The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900): The Best Ever Children The Novel One Must Read Analysis

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900): The Best Ever Children The Novel One Must Read Analysis

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, penned by Lyman Frank Baum and first published in 1900, stands as a seminal work in American children’s literature. This enthralling tale follows the adventures of a young girl named Dorothy, who gets carried away from her Kansas home by a cyclone to the magical Land of Oz.

Dorothy, accompanied by her dog Toto, embarks on a quest to find the Wizard of Oz, the only one who can help her return home. Moreover, along the way, she befriends an eclectic trio: a Scarecrow which was seeking brains, a Tin Woodman longing for a heart, and a Cowardly Lion that was in search of bravery. Together, they traverse the whimsical and often perilous landscape of Oz, learning valuable lessons about friendship, bravery, and self-discovery.

At its core, the story explores themes of home, identity, and the power of inner strength, resonating with readers of all ages. Baum’s masterful blend of fantasy and moral lessons ensures that “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” continues to be cherished by generations, maintaining its place as a cornerstone of children’s literature.


Dorothy Gale, a lonely orphan girl who lives with her Uncle Henry and Aunt Em in Kansas, is swept away from her dull surroundings to the exciting fantasy world of Oz.

Dorothy, accompanied by her pet dog Toto, bravely undertakes a journey of self-discovery as she wanders through fantastical settings and meets bizarre characters who guide her to the Emerald City in her quest to return home. Her travelling companions, the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Cowardly Lion, are all seeking solutions to what they consider to be their shortcomings.

The Scarecrow wishes that he had a brain; the Tin Woodman longs for a heart; and the Cowardly Lion hopes for bravery. They believe that the great wizard, who rules all of Oz and lives in the Emerald City, can meet their desires. In the process, they learn that such yearnings, more than being objects to be bartered for, are spiritual qualities they already possess.

Plot Summary

The story begins on a Kansas farm where a young girl named Dorothy lives with her Aunt Em, Uncle Henry, and her beloved dog, Toto. Their simple and repetitious life is interrupted when a powerful cyclone sweeps across the prairie, lifting their farmhouse into the air and transporting it to the enchanting and perilous land of Oz.

Upon arrival, Dorothy discovers that her house has landed on the Wicked Witch of the East, killing her instantly. The Munchkins, the little people of the land, celebrate in their newfound freedom from the Witch’s tyranny.

Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, greets Dorothy and gives her the Witch’s silver shoes (ruby slippers in the film adaptation) which possess magical properties. To return home, Glinda advises Dorothy to seek the help of the Wizard of Oz in the Emerald City, a journey that will take her through the strange and wonderful landscapes of Oz.

Setting off on the Yellow Brick Road, Dorothy encounters three companions who join her quest, each seeking something they lack. First, she meets the Scarecrow, who desires a brain to replace his head stuffed with straw. In spite of his perceived lack of intellect, the Scarecrow proves to be resourceful and clever. Next, they meet the Tin Woodman, who longs for a heart so he can feel emotions again, having been turned into tin by a wicked spell. Though he believes himself incapable of love, the Tin Woodman is compassionate and kind.

Finally, they are joined by the Cowardly Lion, who seeks courage, despite frequently demonstrating bravery to protect his friends.

Together, the group of four faces many challenges and dangers. They brave a dark forest, where the Lion conquers his fears; cross a deadly opium field that puts Dorothy and Toto to sleep until they are rescued by the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman; and fend off various magical creatures, from the deadly Kalidahs (fearsome beasts with the bodies of bears and heads of tigers) to the charming but deceptive field mice.

Throughout their journey, they support and encourage each other, forming a tight-knit group.

Reaching the Emerald City, they are awestruck by its beauty and the green-tinted spectacles they must wear. The Wizard agrees to meet them but appears in different forms to each: a giant head to Dorothy, a beautiful fairy to the Scarecrow, a monstrous beast to the Tin Woodman, and a ball of fire to the Lion. He promises to grant their wishes if they can kill the Wicked Witch of the West, who rules over the Winkie Country and poses a threat to his power.

Reluctantly, the group sets out for the Winkie Country, where the Wicked Witch of the West tries to thwart them with her minions, including wolves, crows, bees, and enslaved Winkies. When these fail, she uses her Golden Cap to summon the Winged Monkeys, who capture Dorothy and Toto and destroy the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman. The Witch enslaves Dorothy, coveting her silver shoes for their magic, but underestimates the girl’s determination. Dorothy accidentally kills the Witch by dousing her with a bucket of water, causing her to melt.

Freed from the Witch’s control, the Winkies help to repair the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman, and the friends return to the Emerald City.

Upon their arrival, they discover that the Wizard is a humbug—a kindly but ordinary man from Omaha, Nebraska, who arrived in Oz via hot air balloon and took on the role of Wizard to maintain order. Despite his deception, he helps each of them realize they already possess what they seek: the Scarecrow’s clever solutions prove he has a brain; the Tin Woodman’s kindness shows he has a heart; and the Lion’s bravery in dangerous situations confirms his courage. The Wizard symbolically bestows tokens to affirm their qualities: bran and pins for the Scarecrow’s brain, a silk heart filled with sawdust for the Tin Woodman, and a potion labelled “courage” for the Lion.

To return Dorothy to Kansas, the Wizard plans to take her in his hot air balloon. However, Toto leaps from the basket at the last moment, and Dorothy follows, missing her chance as the balloon floats away. Seeking another way home, she and her friends journey to the land of the Quadlings to seek the help of Glinda, the Good Witch of the South. Along the way, they encounter new challenges, including battling trees, scaling a hill of china figurines, and crossing a treacherous hammer-headed land.

At Glinda’s palace, the Good Witch reveals that Dorothy has had the power to return home all along through the magic of the silver shoes. With a grateful heart, Dorothy bids farewell to her friends and clicks her heels together three times, wishing to return home. In an instant, she finds herself back in Kansas, where she joyfully reunites with Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, eager to share her extraordinary adventures.

Through her journey, Dorothy learns the importance of self-reliance, courage, and the power of friendship. Each character’s quest for personal fulfilment mirrors a deeper message about recognizing and valuing one’s inherent strengths and qualities.


The Wonderful Wizard of Oz transports readers from the bleak, grey Kansas prairie to the dynamic, colourful Land of Oz.

Dorothy leaves Kansas when her old farmhouse is caught up and transported by a cyclone, initiating her adventures; she then returns home to a new farmhouse, which is not described but which represents her inner transformation. Dorothy’s prairie world is dull. No trees or neighbouring houses or structures are nearby. The ploughed sod is sun-baked and cracked, and most of the grass has been burnt into short, grey blades to form a “flat country that reached to the edge of the sky in all directions”.

This imagery represents the despair and emotional paralysis of Dorothy’s aunt and uncle, who have tried to maintain their homestead by applying fresh coats of paint and performing other chores, but who have succumbed to the constant stresses of prairie life. Kansas is not conducive to the imagination and magic and is barren of magicians, sorcerers, wizards, and witches.

The first farmhouse Dorothy lives in is small (one room) because “the lumber to build it had to be carried by wagon many miles”. The sun-blistered paint has washed away. The cyclone cellar, a “small, dark hole” that was “dug in the ground” and is accessible only by a trap door and ladder, is the only shelter “in case one of those great whirlwinds arose, mighty enough to crush any building in its path”.

However, the cellar does not provide protection for Dorothy and Toto because the cyclone carries them with the house to Oz. After hours of travelling, when the house lands on the Wicked Witch of the East, killing her, it signals to the Munchkins that Dorothy is a powerful person whom they should respect and assist, thus initiating her quest to meet the Wizard of Oz.

In contrast to Kansas, Oz is a utopia. Dorothy considers it a “country of marvellous beauty”. Colour, especially vibrant greens, fill the lush landscape, and unusual plant and animal life flourish. Nature communicates with Dorothy in the form of a babbling stream and singing birds. Sunshine is helpful, not searing. The Munchkins’ land has “dainty blue” domed houses and farms with “neat fences” dividing fields. Dorothy uses some of these cottages as stopping places at which to rest and picnic on her journey. Oz is “cut off from all the rest of the world”.

Since Oz is not civilized according to Kansas standards, magic can exist there.

When comparing Oz with Kansas, Dorothy admits she is enchanted by Oz’s splendour, but emphasizes, “No matter how dreary and grey our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather stay there than in any other country, be it ever so attractive. There is no place like home.”

Dorothy’s thoughts represent her changing perception of home as a place to escape from to a place to embrace. These mindsets are the results of the stifling patriarchy of her Uncle Henry, which Dorothy borne, and the fostering matriarchy of Aunt Em, whom Dorothy frequently worries about and runs towards when she returns home. In contrast, Uncle Henry silently continues to milk the cows without greeting the recovered Dorothy.

Oz is not geographically consistent like Kansas and instead presents many forms that parallel aspects of Kansas and might represent a distorted version of Dorothy’s home. Dorothy realizes as she progresses on her journey that she is walking “through a country that is sometimes pleasant and sometimes dark and terrible”.

As she is distanced from the Munchkins’ land, Dorothy stumbles around holes in the yellow brick road. Houses are in disrepair, and fields are fallow. The travelling quartet plus Toto realize that the “farther they went, the more dismal and lonesome the country became”.

In the forest, the Scarecrow falls into large gaps in the yellow brick road.

The Tin Woodman axes paths through places “where the trees grew so big and close together that their branches met over the road of yellow brick”. Not any sunlight is able to enter through the thickly growing branches of trees. Two deep ditches in the forest threaten to end the protagonists’ journey. Revealing his bravery, the Cowardly Lion carries his companions as he leaps across the first ditch. The second ditch, however, is too wide for him to jump across and has steep sides and a rocky crevice.

The Tin Woodman exhibits resourcefulness by felling a tree across the ditch for the characters to walk on, and then dislodges the temporary bridge by chopping the end when the Kalidahs try to chase them.

The forest begins to thin as the foursome approach a fast-flowing river. On the opposite shore, they can see a “delightful country” that contrasts with the forest by having “green meadows dotted with bright flowers and all the road bordered with trees hanging full of delicious fruits”. While the Tin Woodman constructs a raft, Dorothy eats some of the fruit, which lulls her into a sleep in which she dreams about the unseen Emerald City and the Wizard of Oz.

Her dream is not described but indicates her anticipation and hope of returning home. The river challenges the group, who pull together when the pole the Scarecrow has been using to guide the raft becomes stuck in the mud, and he is left clinging onto it.

Therefore, the Tin Woodman, the Lion and Dorothy swept away helplessly downriver until when the Lion pulls the raft to ashore, where the three of them persuade a stork to retrieve the Scarecrow from the water.

Walking along the riverbank, they find the yellow brick road and continue their southward journey.

The Poppy Field conveys the strong “spicy scent” of flowers “so thick that the ground was carpeted with them”. After the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman, with the help of the field mice, revive Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion, the group manoeuvres through woods that fight their progress and try to restrain them, until the Tin Woodman chops the aggressive timber. Soon they see green fields filled with flowers, signalling that they are nearing the centre of Oz.

The City of Emeralds is the basis of Oz and is the home to the Great Wizard of Oz who had commanded its building. Like a medieval town, a thick, tall green wall surrounds the city. In the sky, a “green glow” intensifies as the party advances closer. They can see domes, spires, steeples, and towers. There at an emerald-studded a green gate ends the yellow brick road. Shining in the sunlight, the emeralds cause the Scarecrow’s painted eyes to appear “dazzled”. The group summons the gatekeeper with a bell and the visitors are admitted into a room decorated with more emeralds.

The Guardian of the Gates fits each character with green spectacles from a green box, and warns them that they would be blinded if they did not protect their eyes. This made-up warning message of  the wizard in fact hides the truth about him and his city. Ironically, the glasses metaphorically blind their wearers by preventing them from seeing reality instead of the wizard’s illusions. All residents are locked in, and only one key can give access to the external world.

“The brightness and the glory” of the Emerald City stunned Dorothy and her companions inside. Green marble houses of the Emerald City with green glass windows line streets paved with greener marble and emeralds. Even the sun’s rays are green. As the Guardian of the Gates leads the group to the palace in the centre of the city, Dorothy and her friends notice people who have green skin and clothes and who buy and sell green merchandise.

There are no animals, so the residents push carts to transport items. Although no one speaks to the visitors, “Everyone seemed happy and contented and prosperous.”

A bearded soldier at the palace arranges meetings for the guests with the wizard, and outlines the rules they are expected to obey during the next four days as Oz meets one of them each day. The visitors are separated into individual rooms but can still interact. Dorothy’s room at the palace is elaborate, with a green fountain shooting perfumed water, books, and dresses that fit perfectly. In his room, the Scarecrow watches a spider weave its web. The Tin Woodman stretches his joints and takes a sleep on the bed the way he did when he was a man, and the Lion curls up beside him to sleep like a cat.

Four witches live in Oz. The good witches rule the northern and southern regions.

Glinda caringly guards the Quadlings in the South. Formerly ruled by the Wicked Witch of the East, Eastern Oz is the land of the Munchkins. The Winkies live in the West and suffer enslavement by the Wicked Witch of the West. An impassable desert in eastern Oz touches the edges of northern and southern lands, and separates and guards the enchanted Land of Oz from the realistic threats and worries of the world. Anyone attempting to cross this desert dies.

The lack of a road to the Wicked Witch of the West’s castle symbolizes its isolation and remoteness, which intensifies Dorothy’s despair. As the characters leave the Emerald City and travel westward, the landscape shifts from rolling grasslands dotted with daisies and buttercups to hilly unshaded areas with empty fields and few dwellings.

Although, from her castle door the Wicked Witch of the West can observe her kingdom.

Obeying the witch’s orders, the Winged Monkeys dash the Tin Woodman against rocks and remove stuffing from the Scarecrow and fling his clothes in a tree. They snare the Cowardly Lion with ropes and fly him to the castle, where the witch confines him in a yard bounded by an iron fence. Dorothy is led through a maze of yellow rooms to the kitchen where the witch expects her to labour, washing and sweeping, somewhat like the farm chores she used to perform in Kansas. She frequently pays a visit to the lion, and they plot about how to escape.

The witch uses her knowledge of the castle and magic to trick Dorothy into losing one silver shoe, thus upsetting the balance of power.

Enraged at the witch’s taunts, Dorothy splashes her with water, causing the witch to melt. Cleaning up the remains, Dorothy is now in possession of the castle. She calls on the newly liberated people to help her rescue the Tin Woodman, who then chops down the tree with the Scarecrow’s clothing. However, in a cupboard, Dorothy finds the Golden Cap, which the mice teach her to use to get back to the Emerald City.

On their way to consult the good witch Glinda, the travellers find their way through another forest that everyone considers gloomy, except the lion, who finds its moss and dry leaves appealing. The forest symbolizes the Cowardly Lion’s transition to an animal worthy of respect when a council of animals greet him as “King of Beasts” and designate him their ruler after he slays a huge spider-like monster.

The group decides to ask the Winged Monkeys to carry them over the Hammer-Heads who live on a steep, rocky hill. The Quadlings’ country contrasts with the lands that surround it. “Short and fat and looked chubby and good-natured” is the nature of the people, and their prosperity is obvious in Grain fields, brooks, and good roads and bridges. A farmer’s wife generously feeds Dorothy. Glinda’s castle on the edge of the desert has a ruby-encrusted throne because the Quadlings’ colour is red.

Subjects And Characters

Loss and spiritual renewal are the primary themes of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

The four major characters endure trials and continue to learn more about themselves by understanding the strange world through which they journey. Like archetypal heroes, the protagonists encounter both helpful and deceitful characters who either assist them or hinder them, sometimes maliciously. The characters’ hopes and wishes tend to be familiar to readers because they express universal concerns and desires. Some characters seem absurd, such as a lion being a coward. These paradoxes ironically make the alternative world of Oz more believable.

Dorothy Gale exemplifies the themes of home, family, and friendship. She is the first character mentioned in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Separated from her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry by a cyclone, Dorothy devotes her energies to finding a way to return home. Young and vibrant, she is intelligent and has common sense, and resourcefully deals with problems. She is also optimistic, and remains determined no matter how dire her situation might be. She is spirited and is not dissuaded by the physical facets of challenges. Dorothy autonomously solves her own dilemmas and does not wait for anyone, particularly a male, to rescue her and do her work for her.

In addition to saving and helping herself, Dorothy willingly helps others and is outspoken about her opinions and suggestions. She and the good witches embody the strength and tenacity of the book’s female characters. Dorothy kills two witches by herself, ridding Oz of its most notorious troublemakers.

When Dorothy meets the wizard, she identifies herself as “Small and Meek”.

She sees the wizard as a giant, disembodied head and bravely answers his questions about her shoes, protective mark, and goal of returning to Kansas. Dorothy says that the wizard should help her because he is strong and she is weak and frail. She dismisses the death of the Wicked Witch of the East to a chance occurrence. Dorothy succumbs to tears when the wizard tells her that he will only use his magic to send her home if she earns it by killing the Wicked Witch of the West.

She tells him that she does not approve of murder. Dorothy becomes resolute to “work meekly” and “as hard as she could” out of gratefulness for surviving as the Witch of the West enslaves her.

Aunt Em is the first character described in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. She appears at the beginning and conclusion of the novel and in Dorothy’s thoughts throughout the book. Identified as a farmer’s wife, Aunt Em moved to Kansas from an undisclosed place. She once appeared young and pretty, but the Kansas elements “had taken the sparkle from her eyes and left them a sober grey” and also altered her red lips and cheeks to shades of grey.

Em, perhaps short for Emily or Emmaline, suppressed her desire for normality and adapted to the rigours of the plains, compromising her civility, sophistication, and empathy.

Unsmiling, she is “thin and gaunt”. Her life consists of unfulfilling domestic chores. Initially, Dorothy’s happy giggles caused Aunt Em to “scream and press her hand upon her heart” because Em was unable to comprehend how Dorothy “could find anything to laugh at”. Aunt Em told Dorothy that there are no witches in Kansas and she does not seem receptive to any ideas regarding magic. Perhaps Em’s name could be reversed as Me, indicating Em’s need to be reacquainted with and assert the uniqueness of her self.

When Dorothy reappears in Kansas, Em stops watering the cabbages and embraces her and kisses her face like the witches of the North and South did in Oz. In various ways, Em characterises characters of the witches Dorothy happens to meet with in Oz. She seems to have been transformed by Dorothy’s absence.

The humourless and joyless Uncle Henry is a farmer who works non-stop. Sporting a long grey beard and “rough boots”, Henry looks “stern and solemn” and is usually quiet. He alerts Em, not Dorothy, to the approaching cyclone and chooses to take care of his livestock instead of his family. Baum does not clarify whether Em or Henry are Dorothy’s blood relatives, nor does he explain the fate of Dorothy’s parents. Dorothy seems closer to Em, and worries that her aunt may be mourning her; Dorothy remarks that this process might be too expensive for the couple if the crops had poor yields again. When Dorothy returns from Oz, she rushes into Em’s arms, not Henry’s.

As a loyal companion, Toto defends Dorothy from drifting into the anguish that has overcome her aunt and uncle. Named as a “little black dog, with long silky hair and small black eyes that twinkled merrily on either side of his funny wee nose”, Toto enjoys playing and helping Dorothy laugh. She saves him from being sucked through the trapdoor when the house rises in the cyclone.

He assertively guards Dorothy from people and animals they meet in Oz, boldly rushing towards the Cowardly Lion and biting the Wicked Witch of the West after she hits him. All Toto desires is to be with Dorothy wherever she is and to comfort her and make her happy. Toto is not protected by the Witch of the North’s kiss, and the Tin Woodman says that the group must accept the responsibility to watch over what he refers to as the “meat dog”. Baum frequently separates living beings from non-flesh characters with the descriptive term “meat”.

Toto causes Dorothy to become distracted and prevents her from leaving in the balloon with the wizard.

Dorothy considers the Munchkins to be the “queerest people she had ever seen”. She comments on how old they are based on their appearance, especially their beards, and her knowledge of Uncle Henry’s age. The Munchkins are almost the same size as Dorothy. Wearing blue clothes and peaked hats decorated with bells on the brims, the Munchkins personify goodness. Their attentiveness to detail is represented by their “well-polished boots”. The Munchkins are hesitant to be near Dorothy because they assume that she is extremely powerful since she killed the Wicked Witch of the East and ended their enslavement.

The Munchkins, who are residents of the eastern part of Oz, trust the Witch of the North to help them. Looking at their fields as she walks along the yellow brick road, Dorothy figures out that the Munchkins are brilliant farmers.

The affluent Munchkin Boq lays on a feast in Dorothy’s honour and enlightens her about Oz culture. He prophetically warns Dorothy that she “must pass through rough and dangerous places before you reach the end of your journey”.

The good Witch of the North is an elderly woman who walks stiffly and has a wrinkled face and white hair. She accompanies the Munchkins to greet Dorothy when she lands in Oz and boldly approaches her. Dressed in white, her gown is “sprinkled” with “little stars that glistened in the sun like diamonds”. She bows to Dorothy out of respect and welcomes her with a “sweet voice”. By using the title “Sorceress” to address Dorothy, the Witch of the North alerts Dorothy that she is no longer simply an ordinary child.

The Witch of the North expresses the Munchkins’ gratitude to Dorothy, using the pronoun “our” to indicate that she considers herself their close friend. She gives Dorothy the silver slippers that the Wicked Witch of the East put on when she was murdered. When she balances her hat on her nose, the hat is transformed into a slate that bears a message telling Dorothy to go to the City of Emeralds. The Witch of the North kisses Dorothy on the forehead for safe journey, leaving a sign that others will identify.

The Scarecrow is the first of three travelling companions whom Dorothy encounters on her journey. Immobilized on a pole in the cornfield, he winks at Dorothy and then speaks to her to get her attention.

The Complaining Scarecrow of his condition, is grateful when Dorothy releases him from his pole. He informs her that he is only two days old and was painted by a Munchkin to resemble a Munchkin, wearing a blue hat and clothing. Crows quickly realized that he was stuffed with straw and posed no threat to them, so they gorged the farmer’s corn, indication the Scarecrow’s victory over crows ordered by the Wicked Witch of the West to kill the travellers. As he walks beside Dorothy, the Scarecrow tells her that he is unable to become tired or hungry like a person and admits that his biggest fear is a fire match.

He confides in Dorothy that his greatest wish is to have brains because a crow told him that brains would make him the equal, if not better, of any man, and that brains “are the only things worth having in this world, no matter whether one is a crow or a man”.

The Scarecrow often seems to speak nonsense, such as when he talks of thinking about his lack of brains. He nurtures Dorothy, gathering nuts for her and Toto, and covering them with leaves while they sleep. He eagerly sacrifices himself for the others’ well-being, instructing them to remove his straw to camouflage themselves from the Witch of the West’s bees. Before he leaves, the wizard chooses the Scarecrow to rule the Emerald City.

The Tin Woodman alerts Dorothy and the Scarecrow to his presence by groaning.

Sunlight enters the woods where he had been chopping, and his tin glitters radiantly. As Dorothy and the Scarecrow oil the Tin Woodman’s rusted joints, he tells them that he had been immobilized in that spot for a year after a rainstorm.

Throughout the novel we see that he clears the yellow brick road for them whenever needed and uses his axe to solve problems. The Tin Woodman wants a heart because a witch once put a spell on his axe, which sliced his heart in two. The son of a woodman who had once visited the Emerald City and warned him of the dangerous journey, the Tin Woodman took care of his widowed mother until she died.

He wanted to marry a Munchkin girl who insisted that he build her a house.

While he earned money for their home, the Munchkin maiden lived with an elderly woman who wanted the girl to be her permanent servant.

Having given a cow and two sheep to the Witch of the East, the woman ordered the marriage to be stopped. The witch placed a charm on the woodman’s axe, which cut off his limbs and body parts, and they were later replaced by a tinsmith. The Tin Woodman says that the girl is still waiting for him and that he needs a heart so that he can love her again. He values happiness above all else, and that is why, he says, a heart is more important to him than brains, which do not necessarily ensure happiness.

The Tin Woodman screams when he steps on a beetle because he “knew very well he had no heart, and therefore he took great care never to be cruel or unkind to anything”.

He believes that hearts help to guide people, and that he will no longer have to take so much care to be kind when he has a heart. The Tin Woodman handily uses his skills to construct rafts, ladders, and transport devices when needed.

The characters are first introduced to the Cowardly Lion when they hear him growling, and he dramatically roars and leaps into their path, knocking over the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman.

Dorothy hits the Lion when Toto rushes towards him, and then chides him for being a coward in hurting a smaller animal. The Lion admits that he was born a coward and that his roar is his defence mechanism to cause humans and animals to flee. He reveals that he would run if any individual or animal tried to fight him. Weepy and unhappy, the Lion seeks courage. He is curious about the travellers and asks to accompany them. Along the way, the Lion offers to procure deer for food.

However, the thought of killing upsets the Tin Woodman, and the Lion disappears into the woods to eat alone. He appreciates the journey in village areas because he dislikes urban life. Although he claims to lack courage, the Lion exhibits bravery several times, such as carrying the characters across the ditch.

Dorothy rides on his back when she is tired so that the travellers can move swiftly. At other times, the Tin Woodman and Scarecrow carry Dorothy and Toto. When the Wicked Witch of the West enslaves the lion, he refuses to be harnessed to pull her chariot and threatens to bite her when she says she will starve him into submission.

The Great Wizard of Oz rules from the City of Emeralds.

The Witch of the North considers him “more powerful than all of the rest of us together” and talks about him in a whisper. Nobody prior to the group’s arrival has ever seen the wizard except, perhaps, for some older citizens who might have seen him arrive in his balloon decades earlier. His loyal citizens believe that “Oz can do anything” and say that he can take any form he wants so that “who the real Oz is, when he is in his own form, no living man can tell”. The wizard is called “Oz the Terrible”, and people warn Dorothy and her friends not to waste his time.

The wizard becomes interested in Dorothy only after he learns about the silver shoes she wears and the mark on her forehead.

Each character initially sees the wizard as a symbolic image that seems to have been intended for others in the group. As each character learns about the others’ experiences, they formulate a strategy to fulfil their wish without being ordered to slay the Wicked Witch of the West.

For Dorothy, the wizard is a large floating, hairless head. One eye winks and rolls as she talks to him. The Scarecrow, who might have found the head appealing for its brain capacity, sees a “lovely Lady” with wings and a crown. Such a vision might have suggested love and heart to the Tin Woodman, however, he sees a woolly beast with a rhinoceros head and five arms and legs. The Lion devices to roar at this animal to intimidate it, but he instead notices a ball of fire that could represent the fire of spirit and thought, and possibly would have been more figurative to the Scarecrow.

When he is exposed to the quartet, the wizard timidly pleads for them not to hurt him, saying: “I’ll do anything you want me to.” Quieting Dorothy because he is afraid someone might hear her expressing her shock and dismay, he admits that he is not a wizard: “I’m just a common man.” Self-centred, he tells the group to stop complaining about what they want, and not to reveal his secret because he has “fooled everyone so long” and allowing them into the throne room was a “great mistake”.

Explaining that he is a ventriloquist and balloonist from Omaha, Nebraska, the wizard tells them that he liked the attention and power the people of Oz gave him when his balloon drifted into their territory. The wizard admits that he feels ashamed because he has manipulated people into believing that he was able to have the Emerald City designed and built specifically to his plans.

He declares that he has good intentions but cannot keep his promises.

The wizard tells the Scarecrow that he needs experience, not a brain, and he tells the Lion that he needs self-confidence. He recommends to the Tin Woodman that hearts generally make people sad and unhappy. Dispensing the token items of bran, a silk heart, and drink, he convinces Dorothy’s friends that they have acquired what they want. Dorothy despairs until the wizard decides to sew a balloon, but she is unable to climb into its clothes basket in time to leave.

After the wizard has gone, the residents of the Emerald City fondly remember him as a friend.

The Wicked Witch of the East is briefly present in the novel as a corpse after Dorothy’s house lands on her. The Munchkins refer to the Wicked Witch of the East’s tyrannical rule over them. She once ruled the eastern lands of Oz. She is old and dries to dust in the sun. Her silver slippers are powerful, but the Munchkins do not know how the charm is useful.

The Wicked Witch of the West is the sole evil witch after her counterpart in the east dies. She uses the Golden Cap to enslave the Winkies. The witch has one eye with acute vision that she uses like a telescope to survey her kingdom. She constantly bear an umbrella and makes use of it to hit Toto, who bites her but produces no blood, because it “had dried up many years before”. She laughs when she enslaves Dorothy and takes advantage of her innocence and vulnerability. The witch knows that the silver shoes have more power than any other magical possession.

When she sees the mark of the kiss on Dorothy’s forehead, the witch knows that she cannot hurt her and considers running away from Dorothy in case she uses her power.

However, she then glances at Dorothy’s eyes and she “saw how simple the soul behind them was” and knew that Dorothy was ignorant of the shoes’ powers and how to summon them. Aware that Dorothy only takes off the silver shoes to bathe at night, the “cunning” witch plans to trick Dorothy. For such an evil person, ironically, she is afraid of the dark and water. Stumbling Dorothy with an invisible bar, the witch gains one shoe to equalize the balance of power.

When the witch taunts Dorothy, however, the girl splashes her with water that causes the witch to melt, frees the Winkies, who declare an annual holiday, and transfer the castle and its possessions to Dorothy.

Glinda, the good witch in the South who rules the Quadlings, is considered kind and beautiful and “knows how to keep young in spite of the many years she has lived”. She has blue eyes, long red hair, and wears a white dress.

The Quadlings use red as their symbol and Glinda sits on a ruby throne. Glinda asks Dorothy for the cap, which she then promises to use to send the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Lion to their desired location as rulers. Dorothy expresses disbelief when she learns that the shoes could have transported her home from the beginning, but her friends say they are grateful she did not know because she was then able to accompany them on the journey, which fulfilled their desires.

Dorothy tells everyone goodbye then clicks her heels thrice, as Glinda advised, to return to Kansas.

Other significant characters that Dorothy meets include the Guardian of the Gates and a soldier in the Emerald City. The people made of china are easily broken, they are a collection of royalty and servants,. Menders glue them together, but they are not as attractive as before. When Dorothy thinks of taking a china person home to decorate Aunt Em’s mantel, she is advised that the people become paralysed if they leave their country.

Most Quadlings have never visited the Emerald City because the road is dangerous.

Along the route, some beasts and people do not welcome travellers and harass or attack them. The Hammer-Heads in particular pound anyone who tries to climb their hill north of Glinda’s castle. The Quadlings demonstrate hospitality and feed Dorothy and her friends. The Winkies, who are represented by the colour yellow, loathe the witch’s rule and resist doing her evil deeds even when she beats them. Many of the Winkies are craftsmen who fix the Tin Woodman and Scarecrow after the Wicked Witch of the West orders them to be destroyed. The Winkies decide that they want the Tin Woodman to be their ruler after the witch is killed.

Animal characters serve in supporting roles. The field mice, their queen, and a stork help save the Lion and Scarecrow. The winged monkeys tell Dorothy that they cannot go to Kansas, suggesting limitations to magical powers. The Kalidahs are an amalgam of bear bodies and tiger heads who, before they fall into a ditch, threaten to kill the characters. The Scarecrow and Tin Woodman outmanoeuvre the wolves, crows, and bees that the witch sends to kill them.

The Winged Monkeys fulfil three wishes for whoever has the Golden Cap. They chatter and laugh loudly and are playfully bemused by pranks. The King of the Winged Monkeys tells Dorothy that the monkeys lived in a forest “long before Oz came out of the clouds to rule over this land”, which is one of the novel’s first hints about Oz’s origins.

Gayelette, a princess/sorceress who lived in a ruby palace, was preparing to marry Quelala when the monkeys dunked him in the river dressed in his finest clothes. Gayelette was furious and threatened to drown the monkeys. However, instead, she agreed to make one of the wedding presents, the Golden Cap, enchanted with an obedience spell. The Wicked Witch of the West used the cap to enslave the Winkies, expel Oz from Western lands, and secure Dorothy and her friends.

The monkeys disobeyed the witch’s order to kill Dorothy when they saw the protective kiss on Dorothy’s forehead, stressing that the “Power of Good” is stronger than the “Power of Evil”.

Literary Style

In the story, Baum employs many different literary techniques to create his imaginary world.

His use of an omniscient narrator enables readers to see Dorothy’s adventure from a broader perspective than if her story had been told in the first person.

Details about each character’s motivation and point of view are presented, as are supplemental scenic descriptions of the places and people the characters observe. Significantly, Baum places the good witches near the beginning and conclusion to emphasize that good prevails over evil. The sentimental character of the characters’ friendships and affinity for each other, and their dreams, increases readers’ identification with the story.

Baum’s choice of anthropomorphic characters enhances the fantastical nature of the novel.

Readers suspend their disbelief to accept Dorothy’s situation and the characters she encounters and accepts as normal. By contrasting the more plausible, familiar, realistic landscape of Kansas with the strange, unusual, surreal world of Oz, Baum makes Dorothy’s journey to a magical world all the more convincing. Names for people, animals, and places are often simple and plainly descriptive. Dialogue is often direct, sometimes folksy, and to the point.

The animals’ voices add depth to the characterization in the novel. For example, the Cowardly Lion often refers to his rapidly beating heart, which is the Tin Woodman’s greatest wish.

Humour is present in puns and illogical statements. Baum uses symbolism such as Dorothy feels that the cyclone lifts the house like a balloon, which suggests the wizard leaving Oz in a balloon.

Colours represent different places and people. Good witches and sorceresses wear white. The Munchkins are clad in blue, which may stand for their goodness and sincerity. The Quadlings prefer red, perhaps representing their heartiness. The Winkies like yellow, which could suggest their reluctance to defend themselves. The green of the Emerald City may stand for vigour. In contrast, grey is colourless and drab.

Mythological and religious allusions can be identified in the text, such as Odysseus coming home to Penelope, the Good Samaritan, or the Prodigal Son’s return.

Folklore elements are also present, such as the spider-like beast that the Lion slays, which is reminiscent of the trickster Anancy. Similarities with fairy tales can be found: Dorothy, like Cinderella, wears magical slippers.

Characters often wear gemstones of appropriate colours, such as diamonds and rubies, to show their affiliation. Silver and gold are employed to indicate power. Numbers are also important. Most charms require repeating a phrase or word, or performing an action three times. The Wicked Witch of the West sends her attack squads in groups of 40 or a dozen. B

aum creates appealing chants with one and two syllable words that sound familiar to readers, such as “Ep-pe, pep-pe, kak-ke!”; “Hil-lo, hol-lo, hel-lo!”; and “Ziz-zy, zuz-zy, zik!” Noise assists set the tone and regulate characters’ moods for scenes, such as peaceful, babbling streams or wild, prattling monkeys.

Sleeping, solitude, time, and silence are important for transitions in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Dorothy is asleep in the house during most of the cyclone. She is senseless in the poppy field, which is an essential scene to represent how ingenious her friends are to save her. Dreams indicate that she is constantly thinking of home and how to get there.

The other characters are aware of dreams for they remark that maybe the Lion can at least be courageous in his dreams.

Academics have interpreted The Wonderful Wizard of Oz along political, economic, and feminist lines. Some have attempted to link The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with agrarian myths associated with the Midwest.

In 1964, Henry Littlefield theorized that the novel was a political allegory related to populism, a movement that found favour around the time Baum wrote the novel.

Populists debated the use of gold versus silver as a basis for the value of currency. The populist movement was especially strong in Kansas. Littlefield suggested that Baum shaped his characters to represent political personalities in the 1896 presidential election: Dorothy being the average citizen, the Scarecrow being an American farmer, the Tin Woodman being a “mechanized” worker, and the Lion being William Jennings Bryan, countering the wizards in Washington, D.C.

About e author

Lyman Frank Baum
Lyman Frank Baum

The American author Lyman Frank Baum was born at Chittenango, New York, near Syracuse, on May 15, 1856. His parents, Benjamin Ward and Cynthia (Stanton) Baum, were wealthy due to the family oil business, and his mother promoted women’s rights, which influenced Baum’s later portrayal of strong female protagonists.

Throughout his life, Baum suffered a heart ailment that limited his physical activities and resulted in him being both introspective and highly imaginative.

He mostly studied at home with tutors, until his parents, hoping to encourage him to be more active, sent him to the Peekskill Military Academy. However, Baum loathed the academy and, as a result, anti-military messages appeared in his later works.

Writing always appealed to Baum.

At the age of 12, he learned how to set type on a small printing press his father had given him to print The Rose Lawn Home Journal, composed of his and his brother’s works and featuring advertisements from local shops.

In 1873, Baum gained a job as a reporter for the New York World and established his own newspaper, The Empire, as well as a magazine, The Stamp Collector.

Two years later, he moved to Pennsylvania and started the New Era weekly. He also ran an opera house until it was destroyed by fire, and subsequently wrote and acted in plays for his father’s theatre chain, which he managed in the early 1880s. Baum wrote The Maid of Arran, with which he successfully toured in 1882. That year, on November 9, he married Maud Gage, daughter of the renowned suffragist Matilda Joslyn Gage.

In Aberdeen, South Dakota, Baum told stories to his family and to children of the community.

Having gone bankrupt, however, he relocated to Chicago, Illinois, in 1891, where he worked as a reporter and travelling salesman, before editing the magazine Show Window, about shop window displays, from 1897 to 1902. During this time, financial need prompted him to begin writing for publication. Based on characters he had created to entertain his children, Baum’s first children’s books were Mother Goose in Prose, illustrated by Maxfield Parrish (1897), and Father Goose, His Book, illustrated by W. W. Denslow (released in 1899).

The latter book became a bestseller and brought Baum both financial prosperity and acclaim.

Eager to write something to entertain older children, Baum focused on developing a fantasy about a Kansas girl named Dorothy who is transported to a magical but uncivilized land—he claimed that he had chosen the name Oz as he glanced at the letters on his filing cabinet.

The tale then follows the heroine in her efforts to find her way home. Stories about the writing of the book propose that Baum had been fascinated by a cyclone in South Dakota that moved a house, and it is generally thought that the Dakotas provided the imagery used by Baum in his descriptions of Kansas. Denslow was commissioned to produce illustrations for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which was published in 1900, and the artist’s work established how the characters and places of Oz would be perceived by subsequent generations of readers.

He explained that he wanted to tell an exciting story with intriguing characters and events.

“Having this thought in mind”, he said, “the story of ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ was written solely to please children of today. It aspires to being a modernized fairy tale, in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heartaches and nightmares are left out.”

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was an immediate success with readers who clamoured for more Oz stories. Baum was overwhelmed with fan mail asking what happened to the characters and with suggestions for future plots. In contrast, critical reaction was disappointing. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz received few reviews in major literary publications.

Many librarians banned it from their collections, declaring that it was not quality literature, and other groups censored it as being controversial and inappropriate for children.

Progressively, some authorities, such as Edward Wagenknecht in the 1929 book Utopia Americana, accredited Baum for creating an unique American fairy tale in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Other scholars said that Baum had appropriated European fairy tale motifs. Since the late 20th century, Baum’s Oz novels have been a staple of children’s literature.

In 1939, the film The Wizard of Oz was released and it has since become a film classic, so much so that many people are more familiar with the film than the book that inspired it. Comics, cartoons, dance and theatrical performances, and radio and television programmes have featured Oz, and popular culture often makes references to Oz. Clubs, exhibitions, festivals, and conferences celebrate Baum and Oz.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has sold millions of copies and been translated into many languages, including Arabic, Hebrew, and Latin.


Baum wrote 13 Oz novels after The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

After his death, other authors produced Oz books with the permission of his estate and publisher. New Oz books continue to be printed, including several by his great grandson Roger Baum. Baum wrote Oz short stories for younger readers that were compiled in Little Wizard of Oz (1914).

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has been adapted many times for the cinema. The best-known version is the 1939 film classic starring Judy Garland, Bert Lahr, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Frank Morgan, and Margaret Hamilton.

Several classics that may have inspired Baum include Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem “Ozymandias” (1818), about a king from an “antique land”; Daniel Defoe’s The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1719); Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1871); Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad; or, The New Pilgrim’s Progress (1869); Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days (1872), in which protagonist Phileas Fogg travels swiftly around the world to win a bet; and Nellie Bly’s book Around the World in Seventy-Two Days (1890), an autobiographical account of her journey to break Fogg’s fictional record.

Fiction about pioneer prairie girls like Dorothy includes Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie (1935) and her other novels based on her life in the 19th-century Midwest. Her journey accounts West From Home: Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder to Almanzo Wilder, San Francisco 1915 (1974), edited by Roger Lea MacBride, and On the Way Home: The Diary of a Trip from South Dakota to Mansfield, Missouri, in 1894 (1968) describe the adventures of a woman traveller during the time Baum wrote Oz. Wilder’s daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, wrote Let the Hurricane Roar (1933), which relates the trials of a teenage couple as they claim land on the prairie and the rigours of pioneer life.

In Jane Yolen’s The Wizard’s Map (1999), the protagonist Jennifer is accompanied by three companions—a dragon, unicorn, and dog—into a cave to rescue her family. Each animal has a parallel with Dorothy’s companions: the dog tends to be cowardly (Lion), the dragon’s heart is important to plot development (Tin Woodman), and the unicorn is intelligent (Scarecrow).

The following are two novels based on characters from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: Geoff Ryman’s Was (1992) and Gregory Maguire’s Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (1995).

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