Through the expression of literature within the elementary school classroom, young children can become exposed to endless lesson’s regarding life and growing. “Realistic” stories have been criticized for being dull, too complex, and psychologically empty. For example, it is practically impossible to find any meaning within literature such as “See Dick. See Jane.” Nonetheless, fantasy restores this meaning within the reading process. As expressed by Bruno Bettelheim, author of The Uses of Enchantment, fantasy allows children to identify with heroes who ultimately win, offering confidence to believe that negative aspects in one’s life can be successfully dealt with. The Wizard of Oz is a leading example of this perception. Thus, in my opinion, a child might be comforted and experience growth and awareness through the viewing of fantasy stories like The Wizard of Oz due to the journey of the protagonist, character polarities, and the profound meaning of the fable itself.
The Wizard of Oz features Dorothy Gale, the protagonist, on a quest throughout the wonderful fantasy land of Oz. Although it may not be clearly evident, Dorothy’s journey is in fact quite similar to our very own journey of life. Dorothy is an ordinary individual. In Kansas, her life is decent, however once she arrives in Oz, she begins her magical adventure. Within the foreign city, Dorothy follows the yellow brick road to assist her in reaching the Emerald City. This road, in my opinion, is the metaphoric path we take throughout life. In reality, the road is long and complex but eventually leads to the awaited destination.
Along the yellow brick road, Dorothy befriends various characters including the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion, who aid in her pursuit. These characters represent the individuals within our lives which help and support us. Still, Dorothy is forced to manage and confront the Wicked Witch who is symbolic of the struggles we must overcome in our own reality. Since Dorothy’s quest within The Wizard of Oz can be identified to our own journey, it can provide comfort and awareness to the audience on how to cope with our lives and its daily struggles by acting as an example.
Fantasy stories can help a child to grow and become aware of the dualities of good and evil, through the polarities of each character. Characters in fairytales are usually evidently good or evil, for example, Dorothy Gale versus Elvira Gulch, Oz’s Wicked Witch. Displaying these polarities within fantasy allows the reader to easily analyze between good and bad. This process however, becomes difficult when figures are more realistic to life. Therefore, a characters motives are never vaguely defined. This comparison of opposites also stresses right behaviour and attitude for children and allows for an identification with the hero, who is always victorious.
For example, during a climatic encounter between Dorothy and the Wicked Witch, Dorothy splashes water on the antagonist, leading to her dramatic and shocking death. Within this scene, there is clear evidence of the struggle between Dorothy, who represents good, and the Witch, who obviously symbolizes the opposite, bad. Once the protagonist triumphs over the villain, the viewer can share in the pride as well. From Dorothy, the characteristics and qualities which contributed to her success can be understood and further applied to the everyday lives of the young children. This process can occur because the audience is able to relate to Dorothy, who is exceptionally ordinary and rather typical. Therefore, it is evident that the polarities of characters within The Wizard of Oz can provide children with growth and comfort regarding good and evil.
For the young child, it is literature and fantasy that carries and releases information the best. It helps the child to go beyond living from moment to moment and to find value in life. Through its theme’s and deeper meaning, The Wizard of Oz unquestionably helps to achieve this. Within the story, Dorothy continually searches elsewhere for what is already in her own backyard. Therefore, the story is about the uniqueness of home and the appreciation of what one already has. The story also relates to the importance of self sufficiency.
For example, throughout the story, each character desires magic to grant them their wishes of distinct features. However, what they fail to realize is that they already possess the qualities they are seeking. The Cowardly Lion, for instance, does not realize that courage is acting despite fear, and not acting in the absence of it. Therefore, during various scenes within the movie, the Lion display’s the bravery he covets. Consequently, if a child can identify and understand the deeper meanings of fantasy tales, they can become comforted by the relatedness of the story to life and experience growth.
Fantasy allows children to stimulate their imagination, develop abilities, clarify emotions, and understand the difficulties in life, while at the same time suggesting solutions to problems. However, it is impossible for “realistic” stories to do the same. These lifelike stories are often uninteresting, complicated, meaningless, and do not provide their readers with psychological contentment. As a result, authors like Bruno Bettelheim deeply express the importance of fairy tales for children and kids alike. Therefore, in my estimation, a child might be comforted and experience growth and awareness through the viewing of fantasy stories like The Wizard of Oz due to the journey of the protagonist, character polarities, and the deeper meaning of the tale itself.
“Fantasy Necessary for Sanity and Morality” 14 June 1989. Print. “The Wizard of Oz” Dir, Victor Fleming. Noel Langley. Pref, Judy Garland. 1939 DVD/VHS
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