LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”

on March 14, 2013 12:36pm

lostinozmap

Earlier this week in class, we discussed the possibility of Oz as a sort of utopian society. But is it just a ruse? Of course there is evidence that it is indeed a utopia: the “Wizard” of Oz is thought to be a wise and all-powerful leader that the people love and respect; the city is majestic with its bright, blinding color; it is an island unto itself, as it is separated from all the other parts of the land in its uniqueness. And yet there is evidence that it could be false, that the people are just looking at their world through emerald-colored glasses (quite literally). The people may be happy, but the wizard is not a wizard and lies to the people about his true identity. He is the leader/king, but as a general rule never holds audience with anyone who has an issue: “‘Oh, he will see you,” said the soldier…‘although he does not like to have people ask to see him…” [Baum 56]. He calls himself the “Great and Terrible”, which is quite contradictory in that he wishes to be both revered and feared—quite effective in squelching any opposition. Thus, it begins to sound more like a dictatorship than an actual utopia.

behind-the-curtain

The Wizard looks after the people, but makes no effort to socialize with them (“‘Have you seen Oz?’/ ‘Oh, no,’ returned the soldier; ‘I have never seen him. But I spoke to him as he sat behind his screen and gave him your message’”) [Baum 54]. The gates are locked and guarded, though the city seems friendly. Is it a utopia then or just a prison of supposed happiness? This then begs the question of what it being kept out—or in. Is it for the Wicked Witches of the East (and the late West)? Though the Wizard may seem a friendly dictator, if such a thing is possible, he does not seem to have any qualms asking a little girl to kill a witch in order to grant her wish to go home. Surely a clever man such as himself, even if he didn’t have magic, could find a way to kill the witch if there were any major danger to the city. In this sense he acts more cowardly than the Cowardly Lion. Therefore, it is my belief that though Oz has some utopian-like qualities, there is something amiss behind the curtain.

Baum, L. Frank. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. N.p.: Duke Classics, 2012. EPUB.

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One response to ““Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”

  1. azelinski2010 says:

    I agree that there seems to be something amiss within the gates of the Emerald City. I think that the idea of Oz trying to either keep something in or out is an interesting one. In regards to what this great and terrible wizard could be keeping out, I think that is rooted in his deep fear of the Wicked Witch of the West (and, before her death, the Wicked Witch of the East). Yes, he is a clever trickster, even a con-man. He uses his methods of deception to keep all of the inhabitants of the Emerald City in a state of peace and prosperity. However, his subjects, so far as we know, possess no magical or extraordinary abilities. Therefore, Oz is not intimidated by these people. They are on equal footing, and so Oz, as an ordinary human man, is able to rule over them and solve their problems. With the witches of Oz, things are not so simple. The Wizard of Oz knows that he is not, in fact, an actual wizard. He has no powers other than those of illusion. When his fake wizard persona is revealed near the end of the novel, he explains to Dorothy and her companions, “one of my greatest fears was the Witches, for while I had no magical powers at all I soon found out that the Witches were really able to do wonderful things” (Baum 113). It appears to be for this very reason that Oz kept himself in such isolation.

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