Study Guide

The Marvelous Land of Oz

by L. Frank Baum

The Marvelous Land of Oz Themes


Though there are a number of thematic elements in the social concerns discussed above, certain themes per se may be found in Baum's second Ozian adventure story: 1) breaking down boundaries and barriers; 2) establishing legitimacy of rule; and 3) the use of air power in escape and pursuit, and in warfare. As to the first, animals (even an insect) and hand-made figures are seen participating actively, almost on equal terms, with humans, in human concerns. Another aspect of this human-nonhuman interrelationship is the active involvement of wonder- workers (sorcerers, witches, and wizards) in the affairs of the human-nonhuman group. Though the human-nonhuman dichotomy was breached over two thousand years ago in Greek and Roman fables, Baum's treatment of the matter is only one part of a more complex whole. What were, at the time Baum wrote the book, conventional gender roles (involving a "separation of powers,") were reversed by General Jinjur's military takeover of the Emerald City; then this reversal was itself canceled when Glinda the Good helped Tip, the Scarecrow, and their companions retake the Emerald City. A more striking gender reversal, however, awaits the reader at the end of the story. In a sense Baum (doubtless under the influence of the Wright Brothers' achievement in 1903) also tells of the breaking of the gravity barrier, by describing the Gump, that fairy-tale "lighter-than-air" flying- machine. More subtly than any of the above instances, is Baum's politically-based boundary-breaking, to be discussed under Characters.

Regarding the matter of establishing legitimacy of rule, the application here is to the Emerald City, the Capital of the Land of Oz. The Scarecrow, who had originally been placed on the throne of the Emerald City by the Wizard of Oz (as described in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz), when he confronted the usurping General Jinjur, demanded to know how she dared to sit on his throne. Did she not know she was guilty of treason and that treason was against the law? he asked her. Eating from a box of caramels and seemingly "entirely at ease in her royal surroundings," she replied that "The throne belongs to whoever is able to take it ..." And, turning the tables on the Scarecrow, Jinjur pointed out that as she has taken the throne, she is now Queen; thus, her opponents have become guilty of treason and are punishable under the law he referred to.

But near the end of the story the Scarecrow, Tip, and the others flew in the Gump to the South Country (red), for an audience with the sorceress Glinda the Good (also referred to as Queen of the Southland), to tell her of the usurpation of the throne of the Emerald City by Jinjur and her Army of Revolt. Then, thanks largely to Glinda's questions and explanations, the real truth about the line of succession was revealed at last. The Wizard had originally stolen the throne from the former King of the Emerald City, Pastoria (now dead). The throne rightfully belonged to Pastoria's daughter, named Ozma. But the Wizard had also stolen the girl, and hidden her away somewhere to prevent her being found. [Note: In this book Baum seems to describe a bad wizard, in...

(The entire section is 1287 words.)