Wizard of Oz
Updated: Sep 14, 2020
L. FRANK BAUM,
Author of the Wizard of Oz, written in 1900
Baum denied that there was a political message behind his book.
But Baum had been a political reporter in the 1880s and 90s
He wrote at the height of the farmer-led Populist movement
Which had backed Democrat William Jennings Bryan as a presidential candidate in 1896 (he lost)
The Populists supported the free and unlimited coining of silver (beneficial to farmers who borrowed money since its value was flexible) over the more stable gold standard (supported by lenders)
Symbolizes the American people: naïve, young, simple and led astray.
Dorothy's farming family in Kansas (the center of the Populist movement) has been devastated by man-made and natural disasters.
Dorothy finds her way home from Oz through her silver shoes.
The name of Dorothy's dog was possibly a play on the word "teetotaler" - non-drinking prohibitionists who supported the Populist movement.
WICKED WITCH OF THE EAST
Possibly the eastern Wall Street Bankers who enslaved the "little people" (the Munchkins)
DOROTHY'S SILVER SHOES
Symbolizes silver and the silverites
The slippers are "ruby red" in the film adaptation in 1939 starring Judy Garland because of the introduction of Technicolor
YELLOW BRICK ROAD
Symbolizes the gold standard and the goldbugs.
The group marches along the Yellow Brick Road toward the Emerald City in the same way unemployed workers led by Jacob Coxey marched toward Washington D.C. in 1894.
THE EMERALD CITY
Symbolizes the fraudulent world of greenback paper money that only pretends to have value
Symbolizes farmers who is smart and practical despite his portrayal as a man without a brain.
Symbolizes industrial workers, especially steel industries
Who needed oil to function.
The Woodman had been hacked apart by the Witch of the East (big business) until he had become a dehumanized machine without a heart.
Like many workers at the time, he is unemployed and rusty.
Symbolize William Jennings Bryan ("Bryan" the "lying" "lion")
He roared but wasn't effective because he had no courage.
"Cowardly" Bryan was criticized because he didn't support the war with Spain-- or was his unpopular stance courageous?
Symbolizes the scheming, manipulative politician who uses publicity devices and tricks to fool the people (and even the Good Witches) into believing he is benevolent, wise and powerful
In truth, he is selfish, malicious and powerless
His placement behind the curtains manipulating the mechanical animals could symbolize store window mannequins moved by levers
He appears to the group in different forms - just as politicians reveal different faces to varying groups of supporters. "Who is the real Oz?" "No living person can tell."
He grants favors in exchange for gifts and doesn't keep his promises - like all politicians
WITCH OF THE WEST
Symbolizes the American West
Symbolize the indigenous people (Native Americans)
In the book the King of the Winged Monkey “once we were a free people living happily in the great forest, flying from tree to tree, eating nuts and fruit, and doing just as we pleased without calling anybody master." Then came Oz "out of the clouds to rule over this land"
The monkeys were first sequestered (referring to the government's reservation policy)