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.
(The entire section is 172 words.)
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The predominant theme of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is self-sufficiency. The Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Cowardly Lion all seek external magic to give them qualities they already possess but fail to recognize. When the travelers come to a wide ditch (chapter seven), the Cowardly Lion volunteers to try jumping over it. If he can make it, he reasons, he can carry each of his friends across safely. Discussing the possibility of falling into the ditch, the Cowardly Lion responds, “‘I am terribly afraid of falling, myself. . . but I suppose there is nothing to do but try it.’” The Lion does not realize that courage is acting despite fear, not acting in the absence of fear. In a scene at the end of chapter six, the reader sees both the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow demonstrating the very qualities they feel they are lacking. The Tin Woodman accidentally steps on a beetle and begins to weep. When his tears rust his jaw shut, no one is able to figure out what his gestures for the oil can mean except for the Scarecrow, who immediately loosens the Tin Woodman’s jaws with the oil. This scene shows how emotional the Tin Woodman is and how quick thinking the Scarecrow is. A more mature reader can then recognize that with the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Woodman, Baum is using irony to portray the theme of selfsufficiency.
Dorothy’s situation is somewhat different because she needs a magical object...
(The entire section is 684 words.)