Tin Man- The Wizard of Oz

The Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz 319px-Tin-Man-poster-Hamlin

When L. Frank Baum wrote his famous o  novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the nation was both recovering from a depression and in the midst of a pretty fervent political debate over currency reform. While the book definitely functions as a fun fairy tale for kids, it’s also one that taps into the tin man’s meaning by using him to flesh out an intricately-developed political allegory.

To put it briefly, the best Tin Man interpretation is that he represents the country’s industrial workers. It’s a fairly easy comparison to make, and it’s a Tin Man meaning that makes a lot of sense given his actions in the story and his interactions with the other characters.

When we first meet the Tin Man, he’s been doing nothing but sitting in one place for who knows how long. This simple fact is one of the first things that gives the Tin Man meaning. At the time, industrial workers were facing huge difficulties in the country as they were being replaced with automated systems and machines. Indeed, the Tin Man used to be human, but he’s accidentally chopped off his extremities and then dehumanized entirely as a result.



Finally, Dorothy and the Scarecrow wander along, and it’s the Scarecrow that’s able to finally free the Tin Man from his state of stasis. Baum uses the Scarecrow to give the Tin Man meaning by having them together embody the Labor-Farmer coalition that was such an important part of the political landscape during the 1890s (the Scarecrow being meant to represent the farmers of America).

Another event that helps decode the variety of Tin Man interpretations possible in Wizard of Oz is the way he interacts with the Wicked Witch of the West. As she represents both the ruthless business interests and harsh weather of the American West, she disassembles and enslaves the Woodsman. Once he’s freed, though, Baum gives the Tin Man meaning by having him become the ruler of the western portion of Oz (which is representative of America itself).

This taps into one of the most important Tin Man meanings explored by the novel, which is the idea that industrialism and its interests will eventually spread west (after 1900). Ever the optimist, Baum paints this as a positive scenario for all parties involved.

Of all the potential Tin Man interpretations that one might be able to come up with, that of the industrial factory worker, dehumanized and rendered inert by the onset of technological advancement and politics, is most certainly the most fitting. It’s certainly possible to simply read the novel as a children’s story about a Wizard and some witches…but these political parallels are what lend the novel its impressive amount of depth.