Psychoanalysis of Behavior in The Wizard of Oz

Analyzing “The Wizard of Oz”: Freud’s Psychosexual Theory and Theory of the Personality vs. Klein’s Object Relations and Play Technique Theory Psychoanalysis paved the way for infinite discoveries of the human mind. It has been attributed as the “mental science” — a scientific way of locating and interpreting the (un)natural behavior of a person which greatly affects him or her.

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The psychoanalytic theory has always been very controversial since it introduces very unconventional ways of treating the mind.

Although there are a lot of psychologists who have influenced the field of psychoanalysis, none can compare to the contributions of Sigmund Freud and his contentious theories.

Sigmund Freud is most famous for his Theory of Personality that talks about the id, ego, and superego and the psychosexual interpretations that goes with it. Another important person to note is Melanie Klein who hypothesized her own theories that focus more on the mentality and behavior of a child and his or her relationship with the things and people around him or her.

According to Mitchel and Black (1995), Melanie Klein made such a tremendous impact in the field of psychoanalysis that there is no another person aside from Sigmund Freud himself who can be appreciated for her contribution with regard to the field of psychoanalysis. Although Klein was influenced by Freud’s theories and patterned her theories after his, her own hypotheses are very much different from Freud’s.

While Freud reinforced the idea that personalities of individuals are more likely connected to certain psychosexual gratifications (or dissatisfaction in many cases according to him), Klein more or less centered on the idea that individuals behave according to the experiences they had as a child, the kind of play acting they did, and the things that they played with.

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In fact, Klein focused more on “reading” a child by the artworks and play acting that he or she does.

One thing that could be seen as similar in their works is the fact that both consider dreams as very important tools in “reading” a person and identifying his or her mental situation. Freud stipulated that dreams are very important since they involve thoughts that are unconscious to the person. Moreover, these dreams can also be traced to certain experiences that the person had as a child (Mitchel & Black, 1995). Klein herself believed in such theory, but Freud believed more in the psychosexual aspect of things concerning the human mind and the human behavior.

In the setting of school education, most especially with the area of guidance and counseling, these two personalities and their theories are greatly used in interpreting children’s manners and their conduct. Counselors would use artworks as a way to delve deeply into what a child is thinking and what are the reasons for his or her certain behavior. Images, colors, signs, and symbols may seem so simplistic when they are looked at their surface interpretations, but psychoanalysis provides latent meanings to what could have been depicted as something so simple and mundane.

In literature, there is such an approach called the Psychological Approach in which certain psychoanalytic theories are used to interpret a certain body of work. The intricate details are seen as symbols that contain very important meanings. Such perspective can be used in trying to analyze the ideas that Freud and Klein presented through their theories by comparing and contrasting certain elements of the 1939 movie version of The Wizard of Oz. The Wizard of Oz is a classic children’s literature that was written by L.

Frank Baum in 1900 and has been hailed as a beloved masterpiece by many. The original work of Baum is very much different from the movie, but it is the movie which has been retained and appreciated by the general public. The characters, settings, certain elements, and scenes are depicted as marvelous by many—a fine example would be the appearance of the ruby slippers of Dorothy (which is in fact colored as silver in the original work as what was expressed by Tim Dirks in his review of The Wizard of Oz) that she can click together to transport her from one place to another.

The plot is very simple yet meaningful. Dorothy, a nine-year old girl from a little farm in Kansas, goes on a long journey with her dog Toto, the Tin man, the Cowardly Lion, and the Scarecrow to find the Wizard of Oz in the Emerald City and fulfill their individual wishes (Dorothy wants to go home to Kansas, the Lion wishes to have courage, the Tin man desires to have a heart, and the Scarecrow thinks he needs a brain). At the end of the journey, they all realize that the things they are looking have always been with them and under their noses all along.

As with many literary works, what makes a person think he or she has achieved the goal is not the resolution of the conclusion but the adventures that the long journey entails. In the end, Dorothy wakes up to find that it was actually just a dream (more or less like when Alice in the Wonderland wakes up to find that all her adventures were just a dream), but the values that she has learned in the journey is very much kept close to her heart. In connection to the psychoanalytic theory, the dream itself may be interpreted already as a somewhat significant aspect of Dorothy’s consciousness.

There are many other aspects and elements that can be interpreted as something else if the theories of Freud and Klein would be taken into account. For instance, Dorothy has a very obvious conflict with the Wicked Witch of the West/Miss Almira Gulch over the Ruby Slippers and Toto the dog. During the start of the film, Dorothy was in trouble and in predicament over the vehemence of Miss Almira Gulch over Toto, her dog. Toto accidentally bit Miss Gulch on her leg which enraged the woman.

She was so enraged that she had the sheriff write a warrant that would allow her to take Toto away and lock him up. However, Toto has always been the only companion of Dorothy and is the only reason that she laughs. Their farm in Kansas has been characterized as gray and dull and Dorothy has been deemed as the only person with such life and happiness. That reason for happiness is Toto, and Miss Gulch’s insistence that the dog be put away is stripping Dorothy of her happiness.

According to Klein, such play things of a child are important and usually mean something more. Dorothy’s play thing may be a dog, but her obvious affection and love for the dog can be traced to the fact that she is yearning for another living thing that could be with her and provide her attention. Her Aunt Emily and Uncle Henry pay more attention to the farm than to their “adopted” niece, which gives Dorothy the idea that she needs company and does not want to be alone.

The gravity of her attachment to Toto is realized in the scene where Miss Gulch arrives and plans on taking Toto away. Dorothy begs for Miss Gulch to reconsider her decision and even states with such self-sacrificial courage that she would replace Toto and be taken away. Miss Gulch is also so insistent that Toto be taken away and she does the task, symbolically stripping Dorothy of her happiness and causes great dissatisfaction on her part. In Freud’s object choice theory, the child readily associates things or people that he or she is surrounded with.

The people that the child finds are considered as his or her associates (people that are close to the child or in some cases, the things that matters to him or her) that he or she wants to have affection with and instinct tells him or her that there needs to be a established relationship with that person (or people or things). Dorothy considers her Aunt Emily and Uncle Henry as people that she should connect with and feel some sort of affection, but the two characters do not reciprocate the feelings; instead, Dorothy finds herself drawn to Toto, her dog.

Since the dog is her “maternal” substitute, Dorothy is drawn to make-believe and fantastically daydream which is the whole point of the story of The Wizard of Oz—Dorothy’s dream. Dorothy retreated to her world bringing Toto and play acting, but since the awful truth of reality plays such a big part in her life, the usual “running away” with Toto does not suffice anymore, and a deeper form of “running away” takes place and makes her fully leave the world of the farm in Kansas.

Dreams as what Freud and Klein believe are very important tools; since Dorothy dreamt that she was in the World of Oz and having such wonderful adventures, she strayed away from reality and got lost in the make-believe world that she has unconsciously created. Another of Freud’s theory comes into place with the mention of the unconscious. The famous iceberg imagery or metaphor of his theory of personality and the id, ego, and superego play a part in Dorothy’s dreaming.

The ego is what people perceive as reality and manifests in the physical world; the id is the unconscious which greatly affects and controls our behavior and way of thinking in reality and is considered as irrational since it involves the hidden urges and desires we have that we are not fully aware of; and lastly, the superego is the conscience and is considered as the ethical voice that controls our behavior subconsciously. Dorothy’s dreams may be her way of running away from reality (as what is supposed with regard to Klein’s theory), but it may also be the manifestation of her id (as what is supposed with regard to Freud’s theory).

The beginning of the film appears as Dorothy not being welcomed by her Aunt Emily and Uncle Henry; she then resorts to the fantastical notion of the dream—the dream consists of her adventure with the Tin man, Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion. Dorothy’s participation may be that of a selfish reason (because she wants to go to Emerald City and find the Wizard of Oz so she can go back to Kansas). But the first part of the adventure (and the beginning of the movie) may be a manifestation of her id, as her wants and demands should be followed.

However, as the adventure progresses, she soon realizes the selfishness of her desires and focuses on helping her friends find their own desires. Even if the dream is a manifestation of her id, the ego and superego win over the id. Another thing to point out is the second object of conflict between Dorothy and the Wicked Witch of the West which is the ruby slippers of Dorothy. Firstly, however, it is important to note the existence of the ruby slippers itself. Again, according to Tim Dirks’ review of The Wizard of Oz, the ruby slippers are the beginning of Dorothy’s entrance into female adolescence.

Red has always been the archetypal color for passion and blood, and the symbolism behind such color could just mean that Freud’s psychosexual theory can be justified. Going back to the Wicked Witch of the West’s desire to have the ruby slippers, it can mean that the Witch wants to rid Dorothy again of the happiness (as the same character who portrayed Miss Gulch is the Wicked Witch too) that she wants to have because the slippers are her means of returning back to Kansas. From a different perspective however, it could mean the Wicked Witch of the West wants to steal Dorothy’s puberty and youth.

There has been many literary works wherein evil witches are in desire of young girls’ youth, vitality, and virginity (as Snow White’s stepmother wants her dead because of her beauty or when Lamia lures Yvaine to steal her youth in the novel Stardust). It can be concluded that the situation may be the typical good versus evil scenario, but if the Witch so badly wants to have power and let evil reign in the Emerald City, why not go after the Wizard of Oz himself (even if he is a fraud)?

If Freud was at the actual scene, he may have interpreted the ruby slippers as a symbol of the beginning of Dorothy’s menstruation. If Klein was there, she would have just said that the ruby slippers are another of Dorothy’s play things. The next thing to point out is the extreme conflict between Dorothy and Miss Gulch/Wicked Witch of the West. In Klein’s theory of Depressive Position, when a child hates his or her mother, he or she in effect hates him- herself.

It cannot really be said that Miss Gulch/Wicked Witch of the West can be likened to Dorothy’s mother, but the enmity between them is so great that the Witch uses such horrifying threats to Dorothy and Toto. Even if the Witch really wants certain “valuable” things from Dorothy, the vehemence that the Witch feels for Dorothy is so great that it is certain that an underlying symbolism may be present. In Mitchel and Black’s book, a quotation by Herman Hesse was introduced to Klein’s chapter: “If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself.

What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us. ” This quotation, in all its simplicity, already justifies the claim that Dorothy and Miss Gulch/Wicked Witch of the West hate each other because there is a big part of themselves that they probably see in each other and in turn hates it since they see the mirror of themselves. Both Freud and Klein have a lot of similarities and differences in both their theories and in this paper, both theories have been voiced with the certain elements that were picked in the story.

Although there is no claim in which theory is better or which interpretation provides more depth and breadth, it is safe to conclude that each theory is unique and helps in making getting a bigger and better viewpoint of The Wizard of Oz, most especially when used and analyzed together.


  1. Mitchel, S. & Black, M. (1995). Freud And Beyond: A History Of Modern Psychoanalytic Thought. New York: Basic Books Dirks, T. (2009).
  2. The Wizard of Oz (1939): Review by Tim Dirks (Review of the movie The Wizard of Oz]. Filmsite. Retrieved March 30, 2009, from http://www. filmsite. org/wiza3. html.

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Psychoanalysis of Behavior in The Wizard of Oz. (2016, Oct 26). Retrieved from

Psychoanalysis of Behavior in The Wizard of Oz

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