Fairies and Fantasy: The Wizard of Oz part 3

At the end of Act II of The Wizard of Oz, the Wizard sends Dorothy out to get the broom of the Wicked Witch. Dorothy immediately grasps the import of this command: the Wizard’s not in need of a broom, he’s ordering her to kill the Witch.

Why? Has the Witch been troubling the Emerald City? I don’t see how — the Emerald Citizens are all jolly, healthy and well cared-for — not a winged monkey in sight. Does he send her to kill the Witch because she’s kind of "brought the Witch to their doorstep?" Maybe — maybe he thinks that the "SURRENDER DOROTHY" that the witch writes in the sky over the Emerald City is directed towards himself. "Uh-oh, the Witch wants this little girl, I’d better give her what she want, maybe then she’ll go away." Is the Wizard the Neville Chamberlain of Oz, and Dorothy Czechoslovakia?

Or does Oz simply want to be rid of this troublesome child? Once Toto exposes him, the Wizard defends his actions by saying "I’m a very good man, I’m just a very bad Wizard." Well, this self-described "very good man" just sent a child to certain death, because she inconvenienced him. It’s these kinds of thoughts that keep bringing me around to a psychological analysis of The Wizard of Oz — it’s the only lens that makes sense to me, that explains everything (except the Tin Man — that guy still bugs me).free stats

In this examination of Dorothy’s mind, she has been thrown by a vision of her worst possible adult self (Miss Gulch) and tossed into a whirling vortex of an identity crisis — who is she, who will she become, how will she get there, what does it all mean. Her personality has been shattered, and her "golden path" to self-actualization involves rebuilding it step by step, the mind, the heart, the gut.

The next step in her development involves a confrontation with Ultimate Authority. The Wizard of Oz impresses even Glinda, so we may be assured he must be quite powerful indeed. It seems to me that Dorothy is, in her personal development, pushed toward a confrontation with God. This pushes Wizard into very deep water indeed, and asks the audience to consider "Well, what is God?" The idea that everybody seems to be able to come up with the concept of God and that nobody can ever quite pin Him down suggests to me (I am not a psychologist) that there is a part of the human mind that takes everything irrational and terrifying and assigns it, for the sake of staying sane, onto an abstract authority called God, an all-powerful entity who is "out there" somewhere, and who must have some kind of plan for this cockeyed carnival, otherwise there is no point to living. Dorothy, having taken her id (Toto) under her arm and gathered her brain, her heart and her gut, is now ready to Meet God, in the hopes thatHe will give her the completeness and equilibrium she’s seeking.

God, to Dorothy’s surprise, refuses to grant her request. Or rather, demands a sacrifice (a rather Old Testament God, this Wizard — petulant, vain and manipulative, using his power to frighten and control instead of to inspire). The sacrifice he demands is the death of the Wicked Witch — Dorothy’s nightmare vision of her worst possible adult self. Dorothy is, understandably, terrified at this prospect — she’s entering a very dark psychological wood here indeed. It’s not that she’s intending to kill her worst possible self, it’s that she’s dreading facing up to that vision altogether — she’s dreading seeing that adulthood, seeing herself as that bitter, rage-filled old crone. She knows that that witch wants her ruby slippers — her soul — and she’s terrified that she might fail.

She heads into the witch’s territory with absolutely no plan — her squad of witch-hunters carries a wrench, a revolver and a bug-sprayer — Dorothy herself carries nothing at all. Except Toto, of course — the source of all this trouble to begin with. The witch wants Dorothy’s slippers, of course, but she takes the time to mention that she wants her "little dog" too, which equates the slippers with Toto, making them almost of equal value in Dorothy’s mind (and in the minds of the audience — uncounted life-long love affairs with shoes undoubtedly began with seeing The Wizard of Oz, or Cinderella).

(The slippers belonged to the witch’s sister, so it makes sense that she has some claim to them — which makes me think that the dead sister is, literally, Dorothy’s absent dead mother, the slippers being her legacy to Dorothy, which would make the Wicked Witch not Dorothy’s worst adult self, but a stand-in for Aunt Em, the woman who’s too busy tending chickens to deal with Dorothy’s psychological development — but it’s too late to go down that road today.)

The winged monkeys attack, and Dorothy’s non-plan unravels in a heartbeat. Let’s face it, Dorothy is utterly unprepared to face the witch, and the claustrophobic, chest-clutching terror one feels in the castle scenes is palpable. The witch locks Dorothy up in her office and tries to get the shoes off of her, but fails — Dorothy must be killed, her hard-won personality destroyed, in order to serve the witch’s greed and rage.

The witch then, for some reason, pulls a grade-Z Bond-villain stunt — leaves the room and sets a timer for Dorothy’s death. Why? Does she have a meeting to attend to before she fulfills her vendetta against Dorothy? What the hell is she doing, what else does she have to do that’s more important than getting the thing she’s been pursuing all through the movie? I think the hourglass that the witch overturns is a reminder to Dorothy that life, and transmutation into this nightmare adult-self, is simply a matter of time — you only have so much time to be a youth, you only have so much time to get your psychological (or behavioral, if you will) ducks in a row, and then your time runs out, and then you’re an adult, you’ve arrived, and it’s too late, you’re doomed, the "wicked witch" will get you.

In Dorothy’s dark hour, a vision of Aunt Em appears in the Witch’s crystal ball, calling for Dorothy. If Dorothy had her wits about her, the first thing out of her mouth would be "Hey, wait a minute, you’re not sick! Why on earth didn’t I run off with Professor Marvel?" But clearly Dorothy was never really worried that Em was sick, she was using that as an excuse to "go home," to regain her equilibrium.

Meanwhile, in another part of the forest, Dorothy’s psychological stand-ins, the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion, demonstrate that personality is action. The brainless Scarecrow comes up with a workable plan, the emotionless Tin Man cries at the drop of a shako, and the Cowardly Lion sucks it up and marches into the mouth of evil. Unsurprisingly, they triumph, at least insofar as they meet up again with Dorothy. They are cornered by the Witch and her minions and Dorothy foils the witch with the most common of substances imaginable. The folks who complain that the Witch is killed too easily (what does she do when she gets thirsty? How does she bathe? Does that explain why her skin is green?) miss the point: the water is not the thing that kills the witch, it is simply the fact that Dorothy stood up to her. When the witch stops threatening and acts (that is, stops pretending to be a witch and behaves as one) Dorothy sees no other course of action — she defends herself and the witch literally crumbles at the first blow. She is, like everything in the story, only an illusion — there never was a wicked witch, only Dorothy’s psychological nightmare.

Dorothy takes the witch’s broom back to the Wizard — that is, presents her newly-reintegrated self to God, prepared for judgment — and God, again, refuses. But this new Dorothy no longer has any doubt about who she is, her mind, heart, gut and little dog are fully aware of their value, and she confronts the Wizard just as she confronted the Witch. And, just as with the Witch, the Wizard crumbles at the first blow. Having vanquished the nightmare vision of her worst possible adult self, Dorothy quickly comes to the realization that the part of her mind that contains God is also an illusion — there is no Ultimate Authority, Dorothy (and the audience) learn that one is one’s own Ultimate Authority. Dorothy is the Wizard, the self is God. (Someone mentioned the other day that Harold Arlen was an atheist — I have no trouble believing that). That’s what Glinda means when she says that Dorothy has always had the power to go home — it’s not a cheat, it’s the whole point of the story. Dorothy is thrown into her psychological vortex because she’s terrified that she has no power, and ventures through this psychological labyrinth to find that she has, literally, all the power in the world.

Once Dorothy comes to this realization, she no longer needs her psychological surrogates, and no longer needs Oz — she only needs her slippers, her soul, to realize that she’s never left home at all. When someone back in Kansas asks her what Oz was like, she says that parts of it were ugly, but most of it was very beautiful. She’s describing, of course, Kansas, and "life," but also she’s describing herself — she’s tunneled through all the layers of her psychological makeup and emeged healthy and whole on the other side.

(On a political note, it seems to me that the only real postive thing the Wizard does in Oz is leave it. Oz can obviously take care of itself, never needed a Wizard, only installed him because societies invest leaders with power for the same reason human invest God with power — to relieve themselves of responsibility. Dorothy’s triumph of self-actualization is also Oz’s triumph of self-rule.)

(I also note that Dorothy’s late-narrative disaster at the balloon-launch is prompted by Toto attacking yet another cat. The unsocialized Toto cannot be tamed, and I also note that the sloe-eyed minx holding the cat is, I think, the single sexualized character in the whole movie.)

As someone pointed out yesterday, Toto is left dangling at the end of Wizard. The inciting incident is left unanswered, Miss Gulch is sitll out there somewhere, gunning for Dorothy’s little dog. This indicates to me that Toto was never really the problem to begin with, was always a symbol. We just saw Gulch’s surrogate killed, we get the sense that she is now powerless in Kansas. I would love to see a scene where, in the midst of the storm, Aunt Em murders Miss Gulch and makes it look likethe tornado did it, standing over the old crone’s crushed body and screaming "That’s what I really think of you, you old bitch!" but that will have to wait for another time.


64 Responses to “Fairies and Fantasy: The Wizard of Oz part 3”
  1. ndgmtlcd says:

    “The idea that everybody seems to be able to come up with the concept of God…”

    If you’re talking about primitive man, then it should be the search for the gods, and they should be gendered. The great god of Oz is non-gendered and monotheism seems to reign in that city. We’re far further along the path, as civilisations go. Then, Dorothy’s adventure takes us further along, on some brisk marching music, so that she can finally unmask monotheism for what it really is.

    You’ve established the foundations for arguing that “The Wizard of Oz” is an existentialist movie. I wonder if Albert Camus and Antoine de Saint-Exupery ever got a chance to see that film. I wonder what they would, what they could have thought of it.

    • sheherazahde says:

      Why you gotta go dis’n us pagans.

      The theory that polytheism is “primitive” and monotheism is “advanced” will hold water when the Trinitarians convert to Islam. That’s a Real monothisitic religion.

      • Re: Why you gotta go dis’n us pagans.

        Well, they said it’s further along a particular path, not that it’s more advanced on an absolute scale of value. That seems to be supported by anthropological research. Low-technology, tribe-level societies are almost always polytheistic, and even when there is one creator god, that god is seen as vague and distant, and people’s direct dealings are with smaller, more specialized gods and spirits. They also tend to have well-developed ideas about pragmatic concerns, like which god will help with which problem and what you need to do to avoid making them angry, but vague and unarticulated ideas about rarefied metaphysical ideas like whether the gods are older than the universe or how they can be in many places at once. The unitarian / trinitarian debate is the kind of thing that only happens in a society with large concentrations of power and a bias towards abstract thought, since in practice it doesn’t make any damn difference.

        So if Todd is right that the Wizard represents a monotheistic deity, then the witches represent an earlier, more grounded polytheism. And the fact that the Wizard either makes the witches fear him or tries to kill them off makes Oz seem like a story about Western colonialism…

        • Re: Why you gotta go dis’n us pagans.

          Additionally, the green-colored glasses and social hegemony over the Munchkins are a representative for the excessive influence the International Monetary Fund wields in developing nations. I am deeply and absolutely certain about this.

        • sheherazahde says:

          Re: Why you gotta go dis’n us pagans.

          “they said it’s further along a particular path, not that it’s more advanced on an absolute scale of value. “

          Oh come on, “primitive” and “further along” are are points on absolute value scales.

          “That seems to be supported by anthropological research.”

          Only primitive and biased anthropological research. Your description of religion in “low-technology, tribe-level societies” fits most Christians (Saints for Catholics and Angels for Protestants). The only people in any culture who have more than vague and unarticulated ideas about metaphysics are the religious specialists. The Hindu Vedic Sages were just as specific and articulate as any monotheist.

          “So if Todd is right that the Wizard represents a monotheistic deity, then the witches represent an earlier, more grounded polytheism. And the fact that the Wizard either makes the witches fear him or tries to kill them off makes Oz seem like a story about Western colonialism…”

          It is more likely that the witches represent all women and the Wizard’s attitude toward then is just the traditional Christian attitude toward women. Which I will grant you is based on the Christian demonization of the pagan, immanant divine, world view.

          • Re: Why you gotta go dis'n us pagans.

            I didn’t say “farther along,” I (and the original commenter) said “farther along a particular path.” That’s not the same thing. For example, I would say that the religious right is trying to move our nation farther along a path of theocracy, ignorance, and violent intolerance, and the neoconservatives are trying to move it farther along a path of uncontrolled warmongering. Those are not positive judgments.

            The only people in any culture who have more than vague and unarticulated ideas about metaphysics are the religious specialists.

            You’re right, I should have said that it’s only more technologically developed cultures that seem to try and come up with large volumes of internally consistent religious dogma and then try to force common practitioners to believe it. As you point out, that doesn’t work very well — There’s some religious dogma that most people accept as important, but mostly people believe what’s meaningful and useful, and what makes sense to them.

            Also, I don’t think that monotheism is a precondition for complex religious beliefs, but rather that pure monotheism requires more complex and counterintuitive religious beliefs than most folk religions. And following from that, that if you want to get a population to be monotheistic, you need a mechanism for developing, disseminating, and enforcing those beliefs.

            I’m not qualified to talk about what usually catalyzes a culture’s change from polytheism to monotheism. As you pointed out, Hinduism has remained polytheistic even though it has complicated enough philosophy and exists in societies that are developed enough to support monotheism. I’m not sure if even very well-qualified people really know, since we have so few case studies of people inventing monotheism spontaneously, or even of adopting an existing monotheistic religion without coercion. So I didn’t mean to go there.

            • sheherazahde says:

              Re: Why you gotta go dis'n us pagans.

              In fairness I have to admit that there is no one generally accepted theory of religion.
              But my degree is in Sociology of Religion and Social Change and I tend to go with the Cultureal Materialism theory proposed by Marvin Harris.

              • Re: Why you gotta go dis'n us pagans.

                His work looks interesting. My background is in the cognitive anthropology of religion, which is a pretty small field anchored by people like Pascal Boyer, Justin L. Barrett, and Paul Rozin. It’s generally about identifying commonalities among broad groups of religions and matching them up with ubiquitous cognitive tendencies (e.g., bias towards ascribing events to agency rather than natural laws; preference for stories with a small number of counterintuitive elements). If nothing else, this probably helps explain why my comments are so overgeneralized compared to yours.

                • sheherazahde says:

                  Re: Why you gotta go dis'n us pagans.

                  If your field involves actually CAT scans of people’s brains that sound interesting.

                  Is “preference for stories with a small number of counterintuitive elements” in contrast to
                  “preference for stories with a large number of counterintuitive elements” or
                  “preference for stories with no counterintuitive elements”?

                  Isn’t “counterintuitive” subjective? How do you measure that?

                  What is the cognative difference between “ascribing events to agency” and “ascribing events to natural laws”? (I’m assuming “agency” means gods or spirits and “natural laws” means Science.)

                  While I was Googling “Cognative Anthopology of Religion” and I found this Quote that relates to my original objection.

                  “In the 19th century, cultural anthropology was dominated by an interest in cultural evolution; most anthropologists assumed that there was a simple distinction between “primitive” and “modern” religion and tried to provide accounts of how the former evolved into the latter. In the 20th century most anthropologists rejected this approach. Today the anthropology of religion reflects the influence of, or an engagement with, such theorists as Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Émile Durkheim, and Max Weber. They are especially concerned with how religious beliefs and practices may reflect political or economic forces; or the social functions of religious beliefs and practices.”

                  Any reference to polytheism being “primitive” and monotheism being “advanaced” harkens back to the older theories of cultural “evolution”. Most people don’t understand that “survival of the fittest” does not meant “survival of the best” it means “survival of that which is most able to function in these particular conditions”.

                  What I most like about Cultural Materialism is that it is so pragmatic.

          • ndgmtlcd says:

            Re: Why you gotta go dis’n us pagans.

            Don’t forget that Glinda is a good witch.

  2. Anonymous says:

    You’ve given us an interesting and satisfying reading of the movie, but I’m not sure you’ve really answered your own question of what makes this such an enduring work.

    Surely, the fact that it was broadcast on television annually for decades — a period in which there were only a handful of channels to watch, and the generation that dominated popular culture were children — has played a huge role. It’s become such a touchstone in our culture, particularly in our movie culture, that its influence is probably assured. But I wonder just how popular it remains as an actual movie among people younger than, say 25. Young WDTPW readers, what say you?

    Then there are the technical aspects of the filmmaking that you touched on a little, especially pacing and production design. Don’t underestimate whimsy: Hundreds of singing midgets! Apple-throwing trees! Flying monkeys! The quality of the music is crucial, too, and its absence in Act III (in which the only song is that menacing, indecipherable chant of the Witch’s guards) adds to the tension.

    My questions for you: How aware do you think these filmmakers actually were of the metaphorical, psychological meanings you identified here? How helpful is this kind of analysis to your own screenwriting? And once you’ve figured out the metaphors in your own stories, do you discuss them with the people to whom you have to sell your ideas?


    • Todd says:

      What I’ve tried to do here is come up with an metaphor that would explain the movie’s popularity to generations upon generations. My daughter Kit, at 5 years old, knows nothing of L. Frank Baum, Kansas, William Jennings Bryan, the gold standard, or the development of televised entertainment and its impact on American viewing habits. In spite of this stunning ignorance, she’s captivated by this odd movie and plans to be Dorothy for Halloween. What accounts for this? What I’ve tried to do here is suggest that the movie speaks to something deeper than the superficial “entertainment” of Dorothy’s battle with the Wicked Witch, speaks to something in all children — and all adults.

      (For what it’s worth, Sam, 7, enjoyed the movie too, but his interests were much more technical — for instance, he wanted to know if the Tin Man was wearing a hat, or if the top of his head was a funnel, this question provoked by the Tin Man being able to shoot a plume of dust out of his funnel. I argued that it must be the top of his head, but moments later the Tin Man used his funnel to put out the fire threatening the Scarecrow, which scotched that idea.)

      The production design is indeed spectacular, but that’s true of literally hundreds of movies from the era, none of which have remained as popular as Wizard. Likewise, there are plenty of movies crammed full of high-style whimsy that are complete narrative botches — the lamentable Labyrinth springs immediately to mind. The songs are also, as you note, deathless and delightful, and the story has proven itself timeless, but you could say those same things about Man of La Mancha, and that’s one of the most unwatchably tedious movies ever made.

      I think the filmmakers were absolutely aware of the metaphorical implications of their story — whether they were working from the same metaphor as I am here is a different question, but you can see from the choices they made and the resulting cohesion that they had a clear idea of where they were heading and how they should get there. Maybe this or that detail is a lucky coincidence, maybe I’m reaching with some of my conclusions, but the emotional spine of the story is as clear as could be.

      And yes, once I figure out the metaphors in my own stories, that’s the first thing I discuss with potential employers.

      • woodandiron says:

        Do you write for the metaphor or does the metaphor develop as you write your material?

        I’m currently going for an English degree at Penn State (after spending three tortuous years at a science school heading towards a degree in pharmacy, I’m finally doing something I truly love) and of course that means a lot of reading and analyzing. I love it but there comes a point where you have to say, “Did the author really intend this? Didn’t she/he really just want an interesting story to tell?”

        But then deconstructionism will tell you that the author is dead and his/her intentions mean jack squat.

        I guess my question, in being a fledgling writer, is that I know the themes of what I want to write about but I’m having a hard time coming up with the story that would employ those themes. So do you write thinking, “well this means this” or do you write an interesting story and then look back and say “oh, well this means this”?

        • Todd says:

          I can’t speak for other writers, but I find that I can’t start serious work on a project until I have my central metaphors in place.

          Which is not to say that I start with a metaphor. It’s more likely that I’ll start with a character or a situation, an “area” that I think will be fun to spend some time in, and then toy with that for a while until a metaphor suggests itself.

          The metaphors that I’m dealing with here in this analysis of Wizard may or may not reflect the filmmakers’ intent. However, the fact that the metaphor I’ve chosen does seem to explain a lot of what happens in the movie does indicate that the filmmakers chose a very strong central metaphor, because I’ve found that a story with a strong central metaphor resonates on many different levels and lasts for a good long time while other stories fade into insignificance.

          • Anonymous says:

            …the fact that the metaphor I’ve chosen does seem to explain a lot of what happens in the movie does indicate that the filmmakers chose a very strong central metaphor… I’ve found that a story with a strong central metaphor resonates on many different levels and lasts for a good long time while other stories fade into insignificance.

            That answers your original question and is the crux of your argument.
            Thank you.

      • sheherazahde says:

        While I totally support your analysis of the metaphorical meanings of stories. I think they work a lot better when the author is not aware of them. Nobody likes being preached at. I think stories work better when neither the teller nor the audience is conscious of the deeper meanings.

        • dionysus1999 says:

          As a beginning writer, I disagree. Good writers can work at multiple levels, taking a moral theme and overlaying a thoroughly entertaining story over it. A good understanding of myth and legend infuses a writers’ work, but many authors would be insulted if you said the deeper meanings were unintentional.

          • stormwyvern says:

            I think the problem comes when the deeper meaning of the story becomes so transparent and hijacks the narrative so completely that the story no longer works on its own merits. It’s fine to have a story written with more going on than what’s visible on the surface from the first rough draft, just so long as the story also works when taken at face value. If the reader cannot enjoy or even understand the story at all without knowing the underlying metaphor, then what you have is a bad story. Certainly “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe” would not have enjoyed the popularity that it has over the years if some children (like yours truly, some years back) couldn’t have a grand old time reading the books without having any clue that the whole series is one big Christian allegory. I know it seems obvious in hindsight, but I was young and my upbringing was secular. Character actions and motivations cannot only make sense when you understand the hidden message behind them. The story and the world have to work in their own right.

        • Todd says:

          While I understand what you mean, I cannot imagine an author worth reading not being aware of his or her metaphors.

    • stardust9121 says:

      Under-25 reader checking in! 23, actually.

      And yes, I am a fan of this movie, and most people my age I know have it pretty vividly stored away in their memories. I don’t know about kids my younger brother’s age, though (he’s in high school).

      Factors that might have affected the influence this movie had on me, however, as a “young reader”: For one thing, I was also a fan of the book. For another, at this point in my life I was pretty saturated in – yes – those infamous 80s-fantasy movies, which this movie seemed in some ways, mostly the more surreal moments, to fall pretty neatly alongside.

      And that’s partly it – they’re kinda trippy memories, which I think is one of the main reasons it’s stuck with us for so long. When you’re a small child, and you see this movie, you don’t forget it. And it’s actually two moments in Act III that were the most powerful for me, and most of my friends then: the constant chanting of the guards (as you mentioned), and the hourglass scene. The latter completely terrified me; in my mind the red sand either represented or really was blood, was somehow *actually* Dorothy’s life, and therefore she would literally die the moment it ran out. Incredibly disturbing.

      Now, while surreal childhood experiences with this movie might be the initial hook, I think it’s the elements that Todd’s been discussing that *keep* it in the popular consciousness. Our readings of it can evolve and change as we do, particularly because of the child protagonist.

      • robjmiller says:

        Also an under 25er here at the ripe age of 24. After posting about the “fantasy formula” I guess I should put in my opinion here.

        While I like Oz, I don’t love it. I was never obsessed with it while growing up (although my mom tells me that I was terrified of the flying monkeys) the way I was with The Karate Kid, or even other fantasy movies like Willow and The Last Unicorn. My main problem was that I was always annoyed by Garland because she acts, talks and looks like a caricature of a child with an off-putting sing-song voice (the era’s equivalent of current Disney child-actors shout-speaking).

        Oz just never really did it for me as a kid. Unfortunately the only time I’ve seen it in the last 5-10 years it had Pink Floyd synched up to it, so I can’t really comment on how it strikes me now. To me, Oz is more of a cultural touchstone than a great film, but I give it endless credit for its influence.

        • Todd says:

          If you don’t like Judy Garland in the part, try to imagine Shirley Temple, the actress who was originally cast.

          • rennameeks says:

            Which goes back to the original image of Dorothy, which goes back to the source material.

            It was the times moreso than Garland herself. She rebelled behind the scenes at her squeaky-clean image in later works (Meet Me in St. Louis comes to mind). It doesn’t change the final text, but it does shift the annoying part off of Garland, IMO.

            • Todd says:

              For what it’s worth, I don’t find Garland annoying at all in this movie. Everyone is doing a highly stylized, stagy sort of acting, and Garland is, I think, much more modulated and translucent than, say, the old vaudeville hams playing her pals, all of whom hold their parts at arms length, almost as though they’re embarrassed to be in the movie.

              • rennameeks says:

                Oh, I don’t find her annoying either; I was more playing devil’s advocate.

                I like her; one of my all-time favorites. 🙂 She’s very real and honest in her work, despite the constricting style of the times.

  3. mitejen says:

    that there is a part of the human mind that takes everything irrational and terrifying and assigns it, for the sake of staying sane, onto an abstract authority called God, an all-powerful entity who is “out there” somewhere, and who must have some kind of plan for this cockeyed carnival, otherwise there is no point to living.

    There is a psychological theory called ‘Magical Thinking’ that academics coined in reference to this thought process. We as animals want to make sense of the universe, and have evolved to learn to make associations, even if they make no logical sense. For example, some plants are brightly colored in order to act as a warning not to eat them, but not ALL plants that are brightly colored are poisonous. So if you eat a red plant and get sick, you might associate the color ‘red’ with the planet, in order to avoid sickness. But the color is not what made you sick, it was something in the plant. You’d need to experiment to learn if everything red could make you sick, but it’s a huge risk to do so, so you might not do it.

    It’s making sometimes arbitrary associations between stimulus and response–but it’s also how people start to lose rational and logical thinking, and move into superstition and ‘magic’ to explain things. Rain falls from the sky, primitive man couldn’t explain that, and decided there was someone or -ones up there MAKING it rain.

    • sheherazahde says:

      ‘Magical Thinking’

      “that there is a part of the human mind that takes everything irrational and terrifying and assigns it, for the sake of staying sane, onto an abstract authority called God, an all-powerful entity who is “out there” somewhere, and who must have some kind of plan for this cockeyed carnival, otherwise there is no point to living. “

      I agree that we have a need to explain why things happen. What explanation we come up with depends on what information we have to build an explaination.

      Another way of thinking of the “Magical Thinking” thought prossess is that the need we have to explain why things happens is the root of rational and logical thinking.

      The diference between “Magical Thinking” and “Rational Thinking” is whether the speaker agrees with the conclutions.

      • mitejen says:

        Re: 'Magical Thinking'

        Another way of thinking of the “Magical Thinking” thought prossess is that the need we have to explain why things happens is the root of rational and logical thinking.


        I think the biggest problem in the world, right now, is a critical failure of populations to question not just their goverment or the status quo, but their own mindsets and motivations.

        There was an XKCD cartoon (I won’t even try to find it, my afternoon is already planned out and searching would take a little while) lampooning the difference between the ‘average’ person and a scientist. The average person touches a button, receives a shock, and does not touch the button any more. The scientist touches the button receives the shock, wonders what happened, touches it again, tries to figure out why they are being shocked, touches it again, tries to evaluate their physical discomfort and so on. The scientific mindset, and even the scientific theory, are diametrically opposed to ‘giving up’ after one try.


  4. jbacardi says:

    Hope you get to see Return to Oz one of these days; I like it a lot and I’m interested in your thoughts on it. If I had a DVD burner I’d send you a copy…

    I’ve never read any of the OZ books, other than an excerpt or two over the years, although I’ve certainly seen this movie a hell of a lot, being born in 1960. I remember when they’d get Danny Kaye to host the TV showings. Anyway, when I got older I kinda dismissed the 1939 version as a more “Hollywood-ized” version of the books, which (in my limited experience, of course) seemed wilder and weirder (as was kinda borne out by the more-faithful to the source Return)…but this series of overviews of that film have opened my eyes to what they were trying (perhaps unintentionally, in some cases) to do, and yea verily I have seen the light. Thanks for that! You do all the heavy lifting, and I get the benefits…

  5. stormwyvern says:

    You mentioned the in part 2 how tight the pacing of this movie is, so I think it’s worth briefly mentioning some of the scenes that were cut from the film. I’d known about the lost “Jitterbug” dance number for years, but I only recently heard about a scene where Dorothy, imprisoned by the witch and facing death, sobs out a reprise of “Over the Rainbow” which I assume was cut because it would have caused all the children and not an insignificant number of adults to run for the theater door in tears.

    What is Oz thinking in sending Dorothy to kill the Witch of the West? It is possible that the Witch has been a problem for the Emerald City, even though it doesn’t seem so. The Munchkins seem overjoyed that the Witch of the East is dead and they don’t appear to be badly off for whatever she’s done to them. Perhaps our best hint is how his real-world counterpart behaves. Marvel may be a humbug, but his intentions are good: he uses his sham “magic” to get Dorothy to go back home. So is the Wizard trying to scare Dorothy into doing something ultimately beneficial for her, even outside of the psychological metaphor of the film? Does he recognize that she, and her companions to a lesser extent, are quite powerful and perfectly capable of defeating the Witch, which Dorothy has to do if she’s ever to be safe?

    Like you said, looking at the Witch of the East as a stand-in for Dororthy’s absent mother and the Witch of the West as actually being Auntie Em opens up a whole other can of analysis worms. Plus the connection made between Miss Gulch and the Witch is so direct that it’s hard to see it any other way. But if the Witch is more broadly what Dorothy does not want to be as an adult woman, she could stand for both Miss Gulch and Auntie Em. Though I doubt she’d ever admit it, Auntie Em is not what Dorothy wants to be as a grown woman either. Miss Gulch is a nasty, mean, bully, but powerful. Auntie Em is a nice and presumably good person who Dorothy loves very much, but also totally powerless. Part of what Dorothy comes to realize in Oz is that you can be a grown woman who is neither a Miss Gulch nor an Auntie Em, someone who is both good AND powerful.

    Aside from making Dorothy feel worse than she does already and possibly representing Auntie Em trying to wake her niece back in the real world, Auntie Em’s image in the crystal ball reminders Dorothy that she can’t expect the adults in her life to come to her aid anymore. They aren’t in Oz and even back in Kansas, she’s on the verge of having to take care of her own problems rather than look to the ineffective grown-ups in her world to help her. At the risk of bringing back Bettelheim, Auntie Em is a good example of what can be accomplished with a surrogate parent. Stories in all media from every era are littered with orphaned children raised by surrogate parents. We’ve talked about what a bad surrogate parent can accomplish, but good ones are equally useful. It might be too upsetting to imply that Dorothy’s own real mother is too weak and out-of-touch to deal with a serious threat to Toto’s life, which – whether he is her id made flesh or merely her dog – is a traumatic psychological event. But a kindly old aunt who is simply doing her best to raise a child she didn’t choose to have can more easily be forgiven for such shortcomings.

    A public radio program I heard about The Wizard of Oz claimed that Dorothy being able to defeat the Witch because she gets mad at her is one of the few popular theories about the film that holds any water (if you’ll pardon the expression). Baum was apparently raised in what for the time were unusually feminist surroundings which ended up influencing his writing. Dorothy getting somewhat mad and throwing water at the witch may not seem like much, but in the context of a time where children’s books generally encouraged young girls to be nice and well behaved and certainly not angry, it is kind of a big deal.

    I would assume that finding the ability to defeat the Witch means that Dorothy will have the strength to fight Miss Gulch and convince the adults around her that they can and should take a serious stand against this bully who, like her green-skinned counterpart, may melt at the slightest stand against her power.

    • Todd says:

      The fact that Aunt Em literally morphs into the Wicked Witch in the crystal ball lends some credit to the Em/Witch connection, although ultimately I don’t think there’s much mileage in that vehicle.

      It also seems to me that Dorothy doesn’t really get angry at the Witch, she just acts to defend the Scarecrow — she acts out of fear and self-defense, not anger.

      • Anonymous says:

        And it’s not as if Dorothy has to learn to express anger. She does that very well back in Kansas at the beginning of the movie.

        • rennameeks says:

          She was angry, but she was only able to turn tail and run at that point instead of directly facing her fear.

          It’s a more active sort of anger, rather than the sort that is all sound and fury….and utterly ineffective.

  6. strangemuses says:

    To me, the reason why this movie works so well is pretty simple and has nothing to do with psychology: it’s a well told story that is really fun to watch. It doesn’t stop to lecture or preach, it just zips along, presents one fantastic situation after another for our plucky heroine to deal with, and then bang! It’s done. It’s the story of a good kid who escapes from her boring surroundings into a colorful fantasy land that is populated by lots of weird shit. Some of the weird shit is delightful, some of it is terrifying, but it’s all fun to watch, even the scary bits. The way the adults act in this movie reflects how adults actually appear to a little kid: either nurturing and good (though often bumbling), or wildly mean: the mean old lady isn’t just going to get Dorothy, she’s so mean she’s going after the dog, too. When I watched this movie as a child, I remember getting quite indignant when the nasty old lady/evil witch threatened the dog. Every little kid out there knows that it’s not right to threaten the dog. It’s just not done! Adults who threaten your puppy are clearly evil bitches witches. Every five year old kid out there can instantly relate to Dorothy because Dorothy is just like them: good, smart, brave, and surrounded by baffling, frequently idiotic (and sometimes scary) adults.

    If I were going to ascribe any sort of psychological meaning to this story, it would simply be that the Oz movie works so well because mirrors and exaggerates how the real world and real adults appears to kids. You got your nice adults in one corner (and they’re good even when they fail to actually help you or act like outright fools), your nasty adults in the other corner (who are so bad that they even bully cowards and dogs), and you’ve got your absurd, bumbling authority figures in the middle who mean well, but frequently act like idiots (the Wizard in his various guises).

    Plus, you know, flying monkeys! Tiny people with weird hair, talking trees, emerald cities, tornados, hot air balloons! It’s fun, it’s strange, it’s scary, it has a happy ending, and it is hugely entertaining. For a kid’s adventure story, I think it suceeds on every level. You don’t need Freud to understand this movie. You just need to remember what the world looked like when you were five.

  7. misterseth says:

    It seems to me that Dorothy is, in her personal development, pushed toward a confrontation with God. This pushes Wizard into very deep water indeed, and asks the audience to consider “Well, what is God?” The idea that everybody seems to be able to come up with the concept of God and that nobody can ever quite pin Him down suggests to me (I am not a psychologist) that there is a part of the human mind that takes everything irrational and terrifying and assigns it, for the sake of staying sane, onto an abstract authority called God, an all-powerful entity who is “out there” somewhere, and who must have some kind of plan for this cockeyed carnival, otherwise there is no point to living.

    An interesting statement. In the book, the wizard is described as all powerful and knowing, but no one has actually SEEN him. When they are able to meet him, it is apparently because he is interested in Dorothy’s slippers. When they meet him though, it’s one at a time, and not together. He then appears as a monster, a beautiful woman, a ball of fire (burning bush perhaps?), and a gigantic head. When they all see him a second time he is ‘invisible’ (his words are “I am everywhere, but to the minds of all, invisible) Almost a perfect metaphor for the Judaeo Christian faith.

    • Todd says:

      In the movie, no one has “seen” him either, even though he’s literally everywhere at once, opening doors and driving cabs and guarding the palace. Being invisible and everywhere at once is an apt description of God as well.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Nice reference to the Munich agreement, and another very interesting analysis

  9. mimitabu says:

    since people are weighing in on why the movie works and how well your analysis answers the question…

    i think the movie works because it sets out easily understandable tasks whose (at least superficial) import is immediately graspable, in a beautiful, magical world that the viewer wants as much to enter further as they want to see what happens with the protagonist and those tasks (*ding ding ding* “good fantasy” criterion). this isn’t to disagree with your analysis; i think you’re right that the conflicts and stakes in the wizard of oz are consistently primal, which is what makes everything so easy to latch on to in the first place. i think this is evidenced at the very least by the fact that few people have a problem with the action of the movie, when a lot of the characters’ motivations are rather problematic at face value.

    i also believe that the tone of the movie is really well-matched by the setting. oz is a magical world, and a beautiful world (where people sing beautiful songs), but it’s also a dark world and a strange world, with seemingly vast stretches of space where anything (or nothing!) could be residing. it’s a fantasy world that doesn’t tip its hand to you completely; it’s unique and mysterious. it matches the psychological reading perfectly, and lends weight to dorothy’s struggles. oz isn’t just dorothy’s technicolor safe haven that she uses to render her fears less dangerous and come to grips with them while singing, it’s the whole confusing reality of the mind.

    the wizard of oz sells the importance of everything that happens by delivering in so many departments; it looks good, it sounds good, it’s tantalizingly mysterious and “unsafe”, but safe enough for (most) children not to be scared away, it never gets excessively uneven pacing-wise, etc. combine all these things with conflicts that derive their import not from any deep or detailed characterization, but from mirroring primal, classic conflicts and themes, and you have a movie that can’t go wrong. i think the deep, basic conflicts that constitute the action, and the consistently well done tone/setting/music are the two hands of the movie, and they wash each other.

    for an example of what i’m going for in the last paragraph, it’s extremely common for people to make an analogy to the wizard when faced with a big idea that is ultimately a lie or a front for something that’s in reality much smaller or less intimidating. why? this is a basic way that situations can be set up. the wizard and his curtain are a very raw and direct instantiation of that situation, but surely it’s not so unique a situation that the wizard in oz is all anyone can think of when they see another example of the situation. it could be the first direct depiction of this situation that many people see, but i don’t think that’s it. most of the situations in oz are primal and powerfully compelling (lost in crazy world, facing openly hostile enemy that you are terrified of, finding out a sustaining belief was misguided, etc), and they’re lifted up by being matched by the tone/setting/etc. i think we use oz and his curtain so often as an example because the movie delivers on the importance we’d expect from a “source of examples” (cf the bible). it depicts conflicts so basic they must be common (without much “characterization” to get us to care that we’re watching these people playing out those classic situations), but the form of the movie makes these conflicts classic instead of cliche. “so basic everyone can identify” can be a virtue or a weight holding a movie down, and the beauty/strangeness of oz turns it into a virtue (and it in turn renders the beauty/strangeness meaningful instead of pretentious or “just aesthetic”).

  10. swan_tower says:

    I was going to bring up the fact that Dorothy got the shoes off the dead witch — since that makes me question the notion that they represent her soul. I’m trying to think what other thing I could read them as, though, and I’m not sure. Maybe just the capacity for independent action?

    • Todd says:

      I think you’re right that the shoes are something more specific than “the soul,” but I’m not trained well enough in psychology to offer a better term — what else would Glinda (who is either Dorothy’s better self or else some benevolent deity) swipe off the dead witch’s feet (don’t forget the dead witch is, essentially, Miss Gulch — we saw her transform in the middle of the twister) and give to Dorothy? The dead witch had the shoes, but Glinda seems to feel they belong to Dorothy instead and has no problem going over the Wicked Witch’s head to obtain them. It seems like the shoes are something powerful and eternal, something that, strictly speaking, belongs to no one, but which “the good” understands belongs to Dorothy.

      • Anonymous says:

        The ruby slippers are power itself and the confidence that comes from it. They can’t be taken from Dorothy (while she’s alive), but she could choose to relinquish them — something Glinda (her example of a beautiful and powerful grown-up woman, the kind of “witch” she might want to grow up to be) admonishes her never to do.

  11. malsperanza says:

    The Wizard of Oz impresses even Glinda, so we may be assured he must be quite powerful indeed.

    Unless Glinda is as big a bubblehead as she seems. Am I right that Glinda does not map to any character in Kansas?

    Assuming that the Wizard and everything else in Oz is Dorothy’s construct, I don’t think the Wizard is a representation of God at all. The Wizard is a false god, exposed as merely human. Indeed, there is no theology whatever in Oz.

    Freud had a fairly skeptical attitude to God, and tended to demystify theology as mere ritual, masking or representing deeper (i.e., psychosexual) drives. So the great globe of the Wizard’s head could be read as Dorothy’s image of desexualized, cerebral male power. (I don’t think the Wizard-balloon is ungendered. He has a deep, masculine voice.) Or her fear of male knowledge. Or something. Her exposure of the Wizard-God as a merely human fraud might be the triumph of rationality over irrational (sexual) fears. None of the above is persuasive to me, but then I don’t think Freud did such a great job on dreams.

    The witch then, for some reason, pulls a grade-Z Bond-villain stunt — leaves the room and sets a timer for Dorothy’s death. Why?

    Isn’t this explained in the text? Dorothy has one hour to capitulate and give the Witch the ruby slippers, which the Witch thinks D has the power to do.

    Subtextually, yes: the hourglass and the huge crystal ball (vastly enlarged from when Dr. Charlatan had it) are Vanitas instruments, emblems and measures of mortality.

    • Todd says:

      I don’t mean to say that the Wizard is God, merely that he appears to be. And certainly Dorothy thinks of him as such, until her little dog pulls away the curtain.

      Glinda may travel by bubble, but I don’t think she’s a bubblehead — she’s wise and kind (although she also pulls the stunt of putting the protagonist through hell and then saying “but don’t you see, that’s the only way you would ever have learned your lesson.” When semi-deities pull that shit I just want to punch them).

      As for the hourglass, my question is why the witch bothers to give Dorothy an hour at all — why doesn’t she just kill her and her little dog too right away? It makes no sense, which is why I get the feeling there has to be some metaphorical significance to it.

      • malsperanza says:

        Oh, I see. Isn’t it a tried and true maxim of interrogators (the police kind, not the Derridean kind) that you’re supposed to let the interrogee sit and stew?


        I learned everything I know about the police from The Wire and Medium Cool. But the practical explanation certainly doesn’t negate the metaphor. I figure, any time you put a humongous hourglass in the middle of the scene, it automatically gets metaphor status. The humongous crystal ball interests me more, partly because the sheer size of it fascinated me as a child and the transformation of Auntie Em into the Witch is still one of the scariest things on celluloid, and partly because it’s Dr. Marvel’s crystal ball magnified in Dorothy’s imagination into a huge glass Spy Eye. I like the way Oz picks up fragments of real life and transforms them (Huck = Scarecrow etc.).

      • ndgmtlcd says:

        When I first watched it, decades ago, the hourglass made no sense to me. After several viewings, over the years, I assumed that the hourglass was magical, and that its black magic would kill Dorothy, after sufficient buildup. By now, I have the impression that the wicked witch was a very organized witch, who liked to manage her time to the minute. “Hmm,let’s see what do I have for my 3:30 slot, ah yes, time to kill Dorothy.” Presumably she and her minions would have, in the meantime, been preparing/digging out a potion/incantation that did those kinds of things delicately. After all, you would not want to hurt the spell

      • rennameeks says:

        As for the hourglass, my question is why the witch bothers to give Dorothy an hour at all — why doesn’t she just kill her and her little dog too right away? It makes no sense, which is why I get the feeling there has to be some metaphorical significance to it.

        Intimidation. By setting a strict deadline for Dorothy’s demise, Dorothy would be psyched out and give the witch the slippers by any means necessary. The witch didn’t just leave Dorothy alone in there; she conjured up the vision of Aunt Em (somehow) to prey upon Dorothy and weaken her resolve to fight. After all, Dorothy had been stripped of her brains, heart, and courage at that point. (But her soul ran out the window to fetch them? …..’kay.)

        Or she could just be bad at the villaining thing.

        • Todd says:

          No, her soul stays on her feet, her id runs out to fetch her brain, her heart and her guts. You can always trust your id to do the right thing.

          • rennameeks says:

            Ooh, right, my mistake. That makes MUCH more sense.

            (You can tell I don’t really buy into this take on the film, although it certainly is intriguing to consider. Nothing personal, of course; I’m like this about most theories and interpretations of that nature.)

        • jvowles says:

          Perhaps the Witch’s power really lies in her magical gear, rather than in her spellcasting. Her Broom, obviously, has power. Though we aren’t told it specifically in the movie, the book mentions a golden cap that gives the Witch power over the flying monkeys. If her powers come from items, then the hourglass is just another magical tool (presumably with the voice of MacDonald Carey from Days of Our Lives).

          But that’s just me thinking in gamer terms. I agree with Todd’s assessment that it’s a metaphor.

  12. stormwyvern says:

    Just in case anyone hasn’t received their recommended daily allowance of sad for the day, I tracked down the NPR review of the DVD release from a few years ago including the deleted “dark reprise” (Thank you, TVTropes.org) of “Over the Rainbow,” which turn Dorothy’s imprisonment from frightening and sympathy inducing to emotionally devastating, especially for the younger set.

    One of the sites I came across while trying to find this claimed that Judy Garland was so moved by performing the scene that she is actually crying during the take and may have caused the reprise to be cut from the final film. I’m not sure I buy that, but I can see how someone might think it hearing the take, not least because Garland doesn’t even manage to finish the last line.

    The sobbing starts in just past the two minute mark. Then you can cheer yourself up with an audio outtake and a few bits of “The Jitterbug,” a catchy enough number, though totally worth cutting as it’s one of those song that brings the plot to a screeching halt.

  13. rennameeks says:

    This post has nothing to do with Oz, but I didn’t want to tack it onto the political post either.

    In light of your Bond blogging, check out this link.

    Can’t imagine why I thought of you….

  14. uncacreamy says:

    You’ve got a massive amount of comments here, so I hope no one has said this.. in the book, he asks her to kill the witch because of politics. He’s taken the country over under false pretenses, and she’s a real threat to him. He’s NOT a wizard, and she’s calling him on it. We also find out later on, that he’s taken the true heir to the throne, drugged her, sold her to a witch, who then changes her into a boy. This is why he takes the convenient balloon ride out, and sets up the Scarecrow to rule in his stead (who later has troubles with revolts, and mismanagement).

  15. curt_holman says:

    “Only bad witches are ugly”

    I’ve watched this recently a few times with my daughter, and have my own theory of what’s going on in the plot (which has nothing to do with its popularity):

    I believe that the antagonist of The Wizard of Oz is Glinda the “Good” Witch, and that she’s a Palpatine/Darth Sidious-like schemer and puppet master, who uses Dorothy’s presence as a catalyst to eliminate the other “powers” of Oz: the two witches and the wizard Oz.

    Who is the first person Dorothy sees in Oz? Glinda. She shows up almost immediately after the house lands on the Wicked Witch of the East, offering some explanation like “the Munchkins called me.” After the Witch of the West threatens Dorothy, what does Glinda do? She suggests she see the Wizard of Oz, EVEN THOUGH SHE KNEW DOROTHY COULD GO HOME AT ANY TIME. So she intentionally creates a scenario in which the Oz the Great and Terrible and the Wicked Witch of the West could be in conflict.

    Does Glinda know that Oz is a humbug? I’m not sure. If she thinks Oz is a real wizard, she creates a potential for a debilitating war between Oz and the WWW. If she knows Oz is a fake, maybe she knows that Oz will try to pit Dorothy against the Witch, if only to get the Witch off his back. Either way, Glinda’s two potential rivals would be diminished.

    Maybe Glinda knows that the only way Oz will take Dorothy home is to leave himself. He flies away on the balloon on his own, seemingly stranding Dorothy in Oz, and THEN Glinda shows up, explains about the Ruby Slippers and hastily ushers her out, Dorothy having inadvertently rid Glinda of rivals for the kingdom.

    Something else I wonder is, HOW DO WE KNOW THE FALLING HOUSE KILLED THE WICKED WITCH OF THE EAST? I mean, how could she not see a house falling on her… unless she was DEAD ALREADY! Glinda saw the house falling the witch’s way, and could have either put the still-living but spellbound witch under the house, or killed the witch HERSELF, then let the house land on it, letting Dorothy take the rap! The perfect crime!

    • Todd says:

      Re: “Only bad witches are ugly”

      That all makes sense to me, but surely that would make Glinda the protagonist, not the antagonist, if she’s the one who sets all this into motion.

      The only question that remains is, is Toto in league with Glinda? Did Glinda conspire with Toto for Toto to bite Miss Gulch, setting a chain of events into motion that would bring Dorothy Harvey Oswald to Oz?

      • curt_holman says:

        “And Toto too”

        Could be. Toto leads Dorothy’s friends to the witch’s castle, ensuring Dorothy’s rescue and the witch’s doom. Toto was instrumental in Dorothy missing the balloon flight from Oz, too.

  16. jvowles says:

    Of course, since WICKED happened — in book or musical form — the whole story takes a different meaning in my muddled mind. But putting that aside (as much as I can manage)…and realizing that you’re talking only about the MOVIE and not the book:

    1. What’s the threat of the Witch to the Wizard?

    Simple: the Witch has real power — she has an army with wings and she flies a broom: that’s air superiority. The wizard is a fraud and knows how precarious his position really is – though in the movie at least he is working pretty hard at ensuring Oz remains a rather happy place.

    2. Why does the Wizard send Dorothy to face the witch?

    Well one thought is that, much like Marvell, he sees that she needs to face her fear. Marvell uses his insight into human nature to read Dorothy and then guilts her into going home. The wizard knows he can’t send her home anyway, at least not without using up his only way out if things go wrong, and that the only thing that might is the broom.

    Consider also this:

    Miss Gulch and Auntie Em represent the two visions of womanhood in Dorothy’s life — the mother figure (Em) and the crone (Gulch). Dorothy is of course a maiden, and they are her possible future selves. But neither is her *own* mother. It’s also interesting that Auntie Em has no doppleganger in Oz, and Glinda has none in Kansas. But whereas Em has no real power in the real world, Glinda is magical. I’ve thought about this a fair amount.

    I think Glinda and Em represent the direct mother figures — with Glinda being perfect, beautiful, magical, and in the end *absent*. Because in her fantasy world, Dorothy *HAS* a mother who ought to be able to swoop in and save her, be a match for her foes, give her presents, and show her how to find her way in the world. But because Dorothy doesn’t have a real mother, and quite possibly doesn’t remember her, she doesn’t have a proper idea of what sort of help or advice a real mother might give. So Glinda is, in the end, fairly useless to her in terms of the action of the story.

    That leaves Uncle Henry as the only character without a direct opposite number in Oz, which I find fairly interesting as well. Is it because he’s just outside her direct experience, being an overworked farmer and concerned with practicality? Is he simply irrelevant to her attempts to form a sense of self? It’s odd too that in Kansas, he is the head of Dorothy’s world, and he is the one who tries to make Gulch see reason. The only candidate I can find in Oz is the head of the Winkies (Flying Monkeys), who simply lacks the power to stand up to the Witch — but the analogy doesn’t really hold up, mostly because her direct father figure in both worlds is actually the Wizard/Professor Marvell.