Wizard of Oz question...

This is my first post on this board, so please forgive me if this question has been asked and answered a million times.

A few years ago, I heard that the Wizard of Oz was meant to be an allegory for America going off the gold standard. Can anyone explain to me how this allegory works? Does the tin man represent industry, and the scarecrow represent agriculture?

Any insight into this would be sincerely appreciated.

“I never lie, but I don’t always say what I’m thinking.”

ENC Heel

Cecil covered something along your question’s lines before (I thinkin one of his books). Anyway, click here and maybe this will help you out. Welcome aboard.

Well, shut my mouth. It’s also illegal to put squirrels down your pants for the purposes of gambling.

It’s a good question, and Cecil explains it in this column:

There’s a school of thought that claims that Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz as an allegory of the Populist Movement in American politics. Others, however, argue that the connections made between the book’s characters, settings, and incidents with the political figures and issues of the time (turn of the century America) are merely coincidental and that Baum was just telling a story.

For a good overview of these theories, check out this website:

Here is another source of the paper by David Parker, as mentioned in Glinda’s column, but in an easier to read format: www.geocities.com/Athens/Parthenon?6641?ozpopul.html#1

Also, you canfollow the yellow brick road to here.

Well, that sure wasn’t Kansas…How about this: www.geocities.com/Athens/Parthenon/6641/ozpopul.html#1

Oz thing iz… I mean Odd thing is, that using the same symbols for the same things you can make the case that Baum was either FOR or AGAINST the Populists. Baum wrote the first story ,The Wizard of Oz as an amusement for himself and I think his daughter or a friend named Dorothy, when it became popular he wrote more. The allegories get all distroyed in those, some are ‘alegories’ for oraginst militarism,religion,isolationism,etc etc.Then you got people making allegories out of the movie which is different, ruby slippers for example. I’ve seen claims that it is allegory for and against Fascism,Communism,religion etc etc. And the claim that the whole thing is a dopers pipe dream ( field of poppies). I always liked what Mark Twain wrote in the ‘preface’ to Huck Finn something along the lines that anyone attempting to find allegories or hidden meanings in the tale would be taken out and shot.In a college Lit. test I once answered the question “What was the authors purpose in writing ‘the’ story?” with " To pay some bills" and got an A. Besides I always thot Wizard of OZ was an allegory for C.S.Lewis’ life.

“Pardon me while I have a strange interlude.”-Marx

Dang! pardon my manners,enc, I join with the others to welcome you to Munchkin Land.

“Pardon me while I have a strange interlude.”-Marx

If a book is an allegory, people notice it when the book is first published. If you have to wait fifty years before noticing, it’s not an allegory. After all, if you go to all the trouble to write a novel with a message, it’s pretty foolish to hide that message so deeply that no one notices it.

There may be occasional references that later scholars can find, but any consistent allegorical reading that wasn’t obvious when the book was published (e.g., GILES GOAT BOY) is merely hogwash.

“East is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does.” – Marx

Read “Sundials” in the new issue of Aboriginal Science Fiction. www.sff.net/people/rothman

I supose it would be possible to create an allegory without realizing it, just because of the environment and influences of the times. But as chuck says somebody oughta spot it quick. It is easy to recognize one,the jaw is wider than that of a metaphor.
Additional sig line at no added cost,just for chuck;

Whya no chicken?..Marx

“Pardon me while I have a strange interlude.”-Marx


I never imagined I’d get so many great responses. Thank you all - not only for the helpful links, but also for laying out the cyber-welcome mat for little ole me.

I’m truly looking forward to picking your brains on other weighty matters and vexing questions.

“I never lie, but I don’t always say what I’m thinking.”

ENC Heel

I don’t know about allegories, but here’s a free bit of Baum trivia; he got the idea for the name from looking at his file cabinet drawers, which were marked A-N and O-Z.

Hi ENC Heel. I’m relatively new to the SDMBs myself, but just wanted to throw a hearty welcome your way as well.

Since everyone has already given you such great answers to your question, I’ll go off-topic a bit and suggest that if you haven’t read any of the other Oz books, you should check them out. You can read them on-line in their entirety at http://www.literature.org/authors/baum-l-frank/

I have no idea how they get away with publishing the books online without violating copyright laws, but they’re there nonetheless.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” - Anne Frank

How they “get away with it” is simple: The copyrights have expired, at least on the original books. A copyright, IIRC, is good for only 50 years and can be renewed for only 25 years, and the first “Oz” was written in 1896. And the FAQ on that page says the books listed are in the public domain.

Something to consider: It’s nearly 75 years since the premiere of “Steamboat Willie,” the first Mickey Mouse cartoon. When the copyright expires, any video producer will be able to sell copies of that particular cartoon. However, the character of Mickey Mouse will remain the property of Disney so long as they continue to make more Mickey Mouse cartoons. Only Disney can make new MM cartoons, and only the estate of L. Frank Baum can write (or authorize) new Oz books, and it’s recommended they do so to make sure no one else can make money off new books and retain ownership of the characters. Any character not used can be lost to public domain.

My 600th post on the SDMB. (Yippee! I now officially do not have a life!)


The Online Literature Library only has the books written by Baum. There are actually 40 or so “Official” Oz books. They’re not easy to find, I’ll tell ya that.

The Internet Movie Database used to state as “a forgotten fact” in their Trivia section on The Wizard of Oz that the book was really originally a political statement. I wrote in and they soon after to changed it to “some people believe that…”

From what I’ve read on Baum and this rumour, there is no evidence that he was every interested in politics in any way, and it seems doubtful that it’s anything more than just a story.

Thanks so much for the clarification on copyright laws, jab1. I guess I need to go to MPSIMS and add that to the “You learn something new every day” topic. That’ll teach me not to read the FAQ page, won’t it? :slight_smile:

And my apologies, Zulu. I didn’t mean to imply that the entire collection of Oz books could be found there. What I meant was that each book they have there was available in its entirety.

Another Baum book that I love, which is much less known, is “The Magical Monarch of Mo.” That one’s hard to find online, too.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” - Anne Frank

Look at the discussion of L. Frank Baum in the book Land of Desire: Merchants, Power, and the Rise of a New American Culture by William Leach. Baum was a good little capitalist. He was one of the developers of window-dressing in department stores and he edited a journal about it. This was the cutting-edge form of advertising at that time. Any theory of what allegories he put into the books has to take in account Baum’s own life.

I dont know if it was authorized or not but I read a new “Oz book” a few years ago called “Wicked”. It told the life story of a witch who grew up in Munchkinland, was educated in Emerald City, migrated to Oz’s western frontier and then was murdered by some hired killer from Kansas. Not for children.

Elmer J. Fudd,
I own a mansion and a yacht.

The Oz books are in the public domain? This explains how small publishers like Bookleaf Publishers in Australia(http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Oracle/9067/) can acquire them for translation and put the translations on the net…

“Kiu frenezas? Cxu la mondo aux mi?” -Persone

The “populist allegory” theory has been thoroughly exploded. In fact, the man who invented the theory never actually believed it. It was a classroom exercise in treating TWWoO as if it were an allegory; somehow the exercise escaped and went feral.

The first sequel, The Marvelous Land of Oz, on the other hand, is very definitely a satire on feminism.

The only child named Dorothy connected with L. Frank Baum died as an infant, and he had four sons, no daughters.

And, while we’re on the subject, the film was always in color, and there is no dead Munchkin.

There are 39 sequels by Baum and others that are generally regarded as official, plus about a dozen works by Baum that fit into the same universe, plus about six works by official authors that were published after the official publisher stopped doing new books, plus about a hundred other sequels and prequels that receive various degrees of respect. The most interesting ones are the books by Alexandr Volkov, who, after translating into Russian, with some rewriting, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” as “The Wizard of the Emerald City”, wrote five sequels in an alternate continuity (although there is internal evidence that he read at least some of Baum’s sequels); since his death, at least two further sequels have been produced by one of his illustrators. The tales of Magic Land were among the most popular children’s books throughout the old Eastern Bloc, and can even be found (with some difficulty) in English.

But for all sorts of information, see the International Wizard of Oz Club at http://www.ozclub.org .

John W. Kennedy
“Compact is becoming contract; man only earns and pays.”
– Charles Williams