Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire

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Prologue Summary

The prologue begins with a scene set towards the end of the book as the Wicked Witch of the West looks down from a mile above Oz on Dorothy and her traveling companions. She sees them maneuvering toward the Emerald City along the Yellow Brick Road, which has become buckled and broken at certain sections as a result of both winter storms and agitators tearing up the road.

Not sure of what she plans to do, the Witch flies down and creeps quietly towards the group, hiding herself behind a tree as she eavesdrops on their conversation. From there, she can finally make out the companions: a huge Cat of some sort, perhaps a Lion; a Tin Woodman; and an animated Scarecrow. She also sees that the girl is carrying a dog.

From their conversation, the reader is introduced to some of the questions that will permeate the novel, both in regards to the Witch’s character and the notion of evil itself. The Lion states some of the pervading rumors: “Psychologically warped; possessed by demons. Insane. Not a pretty picture.” The Tin Woodman adds another juicy tidbit: “She was castrated at birth. . . . She was born hermaphroditic, or maybe entirely male.” All of these rumors are among those that the Witch must face throughout her life.

As the Lion and Tin Woodman continue, however, they both offer more sympathetic views based on their own tragic experiences, positing that perhaps the Witch is the way she is because she was deprived of a mother’s love, was an abused child, was addicted to medication for her skin condition, was unlucky in love, was the spurned lover of a married man, or even that she preferred the company of other women. All of these possibilities introduce the question of why a person might become evil. Perhaps they are not born that way; perhaps they become that way as a result of the circumstances of life.

While the Lion soon returns to his contention that the Witch is a “despot . . . (and) a dangerous tyrant,” the Tin Woodman mentions that he has heard she is “a champion of home rule for the so-called Winkies.” This news offers some insight into her more compassionate side. The Witch’s passionate political interests, concerns, and actions will become more evident as the action of the book gets underway.

It is Dorothy, however, who ultimately states, “Whoever she is, she must surely be grieving the death of her sister.” At her words and her sincere tone, the Witch’s skin begins to crawl. When she tries to get a better look at Dorothy, she sees that she is a “good-size farm girl, dressed in blue-and-white checks and a pinafore.” Dorothy soon expresses her concerns about an approaching storm, and the group quickly leaves to find a safer shelter. As they depart, the Witch sees the shoes“her sister’s shoes . . . (sparkling) like yellow diamonds and embers of bloods.”

At the sight, the Witch’s determination to attack Dorothy is renewed because she is adamant about having the shoes. However, the rain begins to fall and as the Witch cannot endure water on her skin, she has to hide from the storm. She promises herself, however, that this is not over: the shoes will be hers. Dorothy and her companions have not seen the last of the Wicked Witch of the West.

The Root of Evil Summary

This first chapter opens with Melena Thropp, a woman originally born to privilege and now the wife of a unionist cleric in the outback Munchkinland district of Wend Hardings, announcing that she thinks she will give birth that day to the child she is expecting. Her husband Frex (Frexspar the Godly) teasingly encourages her to exert some self-control if possible, for this is a “perverse and inconvenient time” for the baby to be born since he is preparing to head out to deal with a “community problem” that has arisen near his parish of Rush Margins.

As Frex attends to his appearance, knowing that “a handsome priest attract(s) more penitents than a homely one,” Melena prepares breakfast in the kitchen and sings a song she learned as a child from...

(The entire section is 30,038 words.)