and Pa's air raid warning duties.
I also buy into this interpretation.
I think they're supposed to be gender segregated arguments over cocktails. Aunt Het is something for ladies to discuss, and Poor Pa is for the fellas. That's why the female discussion should be about chores and her husband, while the male discussion should revolve around money or sex.
Agree the 1st Poor Pa is sarcasm against a husband who expects too much.
The last Poor Pa is I think a joke about honesty - that Pa is deciding on his honesty levels, when he should be honest all the time.
The Aunt Het ones seem to be like the "OH" tweets you see - odd things people overhear. I don't think they are meant to the funny.
Hehe. You urban folks and your quaint "theories". Would think someone maybe would have simply tried the Googlenets by this point . . . or looked up the Wikipedia entry? Aunt Het ran solo, and sometimes paired with other syndicated one panel cartoons of the same size to fill needed space. Anyone who grew up in the Midwest came across these cartoons in old piles of magazines and newspapers. Robert Quillen was quite the character--his wiki entry is worth the read.
Having to be the go-between for a couple of relatives and the Mini-maid service, as well as once trying to get a room-for-cleaning deal, I think the front panel is quite right. People expect a lot more from the cleaners than what they would expect from themselves.
Then again, I think that generality applies to a great many jobs.
These "cartoons" aren't "comics"- comedy is not the point. These are illustrations of claims about which everyone in the room will have an opinion. Should women control their own finances? Should a son listen to his parents about whom to date? Good starting points for a lively discussion in 1941.
Here is a little info...
Also, they don't always appear together...
Not surprisingly, [Quillen] had written and published his own obituary sixteen years earlier, which read in part, "He was a writer of paragraphs and short editorials. He always hoped to write something of permanent value, but the business of making a living took most of his time and he never got around to it. In his youth he felt an urge to reform the world, but during the latter years of his life he decided that he would be doing rather well if he kept himself out of jail."
The corresponding note to this reads:
The obituary continued, "When the last clod had fallen, workmen covered the grave with a granite slab bearing the inscription: 'Submitted to the Publisher by Robert Quillen.'"
Thus Quillen. Sounds like he was a fun, funny man.
A perfect example of post-intentionalism.
I found the cartoons extremely funny and completely bafflement-free. Clemmer's got the right idea. They are clever, and much funnier than anything in the comic's page today.
This has to be it. No one thought about it because we are all set in the idea that a news paper comic should be funny. Back then they had no such social expectation and experimented with the medium.
I think this also explains why there is two. The Aunt Het is argument starters for Women and Poor Pa is argument starters for Men.
Kinda hilarious to watch the struggles with interpreting these things...
Are they secret WWII spies passing codes?
Are they methods of distributing social mores to an unwitting public?
Are they a method to start arguments?
They are comics with humor quite a bit like Prairie Home Companion.
Robert Quillen would probably be entertained.