05 January 2010

17 Symbols in The Wizard of Oz

. . . Historian Richard Jensen assigns the following symbols to the objects, characters and themes in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, written in 1901 by L. Frank Baum, and filmed in Technicolor by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1939. I'm not sure I agree with all of these correlations but they certainly make for good conversation fodder.

1. Main theme: Populism = The "wizards" of Washington DC are a bunch of charlatans running a scam on the little people of America; ordinary people can take care of themselves if they realize their full potential, work together, and do not put themselves into the thrall of self-professed experts wielding the powers of government

2. the bleakness of Kansas = Economic depression caused by the gold standard (see below for more on the silver and gold standards)

3. Dorothy = Everywoman

4. the cyclone = Silverite victory at the polls

5. Oz = Silverites, who supported a standard in which 16 oz = 16 ounces of silver = one ounce of gold

6. Wicked Witch of the East = Eastern bankers

7. Munchkins = Ordinary people in bondage to East Witch

8. Good Witch of the North = Northern electorate

9. Yellow Brick Road = Gold ingots = The gold standard—the notion that only gold, not silver, should be used to back up our paper money—supported by William McKinley.

10. Silver Slippers = The silver standard, the only thing one may travel the road with. The silver standard—the notion that the federal government should back its paper money with silver as well as gold—was supported by William Jennings Bryan. (For the 1939 movie, these magical slippers were changed from silver to red because, in Technicolor, red simply looks spectacular.)

11. Scarecrow = Farmers, who think they have no brains, supporters of William Jennings Bryan

12. Tin Woodsman = Industrial laborers, who think they have no compassion, supporters of William Jennings Bryan

13. Cowardly Lion = William Jennings Bryan himself, who ran for president as a Silverite in 1896 (and also ran in 1900 and 1908)

14. Dorothy and her three friends = the electoral coalition

15. Emerald City = the national capital

16. greenish hue of the city, which is an optical illusion = Greenback dollars, which are illusory money

17. the Wizard's farewell address in the movie = an imitation of Franklin Roosevelt


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Browse books by L. Frank Baum at TomFolio.com, a shared website of reputable used-book dealers


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