The Characters (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
Baum’s characters are simple, but also sympathetic. Dorothy, the heroine, is a straightforward little girl who shows courage and perseverance. Dorothy is a poor orphan, a type of character recurring in children’s literature. In the drawings by the original illustrator of the book, W. W. Denslow, Dorothy seems to be very young, perhaps only five or six years of age, although she frequently seems to behave as a much older child would. Baum also gives little hint to her appearance. Letting readers construct their own images of the child heroine may have been intentional, because it made Dorothy an “Everychild,” a representative of children in general.
Baum’s great success with his other characters was the creation of individuals who are at once impossible and entirely believable. The Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion have won the sympathy of generations of readers. Part of this success may be the result of the depths of personality that the author was able to convey by giving these fantastic creatures human qualities of self-contradiction. The Scarecrow complains that he has no brains, but he shows himself to be the most thoughtful of Dorothy’s companions, and his quest for intelligence demonstrates that this is what he values. Similarly, the Tin Woodman places the highest importance on feeling, and shows a continual concern with emotion as he seeks a heart. The Cowardly Lion is a coward in his own eyes, but he accompanies the...
(The entire section is 387 words.)
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The Cowardly Lion is the third and final creature who joins the Oz-bound group. Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Woodman meet him when he jumps out at them as they make their way through a forest. He knocks over the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman, and when he tries to bite Toto, Dorothy slaps him and calls him a coward. He is ashamed and admits that Dorothy is right. He wants to have the courage that the King of the Beasts should have. Dorothy agrees to allow him to accompany them, reasoning that he needs courage and that he could be helpful in frightening away other creatures.
Despite his belief that he lacks courage, the Lion often demonstrates bravery. He fails to understand that courage is not the absence of fear, but is taking action in the face of fear. Just as in the cases of the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman, the Wizard soon sees that the Cowardly Lion already possesses the courage he so desires. He gives the Lion a special potion that is supposedly liquid courage. After drinking it, the Cowardly Lion feels empowered instantly. After Dorothy leaves for Kansas, he returns to a forest where he previously killed a giant spider because the animals asked him to return as their leader.
Dorothy is the story’s heroine, whose travels to see the Wizard of Oz bring her friendship and adventure. She lives with her aunt and uncle on a small farm in Kansas. Her best friend is...
(The entire section is 2061 words.)
Themes and Characters
Loss and spiritual renewal are primary themes of this book in which the four major characters withstand challenges and persevere to learn more about themselves by comprehending the strange world through which they venture. 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. Such paradoxes ironically make the alternate 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, resourcefully dealing with problems. Optimistically, Dorothy remains determined no matter how dire her situation might be. She is energetic and is not deterred by the physical aspects 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 emphasize the strength and tenacity of female...
(The entire section is 3551 words.)