illustration of main character Dorothy standing on the yellow brick road

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

by L. Frank Baum
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In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, how do the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion reveal that they already possess what they think they lack?

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The Scarecrow believes he lacks brains, the Tin Woodman believes he lacks heart (emotion), and the Cowardly Lion believes he lacks courage. All three reveal they have precisely the trait they are certain they lack. This shows that what we do is more important than what we say, or, as the cliche goes, that actions speak louder than words. This also shows how inaccurate self-perception can be and the way people can lack confidence and underrate themselves if they listen to negativity (such as the crow who puts down the Scarecrow). Further, these three creatures who join Dorothy exhibit an endearing humility in their lack of self awareness.

The Scarecrow reveals his intelligence when he devises a chariot that can be pulled by mice in order to get the large, sleeping Cowardly Lion out of the poppy field. Another intelligent idea he has is building a raft to get them across a river.

The Tin Woodman reveals his heart or ability to feel for others when he cries after accidentally killing a beetle "for he was always careful not to hurt any living creature, and . . . he wept several tears of sorrow and regret." He also cries when they lose track of the Scarecrow and when Dorothy leaves to return to Kansas.

The Cowardly Lion reveals his courage when the group is attacked by wild beasts. He says "stand close behind me, and I will fight them as long as I am alive." Despite his self-perception of cowardice he doesn't run away and hide.

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Throughout the novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Cowardly Lion display the qualities they believe they lack. As the three accompany Dorothy down the yellow brick road, they encounter many obstacles. The way they handle these obstacles proves that the Scarecrow has a brain, the Tin Woodman a heart, and the Cowardly Lion courage, well before they arrive in The Emerald City.

The Scarecrow laments his lack of brains from the moment he meets Dorothy. However, it's soon clear that the Scarecrow is a philosopher and a thoughtful observer. His reasoning skills are evident in the following passage:

"This must be the Land of Oz," said Dorothy, "and we are surely getting near the Emerald City."

"Yes," answered the Scarecrow. "Everything is green here, while in the country of the Munchkins, blue was the favorite color. But the people do not seem to be as friendly as the Munchkins, and I'm afraid we shall be unable to find a place to pass the night" (Baum, 1920, Ch. 10).

Here, Scarecrow is able to reason that the change in scenery means they are no longer in the land of the Munchkins, and also that the lack of hospitality in the area might mean they won't have shelter.

The Tin Woodman's sentimental heart is also evident from the moment we meet him, yet a prior breakup scarred him so, he asked for his heart to be removed. The following passage is just one example of the Tin Woodman's tenderness, proving that he already has a big heart.

"When, at last, [the Tin Woodman] walked into Dorothy's room and thanked her for rescuing him, he was so pleased that he wept tears of joy, and Dorothy had to wipe every tear carefully from his face with her apron, so his joints would not be rusted" (Baum, 1920, Ch. 13).

Here, the Tin Woodman is overcome with joy that the tinsmiths in the woods could repair him, showing gratitude, and he feels happiness to the point of tears when he is reunited with his friend, showing how much he cares for her.

Finally, the Cowardly Lion does a fair share of whimpering and whining on the way to Oz, but he also proves his mettle in dangerous situations, such as when the Wicked Witch imprisons and starves him:

"[Every] day [the Wicked Witch] came to the gate at noon and asked, "Are you ready to be harnessed like a horse?" And the Lion would answer, "No. If you come in this yard, I will bite you" (Baum, 1920, Ch. 12).

The Cowardly Lion refuses to be harnessed by the Wicked Witch, even though she is withholding food from him in order to get him to comply. Unbeknownst to the witch, Dorothy is sneaking him food at night, preventing him from being hungry. Even so, the Cowardly Lion stands up to the witch -- even threatening to bite her -- showing courage.


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