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The Wizard Of Oz: An Allegory On Populism

1163 words - 5 pages

"And my head I would be scratchin' while my thoughts were busy hatchin', if I only had a brain…"Anyone with a brain can see that L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz is a classic theatrical masterpiece, but it doesn't take much head-scratching to find that it can be used as a parable on populism as well. Its figurative characters, like Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, the witches, and even the monkeys and munchkins, and it's satirical metaphors, such as the original silver shoes, the yellow brick road, and Oz itself make it hard to believe that Baum's work was intended for the mere entertainment of children.The four main characters, Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and the Lion depict four of the most important people or groups of the time. Dorothy, a simple farm girl who just wants to go home, is described by Littlefield as "Miss Everyman", and represents the plucky naivety of the American people. She is "…small and meek", and yet it is she that leads the others to seek their desires. Her role is similar to the role of our country at the time; our own conflicts (the Civil War and the expansion westward) caused us to better our standards (the advancement of technology in warships and weapons), therefore putting us on display for the world, and making others (like Britain, France, etc.) want to improve as well. Although Dorothy represents the naivety of the world, the Scarecrow is naïve in actuality. An image of the American farmer, the Scarecrow is less inferior and in fact more intelligent and shrewd than the rest of the bunch. A direct quote from the movie, "They come from miles around to eat my food and I can't even scare you away…", shows that not only were the farmers providing all the food for the general public, but they were badly recognized and not highly thought of. The Scarecrow also says at one point, "…and I won't try to manage things, because I don't have a brain". The farmers of the time, mostly populists, thought that more of the power should be held by voters. They had little to no control, or ability to "manage" their country at the time. Another group of people struggling for power were the eastern factory workers, or "Wobblies", represented by the Tin Man. In the story he has two main problems; he has rusted solid, which was probably a reference to the strikes and shutting down of factories during the depression, and he doesn't have a heart. Unlike the Scarecrow who was smart all along, the Tin Man really has been dehumanized by his work in the factory, and has symbolically and literally been turned into a cold, heartless machine. The Lion, perhaps the largest stretch in the metaphor, has been noted by Littlefield and others as William Jennings Bryon, a populist-endorsed candidate for president in 1896. He was known as a pacifist and was said to have "…a great roar but no bite". This is present in the Lion in that he came off as courageous at first, but was...

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