Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
Although Baum intended his story as an entertainment for children, it also contains a good deal of social satire offered with a gently mocking sense of humor. The gap between appearance and reality is a persistent theme in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and in many of Baum’s other books. The centerpiece of the book is the journey to the Emerald City, home of the great Wizard who can grant all wishes. Once the main characters reach the city, though, they find that it is all an illusion and that the Wizard himself is a fraud. They themselves are capable of all the real magic.
The strange landscape and the absurd events and creatures are primarily intended for entertainment, but they also convey a sense of the wondrous and magical parts of life. Readers can see the book, then, as a good-natured rebellion of imagination against the tyranny of calculating rationality. The similarities that some may see between this book and intellectual movements such as surrealism owe much to this rebellion.