Welcome to my Blog which combines the unlikely topics of supply teaching with progressive rock. Here you will find my ongoing 'Diary of a Surviving Supply Teacher' and a variety of lists/ timelines/ articles on progressive rock.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Symbolism in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Symbolism in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum
Illustrated by W.W. Denslow

1.      Broomstick          

- Energy

2.      Bucket of Water 

- A lifesaver during a drought
- The Wicked Witch's life, representing natural disaster, is ended with a bucket of lifesaving water
- A simple hoped-for remedy

3.       Colour          

- The colours of money. The Emerald City is green (or is made to appear green), the yellow brick road is gold and Dorothy's shoes are silver

4.       Cowardly Lion                          

- Politician William Jennings Bryan mocked by Republicans as indecisive or a coward
- Politicians in general
- Courage
- Populist Party

5.       Cyclone                                        

- A political revolution that would transform the drab country into a land of colour and unlimited prosperity
- Political upheaval
- Uncomfortable or unpleasant events that propel us to higher places
- We must tear down before we can rebuild
- Winds of change

6.       Dainty China Company

- Baum sold crockery when living in Chicago

7.       Dorothy Gale                             

- Naïve, young and simple - represents the American people of the 1890s
- The workers of the union
- Everyman, led astray and seeking the way back home
- Tough, brave and independent like a pioneer woman
- Frank L. Baum’s mother and wife who were both feminists
- Frank L. Baum’s determination
- Anti-colonial in rescuing the underdog with her friends
- Is imaginative and Baum used imagination after the World Fair
- Not traditional because she does not improve, she is good from the start
- The American people at their best
- Determined, resourceful, loyal
- America—honest, kindhearted and plucky
- Embodies how Americans want to see themselves
- All-American girl from the heartland, with a big heart, independence and daring
- Average rural American citizen
- Populist orator Leslie Kelsey, nicknamed 'the Kansas Tornado’
- Gale means strong wind, suggesting that Dorothy is the storm that blows over the Great Plains
- Seeker of enlightenment or redemption
- The soul and the spirit
- Dorothy's name is short for Dorothea, which means "Divine Gift" in Greek
- Theodore Roosevelt

8.       Emerald City                             

- The fraudulent world of greenback paper money that only pretends to have value
- The greenback value that is placed on gold (and for silver, possibly)
- World’s Fair in Chicago, 1893 with electricity, Ferris wheel and motion picture camera
- Washington DC

9.       Emerald Coloured Glasses

- Baum’s editorial of 1890 in which he suggested that farmers feed sawdust to their livestock after fitting the animals with green glasses to make them think that they were eating feed

10.    Emerald Palace         

- The White House

11.    (Glinda and) The Magic Book

- Baum’s interest in science
Predicts the computer

12.    Good Witch Glinda

- Exercise in treachery
- Machiavellian genius

13.    Good Witch of the South and North

- The Good Witch of the North represents northern workers and the Good Witch of the South represents southern farmers. This provides a contrast to the wicked industrialists in the east and railroad moguls in the west.

14.    Grey                                             

- Grass, sky, old age, paint

15.    Hammerheads           

- The hard-headed men who perpetuated the regional differences in the United States and kept the people of the South and the people of the North at odds with one another

16.    Journey       

- Our own spiritual quest
- Job's quest in the Old Testament

17.    Kansas         

- A Populist stronghold in the late-19th century
- There’s no place like home
- The kingdom of heaven is not a place, but a condition
- Truth is found in your own backyard

18.    Man Behind the Curtain

- Automated department store window displays

19.    Monkeys                                      

- Native Americans as a western danger

20.    Munchkins  

- The little people (enslaved by the Wicked Witch of the East)

21.    Oz                                                  

- O – Z on a filing cabinet which Baum noticed when he was a child being educated at home
- Uz was where Job lived
- Abbreviation of ounce, which is the standard unit of measure of silver and gold
- A variation of "Boz", the nickname of Charles Dickens, who was one of Baum's favourite authors

22.    Scarecrow   

- Fear from Baum’s fear of scarecrows
- Intelligence
- Midwestern farmers
- Refutation of the notion that farmers didn't have the brains to see their own best interests
- Tension between knowledge and wisdom

23.    Silver Slippers (ruby in the 1939 film version)

- The Silverite sixteen to one silver ratio (dancing down the road)
- An unrecognised viable currency of the people
- Defend our grounding ability and our feet
- Freedom and mobility

24.    Three Companions

- Job was accompanied by three companions

25.    Tin Woodman                            

- From Baum’s shop window display             
- Compassion      
- Industrial workers
- Dehumanization of industrial labour
- His rust is the depression of the 1890s that had closed many factories and left large numbers of - workers unemployed
- A hardened worker

26.    Tornado lifting and moving a house

- A story from Baum’s own newspaper, the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer (South Dakota)
- Physical manifestation of Dorothy Gale's inner struggle for self-awareness, the result of the 'gale' winds storming through her psyche

27.    Toto              

- The physical body
- Dorothy (the spirit) and Toto (the body) together represent the whole of humanity
- Small and unnoticed but the reveals fraud

28.    Uncle Henry               

- Henry Cantwell Wallace, known as Uncle Henry, was a well known farmer and editor for a leading farm magazine in the late 1800s

29.    Wicked Witch of the East

- Industrial and banking interests, which were concentrated in the urban centres ‘back east’

30.    Wicked Witch of the West

- A figure for the actual American West
- Humorous
- Cruel natural forces that plagued farmers with cyclones, droughts and other environmental disasters

31.    Winged monkeys in the West 

- Sympathy for Native Americans of the plains
- Politicians in cartoons

32.    Winkies        

- Beyond the city, the Wicked Witch of the West had enslaved the yellow Winkies, a reference to the imperialist aims of the Republican administration, which had captured the Philippines from Spain and refused to grant them independence

33.    Wizard         

- Frank L. Baum himself, just a (good) man
- Bankers who support the gold standard and oppose adding silver
- President of the United States from 1896, Grover Cleveland, who was known as the ‘Great Obstructionist’
- Cynicism about politicians
- A different appearance for each interest and all things to all people
- Marcus Hanna, the power behind the Republican Party and the McKinley administration

34.    Wolves, Crows & Bees

- A menace to farmers in the west

35.    Yellow
Brick Road

- The gold standard
- A Populist march on Washington, DC, led by Jacob Coxey in 1893-1894, to promote his plan to put people back to work through a public works program
- The path to self-actualization
- A pilgrimage

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – The True Story (2010) Documentary exploring the career of L. Frank Baum shown on BBC4 Thursday 28th April 2011

Originally posted on Friday, 29th April 2011


  1. Very interesting didn't really think of the oz in this manner. Makes sense because of the condition of affairs in the United States at the time. Thank you