- American History
Steve - October 18, 2018
12. The Wizard of Oz has been interpreted as both a religious and atheistic allegory at the same time
In the decades since original publication, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” has been recurrently used by Christians as a religious allegory similar to that of C.S. Lewis’s “The Chronicles of Narnia” series. Citing the yellow brick road as a symbolic representation as the path to spiritual enlightenment, the characters encountering various forms of sin and temptation along their journey to the Emerald City – itself interpreted as a wondrous paradise for the righteous – or the Wicked Witch being destroyed by water in reference to the Christian rite of baptism, several instances of religious iconography and depiction have been drawn from Baum’s novel.
Ironically, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” has concurrently been interpreted by some as an early example of atheism in children’s literature. The omnipotent and supposedly God-like ruler of Oz, the Wizard, is revealed to be nothing more than mortal playing tricks for his own benefit, whilst the Emerald City is only green because everybody chooses to wear glasses to perceive it in such light as part of a mass delusion. Advocates of an atheistic reading of the novel contrarily assert the Land of Oz is a world characterized by illusion and duplicity rather than truth and morality, an argument reinforced perhaps by the fact Christian groups in the United States sought to ban the book at the time of publication on the grounds of blasphemy for allegedly denigrating the divine.
13. The Wizard of Oz is alleged by some to be an ode to psychedelic experimentation and drug use
Drug use was a commonplace activity in the United States at the turn of the 20th century, with drug prohibition only beginning in earnest with the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 and Harrison Narcotic Act of 1914, and during the writing of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” cocaine, opium, and morphine remained ordinary household products. As a result, it has been contended that Baum’s novel of 1900 is in fact littered with allusions towards the consumption of narcotics, particularly those possessing a psychedelic or hallucinatory component.
Dorothy’s journey into the Land of Oz, argued by some as “a common way to describe the effects [of hallucinogenics] to people who’ve never tried it”, is undeniably surreal on the surface. Furthermore, the Wicked Witch of the West places a field of poppies in the path of Dorothy and her friends, an alleged reference to opium, sending her into a deep sleep whilst not affecting the artificial Tin Man and Scarecrow who rescue Dorothy; in the 1939 film adaption, the connection to drug use is more overt, with Dorothy being awoken by Glinda the Good Witch sprinkling her with “snow” – a slang term for cocaine. Whether or not this interpretation of what Baum always claimed was a children’s fantasy story is accurate it was widely embraced by members of the counterculture during the 1960s, including by the organizer of the first “love-in”, Peter Bergman, hosting Radio Free Oz in which he played a psychedelic character called “the Wizard”.
14. The story is a tale encouraging children to not resist growing up, and instead surpass the existing inadequacies of contemporary adults
Although as a children’s fairy tale “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” invariably places child characters to the forefront, it has been asserted by renowned author and essayist Salman Rushdie that the novel deliberately seeks to explore and highlight the inadequacy of adults. In addition to other motifs, Rushdie contends the story demonstrates how the weakness of adults compels children to seize control of their own destinies and to grow up themselves; in this light, Dorothy’s quest through the Land of Oz is a “rite of passage” into adulthood at a time when she was already considering running away from home and becoming independent.
Throughout the novel is a consistent theme concerning the weakness of adult characters initially believed by Dorothy to be strong. Beginning with her Auntie Em and Uncle Henry’s inability to save her beloved dog and companion Toto from the mean neighbor Miss Gulch, to the powerless eponymous Wizard of Oz, and even the Wicked Witch of the West, who as she grows down into nothingness observes Dorothy having grown up as a result of her journey.
15. The Good Witch of the North is a metaphorical representation of an imperial American foreign policy
The Good Witch of the North, sometimes called Locasta, reigns as ruler of Gillikin Country having freed its people from the clutches of the Wicked Witch of the North. She encounters Dorothy after the latter crushes the Wicked Witch of the East by accident with her farmhouse and welcomes her to the Land of Oz. Claiming to be inferior in power to the Wicked Witches, hence her inaction to save the Munchkins before Dorothy’s arrival, she suggests Dorothy travels to the Emerald City to seek help from the Wizard of Oz.
Despite her seemingly pleasant demeanor, granting Dorothy with a protective kiss to aid her on her journey, it has been suggested that the Good Witch of the North is, in fact, evil and representative of an imperialist foreign policy. At the time of Baum’s writing, the United States had just begun the acquisition of imperial possessions, notably the annexation of Hawaii in 1898 and the colonial products of the Spanish-American War, with a number of political movements contextually opposing the United States seeking to build an empire akin to European powers. Proponents of this interpretation suggest Locasta, like Glinda the Good Witch of the South, was aware of the powers of Dorothy’s slippers – that they could take her home to Kansas – and instead sent Dorothy to eliminate her territorial rivals on her behalf; this theory is somewhat explored in the 2013 cinematic prequel “Oz, The Great and Powerful”, in which the Wicked Witch of the East feigns goodness to persuade Oz to attack Glinda. According to W. Geoffrey Seeley, the Good Witch “used an innocent, ignorant patsy to overthrow both her own sister witch and the Wizard of Oz, leaving herself as the undisputed master”
16. Toto symbolizes the Prohibitionist movement in the United States
An ever-present yet unspoken character throughout “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” is Toto, Dorothy’s faithful canine companion. Accompanying her to the Land of Oz, and then on her journies therein, Toto lacks the capacity to speak like the animals of Oz; although later books in the series grant him the ability, he declines to do so for an unknown reason.
Despite this relatively minor if noticeable prominence in the story, it has been suggested Toto represents the Prohibitionist movement. First, the name Toto is claimed is a pun, a shortening of the word “teetotaler”. Moreover as noted the companions and Dorothy represent the Populist movement supported by Baum, of which the Prohibitionists were among their political allies; proponents of this interpretation of Toto highlight frequent descriptions from the novel depicting the dog as “soberly” following Dorothy.
Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:
“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, L. Frank Baum, Gutenberg Online (1900 edition)
“From Wonderland to Wasteland: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Great Gatsby, and the New American Fairy Tale”, Laura Barrett, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (2006)
“Growing Up in Oz”, Stuart Culver, American Literary History (1992)
“L. Frank Baum and the Progressive Dilemma”, Fred Erisman, American Quartlerly (1968)
“The Politics of Oz: A Symposium”, Michael Gessel, Nacy Koupal, Fred Erisman, South Dakota History (2001)
“Magic Abjured: Closure in Children’s Fantasy Fiction”, Sarah Gilead, PMLA (1991)
“There’s No Place But Home: The Wizard of Oz”, Jerry Griswold, The Antioch Review (1987)
“Secrets of the Wizard of Oz”, Rumeana Jahangir, BBC News Magazine (2009)
“Utopian Tension in L. Frank Baum’s Oz”, Andrew Karp, Utopian Studies (1998)
“Strategic Credulity: Oz as Mass Cultural Parable”, Helen Kim, Cultural Critique (1996)
“Oz and Beyond: The Fantasy World of L. Frank Baum”, Michael Riley, University of Kansas Press (1997)
“Following the Yellow Brick Road: How the United States Adopted the Gold Standard”, Francois Velde, Economic Perspectives (2002)
“The Wizard of Oz as a Monetary Allegory”, Hugh Rockoff, Journal of Political Econonmy (1990)
“Money and Politics in the Land of Oz: The extraordinary story behind the extraordinary story of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, Quentin P. Taylor, USA Gold.
“The Secret Political Symbolism You Never Knew Was Hidden Within The Wizard Of Oz”, Genevieve Carlton, Ranker, July 1, 2019
The Grunge – The Real Meaning Of These Wizard Of Oz Characters
National Museum of American History – Populism and the World of Oz
McGill – Would Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion have Passed an Emerald City Entrance Drug Test?
Florida State University – The Wizard of Oz: More Than Just a Children’s Story by Lauren Houlberg
What is the hidden message in The Wizard of Oz? ›
Littlefield also claims that the characters in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz represent figures from the Gilded age. Munchkins are ordinary people oppressed by the witches of the East, banks, and monopolies. The Scarecrow is the farmer, and the Tin man is the industrial worker who has been dehumanized by factory labor.What is a list of symbolism in The Wizard of Oz? ›
Dorothy represents Everyman; the Tin Woodman is the industrial worker, the Scarecrow is the farmer, the Cowardly Lion is William Jennings Bryan, the Wizard is the President, the munchkins are the "little people" and the Yellow Brick Road is the gold standard. Toto probably represents a dog.What is the symbolism of the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz? ›
Winged Monkeys. According to some writers, the Winged Monkeys of Oz represent Native Americans in the West in the late 1800s. Baum himself had clear attitudes toward American Indians and some of his earlier writings about Indians are very similar to his descriptions of the Winged Monkeys found in Oz.What does Oz symbolize in The Wizard of Oz? ›
"Oz is an abbreviation for ounces, one measure of the worth of gold and silver bullion," Ritter points out. "In the land of Oz, gold and silver are often the arbiters of power." In Oz, a brick road the color of gold leads to the Emerald City.What does the Yellow Brick Road symbolize in The Wizard of Oz? ›
The Yellow Brick Road represents strategy—how you will get there; the path you identify as the best, smartest way to accomplish your goal. And each of the shiny yellow bricks in the road represents an action step—the smaller tactics that go into executing your strategy.What does Emerald City symbolize in The Wizard of Oz? ›
Scholars who interpret The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a political allegory see the Emerald City as a metaphor for Washington, D.C. and unsecured "greenback" paper money.What are the symbols used in the story? ›
A symbol is anything that stands for, or represents, something else. In a story, a character, an action, an object, or an animal can be symbolic. Often these symbols stand for something abstract, like a force of nature, a condition of the world, or an idea.What does Dorothy Gale symbolize? ›
Political Symbolism – Dorothy Gale represents American values and the individual citizen. Personal Symbolism – Dorothy Gale is the every girl. She is the dreamer. The optimist.What do the silver shoes symbolize in The Wizard of Oz? ›
In the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy's shoes are red. But in Frank's 1900 novella, her shoes are silver. And they are silver, economic historians have suggested, because they represent half of the bimetal standard, and that when they walk on the road, The Yellow Brick Road, to Oz, they unify silver and gold.What does the Wicked Witch of the West symbolize? ›
Wicked Witch of the West and East: The Wicked Witch of the East represents eastern business and the Wicked Witch of the West represents the politician William McKinley who defeated Williams Jennings Bryant during the time of the free silver silver movement.
What animal was represented as cowardly in The Wizard of Oz? ›
The Cowardly Lion is a character in the fictional Land of Oz created by American author L. Frank Baum. He is depicted as an African lion, but like all animals in Oz, he can speak.Why did the Winged Monkeys not harm Dorothy? ›
They picked up the Lion and returned him to the witch's palace. The monkeys refused to harm Dorothy because she had the mark on her forehead left from where the Good Witch had kissed her.) 11.What is the spiritual meaning of the cowardly lion? ›
Personal Symbolism – The Cowardly Lion represents the inner child or self. The courage seeking Cowardly Lion is the character that most closely represents Baum in the book.What do the ruby slippers symbolize? ›
In the movie, the slippers represent the little guy's ability to triumph over powerful forces. As the item that she – a simple teenage farm girl from Kansas – steals from the dictatorial Wicked Witch and ultimately uses to liberate the oppressed people of Oz, they're nothing less than a symbol of revolution.What does the Wicked Witch of the East symbolize? ›
The Wicked Witch of the East Symbolic of: Industrialist Capitalists. Characteristics: The Populists thought silver would answer their problems. However, when Dorothy arrives back in Kansas, she no longer has the shoes- representing the fade of the silver issue.What do the silver slippers symbolize in The Wizard of Oz? ›
In the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy's shoes are red. But in Frank's 1900 novella, her shoes are silver. And they are silver, economic historians have suggested, because they represent half of the bimetal standard, and that when they walk on the road, The Yellow Brick Road, to Oz, they unify silver and gold.