The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Frank Baum (1900)
Overview of the book
Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” seems to be solely intended to entertain children but it has more meaning that what the author presents to the world. The book follows the adventure of a young girl, Dorothy, who has to embark on an adventure where she encounters and interacts with other characters, some of whom have supernatural powers. Dorothy, the protagonist, lives with her uncle and aunt because her parents passed away. They live in Kansas where she brought her Toto. Toto is Dorothy’s companion, and he accompanies her almost everywhere she goes. In fact, Dorothy fails to go back to Kansas after her dog runs off just before the hot air balloon takes off. She is left in Emerald city and has to begin her long journey back home.
On her way, Dorothy encounters some witches who have different attributes. They are either aligned to the good in society or evil deeds with no regard to the consequences of their actions. They include two wicked witches of the East and the West and the good witches of the north and the south.
In her quest to get back to Kansas, Dorothy befriends a host of other characters, all of whom are unique in their behavior and mannerism. For instance, the cowardly wishes that he had the courage to overcome the things he fears around him. The scarecrow, on the other hand, wishes that he had a bigger brain.
All these characters have a special to play in the life of the protagonist. The witches are the rulers of land in the areas they inhabit, and they treat people according to the character they have. For example, when Dorothy and the Munchkins encounter the wicked witch of the West, the Witch treats them in an inhumane way to an extent that the munchkins are grateful when they learn of the witch’s death at the hand of Dorothy (Baum 4). They thank her for the liberation and freedom she has accorded them by killing the ruler who had been cruel to them for many years.
As much as the author seems to target an audience of children in this book using a fairy tale approach and supernatural characters, most of them are symbolic. Political ideologies that prevailed in the in the nineteenth century can be depicted in many scenes and behaviors portrayed by the characters.
The politics that prevailed in the 1890s founded on ideologies such as populism are evident in the book. In this way, it is right to assert that Frank Baum’s work is an allegory of the systems of government that were used to run the national resources and the people back in the day. In fact, the authors approach seems to satirize popular political dimensions and implementations such as the monetary policy. The author seems to pen down a subtle look at populism, the monetary policy, and American politics in general.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz versus the monetary policy
Monetary policy refers to a measure taken by the government to control the supply of money and ensure stability in the economy. Most governments in the world struggle with striking a balance between the supply of money in the economy, economic stability, and poverty caused by high rates of inflation. Having little money or too much money in the economy leads to instability because of the unreasonable pricing of the commodities in the economy. At the same time, the government is supposed to keep the same prices reasonably low such that a large percentage of the population in the country can manage to get its daily needs.
The allegory or symbolism of the witch who died at the hands of Dorothy best illustrates the monetary policy. While in Oz, the house fell on the witch, killing her on the spot. After they reach the city of Emerald following the death of the Witch of the East, Dorothy, and her companions are assigned another task of killing the wicked witch ruling the western side of the country. If she does this, Dorothy hopes that the wizard will reward her by helping her to get back home.
On her return to Kansas City, Dorothy used the Yellow Brick Road to reach the wizard. This road is symbolic of the monetary policy. As she goes to the wizard, Dorothy walks away from, the poor living conditions that she had been subjected to by the evil witch of the east. She had been forced to work for free alongside other munchkins. This can be compared poverty and poor living conditions caused by the unequal distribution of money among different households and individuals back in the day. As such she uses the Yellow Brick Road to seek solace and a better life, it can be viewed in the same manner as the implementation of the monetary policy that seeks to improve the lives of people through a stable life.
An important lesson learned for this symbolism is that economic stability, poor wages, and hard working conditions have been a problem for many years. It is also an indication that leadership has a direct effect on the economic welfare of the people, and it determines how well they live. If leaders are dictatorial and autocratic, then they do not take the account for the wellbeing of the people. Poor leadership leads to oppression and just like them munchkins, in this case, those being led may never have the ability to do away with bad leadership because they do not have the power to do it. This allegory is an illustration of the relationship between poor governance and the wellbeing of the people.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz versus the populist/ progressive movement
The populist/progressive movement is a political era established and prevalent in the United States at the onset of the 1890s though to 1900. Overall, it was an ear on which the masses drew the distinction between bad leadership and what they expected from the government. Ideally, the progressive movement was founded based on the level of dissatisfaction that people had regarding the rulers in power at that time. Those who supported the movement did not like the fact that the government was in the hands of a few individuals with money and influence in the society. In light of their complaints against poor leadership, the populists began to advocate reforms. The changes they sought included women’s suffrage, the election of leaders in the United States, and secret ballots to promote democracy.
Various allegories from the book point to the existence of the populist movement. On her to Emerald city, Dorothy runs into the scarecrow, who has no brain. Since he is brainless, the scarecrow does not understand what is going on around him. The scarecrow with no brains is symbolic of the farmers in the Midwest. These farmers always lived with a sense of self-doubt and inferiority because of the many years of hardship that they had to deal with.
However, it is important to note that the allegory of the Scarecrow tells the story from different perspectives. As much as the farmers are misinformed, they are united by their hardship. The resilience and common sense showed by the scarecrow as they travel to Oz indicate that the oppressed farmers had basic knowledge on leadership, and they wanted to do away with bad governance. This led to the formation of the Populist movement. In the end, the symbolism promotes the understanding that people, however primitive they may be, will always tell political wrongs when they happen. It is upon those in power to ensure that they create a conducive nation for everyone to live in regardless of their social and economic status.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz versus American politics
The book is an illustration of the progress that has been made in the politics of the United States. Today, the state of affairs cannot be compared to how things were towards the end of the nineteenth century. This growth and progress that is evident today may not have taken place if historical events and movements such as the populist movement had not been formed back then. Even though the book does not tell and mention the people and the stories directly, accurate inferences can be made based on the characters and the setting of the book.
The fact that it has many characters goes a long way to depict the cultural and ethnic diversity of the United States. The protagonist Dorothy is active throughout the story, and she can be used to represent the majority ethnic factions in the United States, who have much influence on the direction of political leadership in the country. On the other hand, there are some factions that have a problem expressing their political needs and asserting their political influence in the country. These are the minority groups that have less representation in politics. They can be inferred to the cowardly lion who knows that he has a problem of fear but has nothing much to do about it. The lion says, “"I've always known it. But how can I help it?"(Baum 20).
The populist movement represented by the munchkins and the brainless scarecrow in the story marks the beginning of democracy in the country. The political things that the populist movement advocates seek to create equality of all people in the country regardless of their gender or social standing. In essence, it is the commencement of a desirable and democratic form of government in the United States.
The symbolism related to the formation of the Populist movement teaches people of the need to remain firm against poor and oppressive leadership. The farmers are united by a common course regardless of their ethnic differences. In light of such unity, the spirit of democracy and nationalism is born, and people have the obligation to look out for each other by ensuring that they demand the best leadership from those in power.
Baum, L F. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Champaign: Project Gutenberg, 1990. Print.