The Wizard of Oz – Parable on Populism
The Wizard of Oz – Parable on Populism
When Lyman Frank Baum first publicized The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1900, it had been very popular from the start. The Wizard of Oz is filled with musical comedy and is a warm and touching production. This production was such a hit that it had been turned into three movies and there were a number of plays on it. The Wizard of Oz was not written for the purpose of a sequel, but it was so popular that there had been many demands to do so.
The Wizard of Oz was very family friendly, as many children and parents enjoyed either reading the novel, or watching the musical or movie. For the children, this production was a very exiting fantasy story but to parents and other older aged people there was deeper meaning. There was a connection to real life and society (in the nineteenth century) with the Wizard of Oz between the characters and settings from this production. It was not completely addressed by Lyman Frank Baum as to what these sort of connections were when the production had first been publicized.
This was until he wrote and published an article in 1964, which actually gave an inside point of view of the outline of the production and that decoded his own metaphors and symbols between the society (of the nineteenth century) and the novel. Some of these symbols were Dorothy’s par of silver shoes, which represented the silver issue, the yellow brick road, which represented the gold standards. Another interesting this is that “Oz” in the title of this novel is actually an abbreviation of an ounce.
Henry M. Littlefield was an American educator, author and historian who was most notable for his claim that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was a political satire, linked the early life of L. Frank Baum to how the play was written. L. Frank Baum had moved to Aberdeen in South Dakota with his family after his success in writing a few plays. At this time there had been a lot of economic and social difficulties. For example, about every workingman had a very hard life, a lot of the land was dry and open, and a big majority of the nature had been destroyed.
There had also been a dreadful amount of depression and there had later been a populist movement of the Populist Party. Populism is a political policy that supports the rights and powers of the common people in their struggle with the privileged elite, which will eventually cause a big political change. The main idea of populism is to gain profit of masses by rejecting the political system, which currently exists. The whole idea of populism, which was brought up by farmers during the nineteenth century who had not been satisfied by the current political system, is that the mass (people) will be at the center of politics.
The Wizard of Oz had been intentionally written to reflect the society of the nineteenth century, but was actually produced for entertainment mostly and for the certain audience who would enjoy a great fairy tale (which turned out to be a huge audience). Lyman Frank Baum had not written this novel just to reflect on society but he had also written the novel to be a part of the populist movement and supportive of the democrats and laboring classes. There was a big character connection to these kinds of reflections in The Wizard of Oz. For example, Dorothy, who represents the sort of innocent and good citizen of America.
Dorothy grew up as an orphan and lived with her uncle and aunt in Kansas. Her uncle was a very hard worker who never really smiled and only worked, which represents the average working man in the society of the nineteenth century. She lived a boring life in a place that was completely dried up from the sun, which is what the living conditions were actually like in Kansas at that time. When she had walked on the yellow brick road with her silver shoes, it represented the gold standards and the silver issues that were put together. This is when Dorothy becomes a part of the silver issues that had been going on in society.
Paper money had been redeemable for gold from a fixed exchange rate by the monetary system in the United States (during the nineteenth and twentieth century). This gold standard had been said to be unfair and it had been argued that the use of both gold and silver would be much better as the monetary standard. Dorothy heads down the yellow brick road representing the gold standard that had many downsides and problems, as she does not understand the true power of her silver shoes. Another character connection was the Tin Woodsman who Dorothy had encountered on her journey.
The Tin Woodsman represented a hard workingman who had a missing body part, and the result was to only work harder after. This represented him as a good, hard workingman, only to be turned into a dehumanized machine for labor. His missing body part was his heart, which leads to a symbol of the great depression in society. He is on his own journey to get a new heart and become human again and to finally be capable to feel love. As the Tin Woodsman and Dorothy are on their journey, they encounter another symbolized character in the novel.
This character was the Scarecrow who had no confidence what so ever and has a big sense of self-doubt. The Scarecrow is off to find himself a new brain. This symbolizes the ignorance of farmers in the nineteenth century. The Cowardly Lion in Wizard of Oz did not so much symbolize a big picture of something during the nineteenth century society, but he actually symbolized Bryan himself. This is because they actually share common characteristics such as the Lion being able to terrify others by his fierce roar, and Bryan’s ability to speak powerfully in public.
Once Dorothy, Tin Woodman, Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion arrive to their destination at the Emerald City, they find out that the great Wizard of Oz is actually nothing but a small old man. When this is discovered, Dorothy and everyone else was dumfounded by the truth behind the curtains. The Wizard of Oz, being the small old man, represented the president of the United States. This is because symbolizing a politician; the Wizard has different appearances for each set off eyes.
He is a giant head to Dorothy, a great beast to the Tin Woodman, a big ball of fire to the Cowardly Lion, and a fairy to the Scarecrow. Lyman Frank Baum was very successful in addressing these issues from the society during the nineteenth century. He did this by using hidden symbols and representations throughout the characters and other things or items like the yellow brick road or Dorothy’s silver shoes. Lyman was very clever and successful in doing this to where he was even able to make a well-written children’s fairytale and have this novel appealing to everyone.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 21 December 2016
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