Frank Baum Criticism - Essay

Douglas Street (essay date summer 1984)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Street, Douglas. “The Wonderful Wiz That Was: The Curious Transformation of The Wizard of Oz.Kansas Quarterly 16, no. 3 (summer 1984): 91-8.

[In the following essay, Street discusses Baum's intent to create a uniquely American fairy-tale, distinct from the European tradition, in which a sense of reality was paramount, and then examines the reasons why the story was transformed back into pure fantasy for the film version.]

L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is perhaps America's best remembered children's fantasy—or is it? After forty-five years the 1939 MGM cinematic adaptation of this tale has so saturated generations of Americans...

(The entire section is 4360 words.)

Douglas J. McReynolds and Barbara J. Lips (essay date spring 1986)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: McReynolds, Douglas J., and Barbara J. Lips. “A Girl in the Game: The Wizard of Oz as Analog for the Female Experience in America.” North Dakota Quarterly 54, no. 2 (spring 1986): 87-93.

[In the following essay, McReynolds and Lips argue that Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is one of the few examples in American literature depicting a nontragic adventurous female protagonist, who exemplifies the true experience of women on the American frontier.]

When Leslie Fiedler suggested that American literature is essentially children's literature,1 he seemed to give legitimacy to what readers of American books had sensed for some time...

(The entire section is 3295 words.)

Celia Catlett Anderson (essay date winter 1986-87)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Anderson, Celia Catlett. “The Comedians of Oz.” Studies in American Humor 5, no. 4 (winter 1986-87): 229-42.

[In the following essay, Anderson explores humor in Baum's Oz books.]

L. Frank Baum was a humorist. Most readers agree with Russel B. Nye that “Oz is a land of laughter” (164),1 but commentators show less agreement about the nature of Baum's humor. Those most interested in the sociological underpinnings of Oz emphasize satire and parody as main ingredients. Those comparing him to Lewis Carroll or Edward Lear discuss the quantity and quality of Baum's reversals, incongruities, and wordplay. Those concerned with the connections between...

(The entire section is 5844 words.)

Jerry Griswold (essay date fall 1987)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Griswold, Jerry. “There's No Place but Home: The Wizard of Oz.Antioch Review 45, no. 4 (fall 1987): 462-75.

[In the following essay, Griswold discusses parallels between Oz and the social state of America at the time Baum wrote his Oz books.]

“Is it real or is it a dream?” This question has been raised over and over again about the land of Oz. In the 1939 MGM movie The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy is hit on the head during the cyclone and dreams up the magical land. Nothing like this happens in L. Frank Baum's book. Judy Garland may wish to go “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” but in the book the cyclone takes Dorothy there against her wishes...

(The entire section is 5932 words.)

Stuart Culver (essay date winter 1988)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Culver, Stuart. “What Manikins Want: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Art of Decorating Dry Goods Windows.Representations, no. 21 (winter 1988): 97-116.

[In the following essay, Culver examines Baum's depiction of the emerging consumerist culture of his time in both The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Art of Decorating Dry Goods Windows, which Baum wrote simultaneously.]

The lower animals keep all their limbs at home in their bodies, but many of man's are loose, and lie about detached, now here and now there, in various parts of the world.

—Samuel Butler, Erewhon...

(The entire section is 10024 words.)

Edward W. Hudlin (essay date fall 1989)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Hudlin, Edward. “The Mythology of Oz: An Interpretation.” Papers on Language and Literature 25, no. 4 (fall 1989): 443-62.

[In the following essay, Hudlin analyzes The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in terms of the structure of Joseph Campbell's heroic myth.]

L. Frank Baum's masterpiece, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, has been the subject of psychoanalytical, sociological, political, and even economic analyses. Few critics, however, have attempted to examine it from a truly mythological or philosophical perspective. Lacking such a perspective, some critics have found Baum's writings too episodic, while others have been more concerned with what...

(The entire section is 8138 words.)

Richard Tuerk (essay date autumn 1990)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Tuerk, Richard. “Dorothy's Timeless Quest.” Mythlore 17, no. 63 (autumn 1990): 20-4.

[In the following essay, Tuerk finds that, despite Baum's assertions that his book differed from the pattern of European fairy-tales, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is in fact structured as a monomyth.]

In the preface to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz L. Frank Baum calls his book “a modernized fairy tale, in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heart-aches and nightmares are left out.” He tried, he writes, to eliminate from it “the stereotyped genie, dwarf and fairy …, together with all the horrible and blood-curdling incident devised by … [the]...

(The entire section is 4901 words.)

Joel D. Chaston (essay date December 1994)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Chaston, Joel D. “If I Ever Go Looking for My Heart's Desire: ‘Home’ in Baum's ‘Oz’ Books.” Lion and the Unicorn 18, no. 2 (December 1994): 209-19.

[In the following essay, Chaston traces Baum's portrayal of the notion of “home” in his Oz books from the best possible place to a place of confinement and destruction.]

At the conclusion of the 1939 MGM motion picture version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy Gale makes a statement that sums up one of the film's major themes. “Oh, but anyway, Toto,” she exclaims, “we're home—home! And this is my room—and you're all here—and I'm not going to leave here ever again, because I...

(The entire section is 5089 words.)

J. Karl Franson (essay date 1995)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Franson, J. Karl. “From Vanity Fair to Emerald City: Baum's Debt to Bunyan.” Children's Literature 23 (1995): 91-114.

[In the following essay, Franson discusses the possible influence of John Bunyan's allegory Pilgrim's Progress on Baum's writing of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.]

My interest in a possible “confluence of reminiscences” affecting the creation of L. Frank Baum's Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) began (like the curiosity of Lowes regarding Coleridge's imaginative vision) with “a strange footprint caught sight of accidentally just off the beaten track” that became “an absorbing adventure along the ways which the imagination...

(The entire section is 10401 words.)

Todd S. Gilman (essay date winter 1995-96)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Gilman, Todd S. “‘Aunt Em: Hate You! Hate Kansas! Taking the Dog. Dorothy’: Conscious and Unconscious Desire in The Wizard of Oz.Children's Literature Association Quarterly 20, no. 4 (winter 1995-96): 161-67.

[In the following essay, Gilman addresses Dorothy's possible unconscious desires in the film version of The Wizard of Oz and the fact that in Baum's Oz books Dorothy's desire to leave home rather than return is more explicit.]

The quotation in my title—taken from a T-shirt popular in queer culture—bitchily suggests that in Victor Fleming's 1939 film adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, the rosy resolution we are left with...

(The entire section is 7523 words.)

Richard Flynn (essay date June 1996)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Flynn, Richard. “Imitation of Oz: The Sequel as Commodity.” The Lion and the Unicorn 20, no. 1 (June 1996): 121-31.

[In the following essay, Flynn examines the Oz books as a consumerist boom.]

… that which withers in the age of mechanical reproduction is the aura of the work of art.

(Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” Illuminations 221)

Oz was first visited upon a kindly man who wanted to set children free from fear. Oz grew out of Alice in Wonderland, and out of Kansas and the people who settled there, and...

(The entire section is 4088 words.)

Michael O. Riley (essay date 1997)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Riley, Michael O. “Concentration on Oz: 1907-1910.” In Oz and Beyond: The Fantasy World of L. Frank Baum, pp. 128-67. Lawrence, Kans.: University Press of Kansas, 1997.

[In the following excerpt, Riley focuses on Baum's numerous Oz sequels.]

To have pleased you, to have interested you, to have won your friendship, and perhaps your love, through my stories, is to my mind as great an achievement as to become President of the United States. Indeed, I would much rather be your story-teller, under these conditions, than to be the President. So you have helped me to fulfill my life's ambition, and I am more grateful to you, my dears, than I can...

(The entire section is 14741 words.)

Michael O. Riley (essay date 1997)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Riley, Michael O. “Resolution of Conflict: 1917-1919.” In Oz and Beyond: The Fantasy World of L. Frank Baum, pp. 202-29. Lawrence, Kans.: University Press of Kansas, 1997.

[In the following excerpt, Riley discusses the last four Oz books and their significance to Baum's development of his fairyland Oz.]

For, after all, dear reader, these stories of Oz are just yours and mine, and we are partners. As long as you care to read them I shall try to write them.

—L. Frank Baum, “To My Readers” in The Lost Princess of Oz (1917)

L. Frank Baum's life was an unusually eventful one...

(The entire section is 10054 words.)

Tim Ziaukas (essay date fall 1998)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Ziaukas, Tim. “Baum's Wizard of Oz as Gilded Age Public Relations.” Public Relations Quarterly 43, no. 3 (fall 1998): 7-11.

[In the following essay, Ziaukas interprets The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as propaganda for the gold and silver standard in United States economics at the turn of the twentieth century.]

“You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.”

—from William Jennings Bryan's Cross of Gold Speech, 1896

“The Wicked Witch … looked down at Dorothy's feet,...

(The entire section is 3349 words.)