The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum is a fantastical children’s book which tackles the theme of home as well as compares and contrasts good and evil. In this book, an innocent Dorothy Gale is displaced by a cyclone from her home Kansas to a magical world of Oz. As much as the sweet girl makes friends in this new place, she still misses the comfort and safety of her home. She is also pitted against the Wicked Witch of the West. The Witch kidnaps her and attempts to steal Dorothy’s silver slippers. Baum’s narrations showcase his opinions that each person has both good and evil side.

Introduction

When Baum wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, his main intention was to make it an entertaining book for the children. However, just like any good literature, it couldn’t help but feature different nuggets of wisdom. The story is characterized by considerable cases of social satire presented in a mocking sense of humor. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and many of other Baum books have a detailed depiction of how appearance differs from reality. The book’s highlight is that journey to Emerald City which the main characters make hoping to have their wishes fulfilled. However, upon reaching the city, they realize that the Wizard is a fraud and all their hopes were an illusion.

Walking down the yellow brick road, our sweet girl Dorothy attends a banquet organized by a Munchkin named Bo. The next day, she encounters three different characters which helps make her a hero in the reader’s eyes. She meets a Scarecrow hanging on a pole and frees him; she applies oil to a Tin Woodman; and encounters a Cowardly lion. Each of these characters have their own special wants. Whereas the Cowardly Lion seeks to get courage, the Scarecrow wants a brain while Tin Woodman needs a heart. Dorothy convinces them to join her and Dog Toto on a journey to the Emerald City where they would meet the Wizard and get whatever they want. As they journey, they encounter absurd events and strange landscape and creatures. All of these are for entertainment purpose but they also showcase how life can be wondrous and magical.

One scene I found to be quite entertaining is the part where the Wicked Witch sees the approaching visitors using her one telescopic eye. This depiction of the witch in itself is amusing. Her immediate reaction is to want to protect herself. Readers are sent to the edge of their seats when the Wicked Witch sends a pack of wolves to attack Dorothy and her friends. Luckily, Tin Woodman has an axe with which he kills them. The Witch then dispatches wild crows but the Scarecrow breaks their necks. She sends Winkie slaves to attack them but the Cowardly Lion remains steadfast until they are repelled. Finally, the Wicked Witch invokes her Golden Cap powers and Winged Monkeys to capture five. Dorothy is made a personal slave and the witch comes up with a plan to steal her silver shoes.

Published in 1900, this book remains a great source of entertainment and education for children. Baum writes one of the most entertaining stories that went on to inspire a 1939 movie starring Judy Garland. The novel is a welcome addition to modernized fairy tale.

East or West, home is the best!

At the start of the book, we see Dorothy being displaced from her home. Initially, she lives with her Uncle Henry, Aunt Em, and Dog Toto in their Kansas farm. A cyclone hits their home and they are displaced to a farm house in the magical Land of Oz, in Munckin Country. The Wicked Witch of the East once lived here but was killed by a falling house. She owned a pair of silver shoes, which are handed over to Dorothy by the Good Witch of the North. Throughout all the events experienced in the new land, Dorothy often talks about wanting to go home. She eventually makes it back to Uncle Henry and Aunt Em.

Baum does not address the theme of home based on Dorothy alone. There are also instances of her friends finding their homes. These new places are happier compared to where they came from. For instance, Scarecrow comes from the farm and ends up in Oz where he becomes the kingdom ruler. Tin Woodman leaves the cottage in the woods and winds up with Winkies, with whom they have a close friendship. Similarly, the Lion leaves his old forest and ends up in a new one, retaining the King title.

Thus, even though many of us often understand home as the place you come from, that is not the main message from this book. Rather, the author looks at home in terms of that place which you makes you the happiest.

Home is an important element in every person’s life. That is because we all have a fundamental attachment to space and place. You might even equate home to womb. It explains why even our fallen military heroes have to be brought back home and rest. It is also for the same reason that you will drive a long way to get home as opposed to stopping by the roadside motel. Most children consider homes in terms of their rooms. And if you are like Dorothy, it is taken in terms of a farm or any peculiar surroundings in their place of residence.

Even though Dorothy encounters some of the most engaging and interesting adventures, she still keeps on mentioning the need to go back home. You might wonder why? Well, just like everyone else, home gave her identity, control, security, belonging, and privacy in addition to many other things. You need to have that place to which your life is centered. It is the kind in which you wake up in the morning and return in the evening. Because we live in a society that does not take freedom for granted, having a home is paramount.

Good vs. Evil

Classic novels are known to dwell most of their works on the idea of some characters being good and others bad. In this kind of approach, the author often expects to drive the reader’s attention towards loving the star character who does good things for the society. The antagonist, on the other hand, is often depicted as hateful and harmful. In so doing, the author would successfully impart the desire to be of positive morals.

This is an approach that Baum uses effectively in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It can be clearly seen via the characters portrayed by the antagonistic witches – Wicked Witches of the East and West as well as Good Witches of the North and South. Whereas the good witches are assistive to our beloved young girl, the wicked ones are mean and murder people.

The Wizard of Oz, on the other hand, displays quite murky character regarding good and evil. To begin with, the ordinary man deceives the whole village into thinking that he is all-powerful. This is an outright wrong thing to do. Why would you play with people’s emotions by making them falsely trust in you? Despite having this shortfall, we can see that he goes out of his way to meet people’s expectations. When he encounters Dorothy and her friends, he begins by admitting that he is an ordinary old man. I think this is one of the most important admittance in the book, It shows the children that they do not have to continue telling lies to cover up for more lies. Rather, it would be best to acknowledge that you have wronged and that you are willing to change. The Wizard of Oz goes ahead to give the Scarecrow a head full of needles, bran, and pins. To Tin Woodman, he gives silk heart that contains sawdust. The Cowardly Lion gets a portion of courage. Of course these are not the exact things that the characters thought they would get but at least they are in close proximity to their expectations.

Good will always triumph over evil, at least in literary work. As the book comes to an end, all the wicked witches die. The good people like Dorothy, Dog Toto, Scarecrow, and Cowardly Lion, live a happy life ever after. The Wizard, on the other hand, is carried to an undisclosed location in his hot-air balloon.

Many have always argued against the idea of books and films showing good people excel while the wicked ones have regrets. They need an accurate representation of what happens in the real world. The truth of the matter is that not all people who do bad end up miserably. Think of the many dictators in some nations who rule ruthlessly but some stay in power for their whole life. All in all, it would have still sounded awkward for the author, and any other writer for that purpose to praise evil and fail to reward goo.

Conclusion

Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is one of the most interesting classics I have ever read. It has numerous mystery characters who encounter exciting experiences and landmarks. Scene narrations makes one feel and see whatever the characters are going through. Even the name of this book itself was coined in a mysterious manner. According to Baum, he came up with the name Oz from the Hotel Del Coronado’s cabinet labeling “O-Z”. The author was a frequenter at this hotel and wrote several Oz books from here. It is a beautiful book that children and adults are sure to read over and over.

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