Myth Behind the Photo

February 25, 2010

This historic and iconic photo took place on February 23, 1945 representing the Iwo Jima Flag Raising. The history behind this photo takes us back to WWII to a tiny volcanic island of Iwo Jima, located 775 miles from Japan.

Background of Barthes’ Myth

An excerpt from Roland Barthes’ Mythologies titled “Myth Today” explains myth as a system of communications and a message. Myth is not defined by the object, but the message it utters. It is a mode of signification, a form. Signifier and signified, from the concept of Sassure, is the first system- the linguistic system. The last term of the lingustic, or the first term of the mythical, known as the signifier is renamed meaning in the lingustic and in mythical it is the form. The signified is the concept and the combination of the form and concept makes signification.

The myth dives deeper into the sign formed by the first layer combined with its own signifier to form signification.

Having given a bit of background, let’s dive into the myth behind this photo.

Iwo Jima Photo

This picture shows six soldiers climbing up a rubble of land to raise the American Flag. Although it is a black and white photo, it is evident that these soldiers are strong leading men, covered in dirt treading up a hill with all their might, pride, and power.

The signifer (concept): Six soldiers climbing a hill raising the American Flag, amidst rubble.

The signified(meaning): The strength and power of these soldiers to climb to the top and represent pride for their country. By raising the flag over Iwo Jima, this shows victory and defeat of the war.

Myth: America is a strong leading international power that can defeat all those who try to get in the way. Soldiers stand together with their pride and toughness to show the world that America will not be defeated – one for all and all for one.


Another iconic photo is this one taken after 9-11 as the firemen raise the US flag amidst rubble. The war on terrorism shocked us all and the tragedy of 9-11 will never be forgotten.

The signifier: Three firemen, covered in ash, stand together to raise the flag on top of the World Trade Center – also on top of rubble and broken pieces.

The signified: The US will not be broken down. We take pride in our nation and will come together to restore the pieces that have been broken. To all those who are lost, a memorial is put up in their memory.

The myth: The US is a strong nation and all those living in America stand together to help one another. Though tragedy strikes, we raise our flag in honor for our nation and all that which it means: freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To all those who try to bring us down – we stand strong.


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