LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: A children’s story?

on March 14, 2013 12:55pm

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has been known since its publication as a children’s book, but is that really appropriate in today’s society?  While children are inundated with violence and death every day through video games and TV shows, when it comes to books, adults remain a little puritanical.  Where are the banned video game lists or the banned movies?  And yet the list of banned books grows larger every day, so how does something like The Wizard of Oz stay off it?  Pure sentimentalism?

In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, a little girl is ripped from her home in a tornado and her house falls on top of a witch, effectively killing her.  In the very introduction of the novel we have a murder.  Later on in the book, Oz refuses to give anyone what they want unless they conspire together to commit another act of murder.  And then, of course, we have the herds of angry wolves, a murder of crows, and a swarm of bees whose sole mission is to attempt to murder Dorothy and her band of friends.  The book is riddled with stories of slavery and murder.

With all this torture and attempted murder, can this really be a book for children?  The violence, when looked at objectively, is enough to turn more than a few heads.  Dorothy remains the unsuspecting, innocent, simple child, but by the end of the novel she has killed two people.

All the same, can this simple story really be called something for adults or even teens to  read?  Dorothy’s simple logic and childish actions make it so this book couldn’t possibly be something targeted for older readers.  At her most wicked, Dorothy simply throws a bucket of water on the witch, having no idea that it would be the thing to kill her.  The language and the setup of the story are also very childlike– leaning more towards a fairy tale than an novel.

The only thing left to wonder is if maybe the times have just changed.  If it were not for the movie and the sentimentalism behind The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, would it still be a book we give our children to read?  What age group is it really appropriate for?

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3 responses to “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: A children’s story?

  1. I definitely believe that this novel is appropriate for children. While although the plot does involve two murders, they are actually both accidents. In addition, Dorothy feels remorse after she learns she is responsible for the deaths. Most importantly, though, the murdered characters are wicked witches. The “victims” were evil who enslaved innocent people and created much animosity and fear within their communities. In this sense, Dorothy actually is a heroine by eliminating the evil from the area.

    After its publication, “The Wizard of Oz” gained extreme popularity among children and their parents. As you stated, the book is written in a very simple, child-like manner that kids can understand and relate to. At the same time, adults can recognize the subtle humor and political ideas that Baum incorporates.

    Additionally, the characters of Oz are not only loveable but there is actually sound logic behind their misfortunes. For example, The Scarecrow’s lack of a brain is logically explained because the farmer stuffed his head only with straw. Dorothy and her companions look for each other and remain loyal to the group while enduring multiple hardships and challenges.

    Finally, I believe “The Wizard of Oz” is appropriate for children because it ultimately contains many valuable lessons that a child can gain. One of the most pivotal morals, in my opinion, is of self-worth. The lion, scarecrow, and tin man each desire a particular quality. However, in reality, these qualities are actually innate – each of us has the ability to be brave, to love, and to have knowledge, it is up to us to utilize our abilities ourselves. Another important lesson I believe that be learned from the novel is the importance of family and home. All that Dorothy desires is to be home with her family, wherever they may be. This idea can teach children the idea that family is very important and the outside world can pose many dangers. Overall, I definitely believe that “The Wizard of Oz” is appropriate for children.

  2. cwood520 says:

    I think that this blog post poses some really questions when trying to truly discover whether or not The Wonderful Wizard of Oz would be a book we would give to our children today if not for its canonical status and infiltration in pop culture. Though the statement is correct that by the end of the novel sweet and naïve Dorothy has committed two murders and, as we discussed in class, did so with the accompaniment of three older men – I think that this novel would still be deemed appropriate for children today. All the hard realities of Dorothy being ripped from her home by a violent tornado, her murder of two characters, her kidnapping, and all of the difficult and ‘adult’ things she must endure, are extremely softened and made palatable to a child’s taste. For example, the murders committed by Dorothy are anything but intentional and violent; in actuality both are somewhat accidental. When I think of a children’s book we read today from the Golden Age that is possibly inappropriate for children I think of something like Pinocchio, who witnessed his father, best friend, and mother figure’s death and himself was hung – all of which were his fault. Baum, in my opinion, accomplished his goal of making a book that was sincerely for children, in no doubt he included adult issues and experiences, but if the events weren’t coated heavily with of the silliness of talking animals/scarecrows/tin men they were tempered by viewing the events through Dorothy’s innocent and childlike eyes. The descriptions are simple, the story is easy to follow, and the drama and deaths that occur are by happenstance and only happen to BAD people in silly ways. I think it is for these reasons that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz would be considered appropriate for children today despite its historical notoriety.

  3. Honestly, I feel like The Wizard of Oz is mild compared to stories that children read today like Twilight and even Harry Potter. Both of those texts are fully of sexual connotations, scary magic and also death. Personally, I feel that the book is a great read for children because it is full of creative characters, words and worlds. We think that this book is full of slavery and violence, yet we allow children to play video games that are nothing but killing and tv shows where the characters use drugs and alcohol. When I have my own classroom, I would definitely consider putting this novel on the reading list. I think it is a classic and should be read even by today’s generations.

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