American Themes in the Wizard of Oz
American Themes in the Wizard of Oz
“There’s no place like home” (Baum) is a quote read by children and adults alike, from the gilded age of the 1950’s to the modernity of today. It is from the cleverly written bedtime story, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which seems like an innocent fairy tale that is written solely to pleasure children. However, deep between the lines of L. Frank Baum’s novel, the various images of America that brings readers awareness to the troubles at the turn of the century.
The wicked Witch of the East represents eastern industrialists and bankers who control the people, the Munchkins; the Scarecrow is the wise yet naive western farmers; the Tin Woodman stands for the dehumanization industrial workers; and Dorothy’s silver slippers represents the Populists’ solution to the nation’s economic woes. The novel is a framework of allusions to American life. There are examples of how Baum makes connections to the American world in his novel (Bellman).
In the novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the wicked Witch of the East is a horrendous leader that brings distress and hardship to her people, the Munchkins. She represents eastern industrialists and bankers who control the citizens, and contributes nothing but heartache and pain, leading to a tragic demise. The good Witch of the North, describes the atrocity of the Witch of the East towards the helpless Munchkins: “‘She was the wicked Witch of the East, as I said,’ answered the little women. ‘she has held all the munchkins in bondage for many years, making them slave for her night and day’” (Baum 12).
The ruling of Oz is closely related to real-life rulers and political systems of the time (Bussey). The Witch of the East salvages from her defenseless people, making them pitifully work for nothing in return. In America, banks liberate money from their citizens, forcing them to slave for little income. Fortunately, the troubles they cause end their power over the citizens. The Witch of the North, is no match for the malign forces of the East: “‘But I [Witch of the North] am a good witch, and the people love me.
I am not as powerful as the wicked Witch was who ruled here, or I should have set the people free myself”” (14). The admirable Witch, like the voters of the upper Midwest, are no match for the injurious powers of the East. She does anything in her leadership to terminate the sorrow of the Witch, but with no success. The East of America is ruled by individuals who are greedy, just like the endives Witch of the East, and through their ultimate struggles for power, their own torment arrives.
Dorothy’s farm house kills the wicked Witch of the East: ‘“We are so grateful to you for having killed the wicked Witch of the East, and for setting our people free from bondage’… There, indeed, just under the corner of the great beam the house rested on, two feet were sticking out” (12). Dorothy’s farmhouse killing the wicked Witch of the East is symbolic of the eventual demise of rich easterners at the hands of rural farmers. So, in both events, their ultimate downfall is meet due to their actions, and the people have a considerably extensive role in the events that occur.
The power of both the Witch of the East, and the industrialist and bankers of America, overrule the easiest target, causing distress and tribulation with the feeling of indestructibleness. Thus, due to the inhabitants need for salvation, they both advance towards the cusp of their supremacy. So, inevitably, the wicked Witch of the East through the eyes of Frank Baum, is seen as the individuals who control the East of America, that take all they desire, leaving nothing behind. Frank Baum writes the Scarecrow as a wise individual, but also someone who is seen as childlike, with no sense of his surroundings.
Subsequently, he references this with western farmers of America, who do not have enough intellect to know their political interests, similarly to the Scarecrow with no brain. But both eventually see the true causes of their misery. The Scarecrow explains that he has no brains: “‘If anyone treads on my toes or sticks a pin into me, it doesn’t matter, for I can’t feel it. But I do not want people to call me a fool, and if my head stays stuffed with straw instead of with brains, as yours is, how am I ever to know anything? ’” (28).
In the same way as the Scarecrow, who is depicted as an uneducated character, blinded by his deceiving atmosphere, the farmers of America do not have enough intellect to recognize they are being out witted by the bank. Without an educated mind, the Scarecrow falls into the holes on the yellow brick road, but gets up without being injured: “As for the Scarecrow, having no brains he walked straight ahead, and so stepped into the holes and fell at full length on the hard [yellow] bricks. It never hurt him, however, and Dorothy would pick him up and set him upon his feet again, while he joined her in laughing merrily at his own mishap” (32).
On his journey through the forest, where the road is in disrepair, the Scarecrow stumbles and falls on the “hard [yellow] bricks,” a reference to the Populist claim that the gold standard has a damaging impact on farmers and the people at large. Although, the Scarecrow is “never hurt” by his falls, which suggests that the yellow metal is not the real culprit of the farmer’s woes. The Wizard depicts the Scarecrow with no brain, which is derived from experience: ‘“Can’t you give me brains? ’ asked the Scarecrow.
‘You don’t need them. You are learning something everyday… Experience is the only thing that brings knowledge, and the longer you are on earth the more experience you are sure to get’” (160). Near the end of the novel, the Scarecrow and the farmer find out that they have brains, discovering that they have enough intellect to grasp the true causes of his misery and the basics of monetary policy. On her journey, Dorothy encounters a Scarecrow, representing the farmers, who has no wit to understand that they can end up losing their farms to the banks, even though they work hard to grow the food to feed a hungry nation.
Frank Baum exemplifies that the Tin Woodman is a product of the dehumanized industrial workers in America, causing them to loose the ability to care. The Witch of the East makes the Tin Woodman cut through his body with an axe. Thus, giving him a frame of tin. I [Tin Woodman] thought I had beaten the wicked Witch then, and I had worked harder than ever; but I little knew how cruel my enemy could be… and made my axe slip again, so that it cut right through my body… Once more the tinner came to help and made me a body of tin… But, alas! I had now no heart (46) The Woodman is cursed by the Witch of the East, and hacks off all his limbs.
Each lost appendage is replaced with tin until the Woodman is made entirely of metal. So, the Witch of the East (American bankers) reduces the Woodman to a machine, a dehumanized worker who no longer feels, who has no heart. He needs oil to fix his rusted joints: “‘Get an oil-can and oil my joints,’ he answered. ‘They are rusted so badly that I cannot move them at all; if I am well oiled I shall soon be all right again’” (41). The Woodman’s rusted condition parallels the prostrated condition of labour during the depression of 1890; like many workers, the Tin Man is unemployed.
Yet, with a few drops of oil, he is able to resume his customary labors. In the novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the Tin Woodsman, representing the industrial workers, rusted as solid as the factories of the 1890’s depression, loses all the sense of compassion and co-operation to work together to help each other during hard times; stating that the Woodman has no heart. Dorothy’s silver slippers represent the Populists’ solution to the nation’s economic woes. Only these slippers enable her to remain safe on the yellow-brick road, representing the bank’s gold standard.
A Munchkin, explaining the power of the Witch of the East’s silver footwear: ‘“The Witch of the East was proud of those silver shoes,’ said one of the Munchkins; ‘and there is some charm connected with them; but what it is we never know’” (16). The mystical silver shoes belong to the Witch of the East before she is crushed by the farm house. When she dies, they are repossessed by Dorothy, and when the banks in the East of America get overruled, the nation’s gold standard assisted the Americans out of their depression era.
Glinda explains to Dorothy that the silver shoes has the power to take the wearer anywhere in only three steps. The Silver Shoes,’ said the Good Witch, ‘have wonderful powers. And one of the most curious things about them is that they can carry you to any place in the world in three steps, and each step will be made in the wink of an eye. All you have to do is to knock the heels together three times and command the shoes to carry you wherever you wish to go (216). She explains to Dorothy that the slippers have an endless supply of unthinkable powers that have never been seen before.
Dorothy is able to use the slippers in order to return home to Kansas. Baum attempts to show America that the scourge of the economic times will be altered. Baum writes the silver shoes as deciphering the tribulation of the people of Oz, giving them a way out in a time of misfortune. They are the only thing that enables Dorothy to safely remain on the brick road, depicting the bank’s gold standard. Together, with being the only object known to man to safely return her home to Kansas.
“The roposed ‘free silver’ policy which brings economic relief to those oppressed by the federal government’s single standard of gold for the national currency” (Bellman). The novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, through the eyes of children, is an innocent fairy tale, a bedtime story. However, it has many hidden purposes and allusions, that L. Frank Baum writes so adults and critics are informed of the difficulties that America is facing in this era. The Witch of the East represents the imperious bankers, along with the eastern industrialists, who control the individuals of America, depicted as the Munchkins.
The Scarecrow embodies the cunning but candid farmers who let authoritative individuals control their future. The Tin Woodman stands for the robotized industrial employees, who loose the ability to care. Finally, the silver slippers symbolize the Populists’ solution to the nation’s economic woes. Dwelling into The Wonderful Wizard of Oz gives insight into Baum’s imagination, creating a sense of understanding towards his underlying details. Yet, some are still hidden and might never be discovered.
Subject: The Wizard of Oz,
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 21 September 2016
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