LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

The Role of the Man in The Wizard of Oz

on March 28, 2013 4:19pm

I wanted to expand upon a comment I wrote about gender roles in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

As I said, I think that the Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tin Man all have a duality to their nature.  The Scarecrow is on a masculine search, the search for brains.  He proves his worth to the group time and time again by coming up with schemes and ideas to get them across rivers or across canyons.  When Oz is in need of a new leader, he is the first choice, represented as the smartest, the best, and the most capable.

The Lion is also on a manly search for courage, but initially, he is shy and scared.  Throughout the story he comes into his manliness, becoming stronger and more brave, and able to protect the group.  He has a moment of weakness in the field of poppies and requires the help of little field mice to help him out, but his bulk and his weight which makes it a bit of a more difficult process assert his inherent masculinity.

The Tin Man is lovesick and on a journey for a new heart, so it’s reasonable to suggest that he would be more of an effeminate character, but throughout the novel he proves his manliness time and time again by cutting down trees, constructing rafts, and killing attackers to keep the group safe and sound on their journey to see Oz.

Both the Lion and the Scarecrow’s journey is a quest to become more masculine and even though the Tin Man’s desire for a heart is more effeminate, he too goes through a transformation into a stronger, more capable man.

Through these examples, Baum explores the idea that to be a man is to be in a position of power.  It requires cunning and bravery and strength.  Men are the leaders and the protectors of his world.

The only women in power are the witches, who are represented as either good or evil.  The good witches are ladylike and good and pure who bestow kisses on lost little girls to protect them, and the evil ones are simply easily destroyed, or cast away characters.  The only way to survive as a woman in the land of Oz is to be good and innocent like Dorothy and the good witches.

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One response to “The Role of the Man in The Wizard of Oz

  1. I agree what when analyzing the text properly, the story of the Wizard of Oz as a whole is a very masculine empowered story. The people of Oz were weak and needed saving when a man just happened upon the land and guided them all to prosperity. My impression was that his gender helped a great deal in his ability to deceive the people of Oz and control them despite his lack of magical powers. Although the witches do have some sense of power, it is important to realize their shortcomings. The Wicked Witch could have easily overtaken Oz but was fooled by the mere idea of him being a powerful wizard. If a battle had actually ensued, the witch could have won but she was afraid of commencing in battle by the simple idea of a powerful man. The good witch had magical qualities but is not able to help Dorothy in her quest to return home. The women’s shortcomings are apparent while the shortcomings of the great Oz are down played. His shortcomings are not as damaging because of his deception but also because even when Dorothy and her three companions learn that he is a fraud they still seek his help and are delighted when he awards each a prize. Even though Oz himself does not have the power to bestow such gifts, his position and power gives him the right to do so. My belief is that if a woman had been revealed as being Oz she would have lost respect in a way that the Wizard did not. If the secret had been that the wizard was a woman pretending to be a man there would have been outrage in the land of Oz because women are flawed and could not possibly control a kingdom. If the Oz had been a women, it also would have taken away one of the advantages the Oz had over the witches. It would have made it more likely that a battle would have ensued and that the evil witch could have prospered. Overall, the Wizard of Oz is an extremely gender biased story.

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