illustration of main character Dorothy standing on the yellow brick road

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

by L. Frank Baum

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Last Updated on February 14, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1039

Dorothy, a young girl living in Kansas with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, finds the prairie landscape of her rural home monotonous and drab. Her only form of entertainment is Toto, a little dog with whom she plays and adventures.

Her mundane existence is sharply interrupted one afternoon when a cyclone rips her family’s house from its foundations. Dorothy and Toto, the only inhabitants of the house at the time, are lifted high into the sky and magically transported to an entirely different and unknown land.

When Dorothy arrives, she is greeted by a collection of small people who call themselves Munchkins. The Munchkins are in a gleeful and celebratory mood because Dorothy has unexpectedly granted them their freedom: upon landing, her house crushed the Wicked Witch of the East, who had kept them enslaved for many years. 

Later, Dorothy meets the Good Witch of the North, who informs Dorothy that her best hope of returning home lies with the “Great Wizard” Oz, who lives in the City of Emeralds. Dorothy decides to follow the Good Witch of the North’s advice and says goodbye to the Munchkins. Before leaving the Munchkins, Dorothy takes the Wicked Witch of the East’s silver shoes; since her own shoes are in such poor condition, she decides to wear the silver shoes.

Dorothy, with Toto in tow, embarks on her journey along the yellow brick road. She soon encounters the Scarecrow, who tells her about his poor self-esteem. He struggles to scare birds away from the corn fields he is supposed to protect and, as such, feels purposeless. When Dorothy tells the Scarecrow about her mission to find Oz, the Scarecrow offers to join her; he hopes that Oz might give him a brain and thereby ensure that he is no longer called a fool.

As the pair continue toward the Emerald City, they discover the Tin Woodman in a field. His tin joints have rusted closed, and he begs them for help. Dorothy oils his rust-covered joints, allowing him freedom of movement once more. After Dorothy and the Scarecrow explain their journey to meet Oz, the Tin Woodman also joins the group and expresses his desire for a heart.

A little while later, a ferocious Lion attacks the little group. Dorothy is momentarily frightened, but she quickly leaps to action, scolds the Lion for trying to bite little Toto, and calls him a coward. The Lion hangs his head in shame and agrees with her. Upon hearing their plans, the Lion joins their traveling group, hopeful that Oz will be able to give him courage.

After finally reaching Oz, the group is shocked and discouraged when he agrees to grant their wishes on one condition: they must first kill the Wicked Witch of the West. Dorothy is certain that she could never commit murder, but finding herself unable to determine another way home to Kansas, she and her new friends agree to travel to the Wicked Witch’s land.

They overcome various obstacles to reach the Witch but are captured by her flying monkeys. The Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow are badly injured, and Dorothy is forced into servitude. When the Wicked Witch of the West tries to steal Dorothy’s silver shoes, Dorothy is furious and reflexively tosses water on her. She is stunned when the Wicked Witch of the West melts to nothing before her eyes and feels awful for killing the woman. However, the Witch’s death allows Dorothy to rescue her friends from imprisonment and return to the Emerald City. 

Dorothy and her new friends are initially excited to meet with Oz...

(This entire section contains 1039 words.)

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but quickly grow exasperated when he refuses to see them. When they are finally granted permission to speak with him, they discover that Oz is not a wizard at all; instead, he is an ordinary man from Omaha, Nebraska. After arriving in a hot air balloon years earlier, Oz found that the people of the new land feared and admired him. He used this to his advantage, becoming their ruler and pretending to be a great wizard to maintain their respect. He has lived for many years in near-total isolation, fearful that someone will uncover his secret.

Despite the revelation of the wizard’s powerlessness, the travelers demand he fulfills his promises anyway; he protests but ultimately relents, concocting a false “brain” for the Scarecrow, a false “heart” for the Tin Woodman, and a false sense of “courage” for the Lion. His plans for Dorothy are more practical: he constructs a replacement balloon, much like the one which brought him to Oz, and plans to fly them both home. Unfortunately, Dorothy fails to make it to the balloon on time, and the wizard departs from Oz without her. 

Once again, Dorothy is left with no way home. All seems hopeless. However, she learns that Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, may be willing to help her. The friends encounter more obstacles along the way but soon arrive safely at Glinda's home. 

Dorothy explains her predicament to Glinda, who tells Dorothy the silver shoes she wears will take her home. Dorothy has worn these shoes since she arrived, so she has always had the power to return home; by clicking her heels together and stating where she would like to travel, Dorothy can travel freely to any destination she wishes. While she is momentarily frustrated by this revelation about her shoes, Dorothy realizes that if she had known this on the day she arrived, she would have never met her new friends or been able to help them achieve their goals.

After saying goodbye to her friends, whose positions have all markedly improved, Dorothy clicks her heels and requests to be taken home to her aunt. Instantly, she whirls through the air and immediately finds herself on the grass of their land in Kansas. Aunt Em and Uncle Henry have rebuilt their home and are greatly relieved to see Dorothy again, asking where she was. Dorothy replies that she has returned from the Land of Oz and is happy to finally be home again. Sadly, she lost the silver slippers during the trip home and cannot return to visit her friends in Oz.


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