We recently received a shipment of throws from one of our vendors. To our surprise, instead of receiving our Alice in Wonderland throw, we were actually shipped a Wizard of Oz throw. No big deal, but we didn't even know it was an option. Anyway, the excerpt on the throw is from the original book in which the slippers were silver, not ruby. This prompted a conversation about why the difference. Thus, the reason for this blog post.
When L. Frank Baum penned his fantastical work, there was a national debate about monetary policy. Stick with me here... don't let your eyes glaze over just yet! One side wanted to add Silver to the mix for backing the nation's currency, while the other side wanted to stick exclusively with gold. While it may never be known for sure, it appears that Baum wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a commentary on the debate. Without further ado, let's explore the parallels between the well-known characters and forces at work in the late 1800's.
Let us begin with the protagonist and her furry friend. Dorothy was a simple farm girl from Kansas. She is representative of an idealized American. She is wholesome and straightforward. Kansas was the hotbed of the Populist movement at this time, and among their objectives was to modify the monetary policy to include Silver. The movement spread across the state like a twister, another parallel, with the election of numerous Populists to office, including Governor. It is also believed that Toto was symbolic of another facet of the Populists... the Prohibitionists, or teetotalers.
Dorothy's comrades can also be viewed as metaphors. The Scarecrow is a type for the farmers of the day. Well-meaning, but ignorant of solutions to their plight. The Tin Man represented the industrial worker... hard working but downtrodden. One could say that they lost heart! Lastly, the Cowardly Lion is thought to have been a depiction of William Jennings Bryan, Democratic candidate for President. He was known for his blustery oratory but seen by some as lacking courage.
The witches too were symbolic. The most prominent is the Wicked Witch of the West. She appears to represent the harsh conditions of the west at the time. Most interesting, the flying monkeys, whom the witch had enslaved, may have been intended to represent Native Americans. The king of the monkeys tells Dorothy, "Once we were a free people, living happily in the great forest, flying from tree to tree, eating nuts and fruit and doing just as we pleased without calling anybody master. ... This was many years ago, long before Oz came out of the clouds to rule over this land."
The climax of the story is the accidental killing of the Wicked Witch with water. I always found that odd. That is until I heard the story I'm sharing with you now. The Populists firmly believed that the cure to so many of the woes plaguing "the people" was to offer liquidity to the money supply. It stands to reason then, that the way to defeat the great evil in Baum's story was... you guessed it, it was water.
I hope you enjoyed this writing. There is a ton more on this theory and other parallels. For example, the yellow brick road is a picture of gold bars. Consider also the name of Oz is the abbreviation for ounce. Take the time and research it yourself. You will never watch the movie the same way again!