The Political Allegory of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Do you know what your children are reading? Do you ever wonder if there are messages behind a certain children’s literature? Are there really political messages in children’s literature? We learn history through textbooks, but can we learn history through children’s literature? The answer is yes. The famous children’s story and literature, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Lyman Frank Baum, has been made out of a novel, play, and movie. Everyone knows the story of the Wizard of Oz. The character Dorothy goes on a journey in the fantasy Land of Oz where she finds Tin Woodman, the Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion. They are off to see the Wizard, so Dorothy can go back home. The story is known for the Silver Shoes but in the movies they are ruby color as well as the Wicked Witch of West. What’s the connection to
During the 1890s, there was a political party known as the People’s Party. They are known as the Populist Party. This party was originated in
Their party consist the combination of a “general program for the political control of the industrialization with the concrete demands of a significant social force” (Rogin, 186). Their platform was that they wanted “…the direct election of United States Senators, a graduated income tax, woman’s suffrage, government ownership of the railroads, improved working conditions in factories, and easier access to credit” (www.ohiohistorycentral.org). They wanted to gain some political power in office, which they fought for women suffrage and proposed a direct election of senators. It was a way to get votes and expand their party. For the railroads, they thought that the government should control it to make the farmers happy with their financial problems. In addition to helping their financial problems, the Populist thought they would have accessible credit for farmers. “The populist believed that the federal government needed to play a more active role in the American economy by regulating various businesses, especially the railroads” (www.ohiohistorycentral.org). They also wanted to have “regulation of telephone and insurance companies, sumptuary legislation, alterations in the civil codes regarding family relationships, measures bearing upon personal morality and amendments to the criminal codes” (Bicha, 627). These were what their reform proposals, which they did not make it a central part of their concerns. The Populist tried to push for the introduction of a secret ballot as well (Rogin, 180).
Members of the Populist came from the plains and the mountains. The Populist controlled sevens states, which are
In addition, the Populist gained support because many men voted for the Populist Party, since they themselves were “plagued by social ostracism, loss of financial credit, and sometimes physical intimidation” (Hackney, 3). They felt that the Populist Party could help them with their problems. Besides gaining the Southern votes, Populism was most successful in newly settled states (Hackney, 4). This was because many states hadn’t established their political party.
The Populist aimed their votes to the African Americans during the rise of Populism. The platform was to appeal to the African Americans. White Southern Populist tried to have the African Americans vote for them creating this biracial movement (Winsboro and Musoke, 1354). The Populist platform was design in three parts: finance, transportation and land. In addition, it appealed to the African Americans because it “[denounces] disfranchisement, Ku Kluxism, terrorism, the convict lease system and lynching” (Winsboro and Musoke, 1359). Also, many African Americans voted for the Populist Party because the Populist, “attempting to overcome past tradition, harped on their willingness to secure blacks their civil rights…” (Winsboro and Musoke, 1367).
By the election of 1896, the Democratic Party had absorbed many of the Populist ideals, causing the People's Party to cease to exist as a national organization” (www.ohiohistorycentral.org). So, this puts the end of the Populist Party because they joined forces with Democrats. As of right now, we have the widely known Democratic Party.
In the 1900’s, Lyman Frank Baum had written the novel, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. This novel is about a story of a young girl named Dorothy who lives on a small farm in
The connection between the Populist and the Wonderful Wizard of Oz are through the characters and symbol. The character Dorothy is a girl that is innocent and naïve. In the story, Dorothy is a representation of the Everyman. She represents the Everyman because she is real and human in the story the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Unlike Dorothy, the other characters in the Land of Oz are fantasy characters and not real. She has problems like every man during this time had. In the story, Dorothy thinks about others and is a good person (Littlefield, 52).
As for the Tin Woodman, he represents in the story of urban industrial workers during the Populism. They are independent and hard working people. In the story, Tin Woodman is put under a spell by the Witch of the East. The spell is every time he swung his axe it chopped off a different part of his body, which turns him into a tin. “In this way, Eastern witchcraft dehumanized a simple laborer so that the faster and better he worked the more quickly he became a kind of machine. Here is a populist view of evil Eastern influences on honest labor … (Littlefield, 52). Later in the story, Dorothy comes along and oils his joints since he is left there in the same position over a year. The Tin Woodman is rusty because of the rain. This is clearly a parallelism to the conditions of many Eastern workers after the depression of 1893 and during the Populism (Littlefield, 52).
The Scarecrow represents the Midwestern farmers during the Populist time. The Scarecrow is described to have self doubt and terrible sense of inferiority (Littlefield, 53). This is because many Midwestern farmers felt the same way because of financial problems with these big companies like the railroads. Many didn’t know the meaning of silver. Silver was meant so much too many in the
The Cowardly Lion represents William Jennings Bryan, the running candidate for the presidential election in 1894 for the Populist- Democratic Party.
The symbolisms that connect with the story of the Wizard of Oz are
The author himself plays a role in this parallelism between the Populist and the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. According to Littlefield, “Baum’s allegiance to the cause of Democratic Populism must be balanced against the fact that he was not a political activist” (50). The irony that he wrote a book that depicts the Populist time in
Why is this so controversial? It’s controversial because many don’t see that there is a political allegory to the Wonderful Wizard of Oz that Baum wrote. Since he isn’t a political activist, many should wonder why he wrote it in the first place. It is a creative and interesting writing that he had published. It is a different kind of story with a lot of imagination. But many miss the part that his story represents a political allegory. According to Littlefield, “Baum never allowed the consistency of the allegory to take precedence over the theme of youthful entertainment” (58). This is true that he didn’t force the political allegory into the story. It is very subtle and many would see that you really had to analysis the story in order to understand that political allegory. The message that Baum is trying to conceive is “ [l]ed by naïve innocence and protected by good will, the farmer, the laborer and the politician approach the mystic holder of national power to ask for personal fulfillment” (Littlefield, 57). This is saying that many farmers wanted many things to help them out and that is why Populist was formed. But they themselves had to gain political power to have their needs be heard and have someone do something for many farmers that suffered in the South. Another message Baum is trying to conceive is “[he] poses a central thought; the American desire for symbols of fulfillment is illusory. Real needs lie elsewhere” (57). With the Land of Oz, it is a place for many farmers who dreamed to have that help they needed during that time. It’s like trying to see what reality from fantasy is and the farmers dreamed for big changes for them but failed to realize it might not happen.
Overall, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a political allegory of the Populist era. This teaches us how children’s literature can be helpful to learn the past and our history. These messages in children’s literature are a way for many of us to learn to read behind the lines. It is a way for a new type of writing of history and to create interesting story lines. Having political messages in children’s literature is a form of expression and a way to communicate thoughts and concerns. So when you pick up a children’s literature, stop to wonder what the message in the story is. Try to read behind the lines and see what you can find. We always have political messages behind music and movies. It is a way for many to listen to our problems we have in our society that needs to be addressed. So try to listen and open your eyes and mind of what goes on in history. Or you might miss the big picture.