A-E, Baum, L. Frank, Children's/Coming-of-Age

Review of The Wonderful Wizard of OZ by L. Frank Baum

101130LargeWhat was it about?

Dorothy is caught up in a cyclone in Kansas and magically appears in the land of the Munchkins. She immediately misses Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, and longs to return home. But the Good Witch of the North informs Dorothy that her Kansas farmhouse killed the Wicked Witch of the East. Dorothy puts on the Wicked Witch’s silver shoes, and the Munchkins celebrate their freedom by throwing the girl a party. However, the Good Witch of the North cannot help Dorothy return to Kansas. Upon hearing about the Wizard of Oz and his alleged power, Dorothy decides to follow the road of yellow bricks to the palace of the great wizard. He will certainly know the way to Kansas, she reasons. Along the way, she meets a Scarecrow, a Tin Woodman, and a Lion who each have requests of their own. The Scarecrow wants a brain, the Tin Woodman misses having a heart, and the Cowardly Lion desires courage.

Dorothy, her dog Toto, and her three friends encounter obstacles and strange creatures along the way to the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

What did I think of it? (Spoilers included!!)

I am just going to cut to the quick and say that I didn’t like The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It seemed like one heck of an acid trip. I enjoyed the film adaptation as a child, but the book is quite different from the movie. Even so, I have never been able to accept the way the Wicked Witch of the West is killed. L. Frank Baum uses magic/deus ex machina in the story to save his characters from dangerous situations. That is a huge no-no in good fantasy. Dorothy kills both the witches unintentionally. She would never have known that water could melt the Wicked Witch of the West, and neither do we know of this weakness until after Dorothy pours the water. Why a bucket of water and not a baseball bat? We do not know anything about the world and hardly know anything about most of the characters.

Clearly the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion are smart, loving, and courageous, but they never believe that that they are naturally all these things. They are like a young actress who thinks that a face lift or Botox will make her more beautiful. It is only after the surgery that she believes that she is beautiful. I wish the characters had learned the truth about themselves instead of accepting the Wizard of Oz’s lies.

Honestly, the story was too strange for me to accept. I value children’s literature, and I understand that many children enjoy this story, but I personally felt that there were too many plot holes, paradoxes, and outrageous characters. I never figured out the point of the story. Although L. Frank Baum writes in his preface that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is meant to be a modern fairy tale without a clear moral, throughout the story I was constantly looking for a message. Clearly, I am not the only one.

5 thoughts on “Review of The Wonderful Wizard of OZ by L. Frank Baum”

    1. The movie is basically a skeleton-version of the book. The major events are covered in the movie, but there are many events that are left out. In addition, the ending is different than in the book.

  1. I never thought about it this way. I recently read it to my four year old, who of course takes everything at face value. Maybe this is a kid’s classic that really is just for kids!

    The edition (if it’s the same one I have) is beautiful though. I love the illustrations.

  2. I loved Oz as a child, but with this one it’s true that I was more influenced by the movie than the book. There is an element of satire/irony in the book that you don’t mention — the fact that the S/TW/L never believe that they actually have the inner qualities they are seeking, and are only happy when they are “given” them by an external authority, is actually quite a devastating comment on American culture (which is considerably tamed down in the movie). Many other examples can be found in the Oz books, along with lots of plot holes, inconsistencies and sloppy writing, making them some of the great “good/bad” books of the past century.

    1. I did recognize the irony, but I wanted the characters to believe in themselves. Still, I never really thought about the characters as representatives of society at large. I hope to read the rest of the books in the series.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s