Oz-The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Oscar-Diggs-Wizard_of_OzIn writing his novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, it’s no secret that author L. Frank Baum took inspiration from the politics of the real world to give characters like the Wizard meaning. While there are many Wizard interpretations floating around out there, perhaps the most applicable is that which sees the Wizard meanings narrowed down to a more political standpoint.

At the time The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was written, the Populist political party was tenaciously engaged in a currency debate that had been raging in the wake of what was known as the Long Depression in the late 1800s. If Dorothy and her friends represent the Populist party and its interest, then the most fitting of all the Wizard interpretations is that of him as an embodiment of Washington, DC and—more specifically—the President.

In Oz, Baum gave the Wizard meaning in a political way with the method by which revealed the character to Dorothy and her cohorts. As far as symbolism is concerned, there are many wizard meanings that Baum may have been hoping to channel in Oz. The most apt wizard interpretations for this novel, however, will see him as a purveyor of magic and illusions. Baum uses the wizard’s meanings to indicate that the President is more than a puppet-string-pulling charlatan. Indeed, at the end of the novel, the wizard reveals that Dorothy and her friends had the qualities they believed themselves to lack all along. He’s not capable of giving anybody anything they don’t already have.

Yet another historical fact that feeds this wizard interpretation is Baum’s history as a writer. As he wrote Oz, Baum was also working at a trade magazine for retail window displays. At the time, these required an operator sitting behind a curtain, much like Oz’s powerful wizard.

When the characters in Wonderful Wizard finally meet the man they’ve been seeking for the novel’s duration, he appears to them each in a different form. This is yet another way that Baum gives the wizard meaning, by having him appear to each character as America’s ideal images of leadership, with each character representing a different part of America’s population.

Perhaps the final piece of the puzzle which gives the wizard meaning in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is his past. In reality, the wizard isn’t a wizard at all. He’s a regular guy from Omaha, which isn’t even that far from where our hero Dorothy grew up. The wizard, much like Baum’s idea of the President, apparently, isn’t very different from you, or me, or anybody else. He’s not actually as powerful as he claims to be, and he’s eventually shown to be greedy and pretty cruel. Baum’s so-called “wonderful” wizard might not employ the traditional wizard meanings, but he definitely serves as a rich symbol through which Baum makes a rather scathing political comment.

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