Political Symbolism in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Many people are not aware that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is suspected to have referenced several political issues of the late 1800's. Speculation of the parallels between the characters in the book and history of the United States began with a history teacher by the name of Henry Littlefield.
In the 1960s Mr. Littlefield proposed a number of parallels as part of his lecture, and in 1964 these parallels were published in American Quarterly. Needless to say, Mr. Littlefield’s suppositions sparked years of debate. I thought my readers will be interested in a small example of parallels that were drawn by Mr. Littlefield (with the assistance of his students):
Dorothy: Thought to represent the American people or values
Tin Woodman: Thought to represent the industrial workers who were often dehumanized
Scarecrow: Thought to represent the Western farmers
Cowardly Lion: Thought to represent William Jennings Bryan, a politician from the later 1800s who supported the free silver movement.
Munchkins: Thought to represent little people, or the common folk.
Cyclone: The tornado was thought to represent political upheaval, or the free silver movement.
Silver Slippers: Silver relates to the monetary political issues
Yellow Brick Road: Represented the gold standard, such as a brick of gold
Oz : “Oz” is an a weight measure, often associated with gold
The symbolism of The Wizard of Oz came to light again recently after the famous filmmaker, Bill Still, produced a two-hour documentary film, The Secret of Oz, in which he shakes up the existing economic paradigms and contends that the book contains a solution to the economic problems that plague this country.
It is well-known in economics academia that "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" is loaded with powerful symbols of monetary reform which were the core of the populist movement and the 1896 and 1900 presidential bids of Democrat William Jennings Bryan. The yellow brick road (gold standard),the Wicked Witch of the West (Cleveland banker J.D. Rockefeller) and the Wicked Witch of the East (NY banker J.P.Morgan), the emerald city of Oz (greenback money), even Dorothy's silver slippers (changed to ruby slippers for the movie version) were symbols of the beliefs of Baum and Bryan that adding silver coinage to gold would provide much needed money to a Depression-strapped, 1890s America.
In The Secret of Oz, Bill Still asks the most provocative questions: Could the solution to America's economic troubles be encoded in the pages of L. Frank Baums "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz"? Do the Baums symbols represent the solution to relieve the growing economic hardship both in this country, and the rest of the world?
According to Still,”You can't just reduce the national debt. You have to change the system and eliminate it entirely. We have to eliminate the ability of the government to borrow our money into existence. There are ways to do this. . . The federal government has to be put on a pay-as-you-go basis."
I encourage all of you to watch The Secret of Oz, whether or not you agree with its views. Warning it is almost 2 hours.
Whether you agree or disagree with the premise of the monetary reform expressed in this documentary and the notion that the secret to economic recovery is embedded on the pages of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, the Secret of Oz is truly a thought-provoking masterpiece that received the Silver Sierra award at the Yosemite Film Festival and the Award of Merit at the Accolade Competition La Jolla, California.
I have to confess that I learned about this documentary from one of my visitors who expressed interest in obtaining the first edition copy of the book. When I asked this gentleman as to what picked his interest in the book, I learned that it was his interest in the current economy and the US monetary system that was the impetus for interest in the book. While pondering upon my conversation, and also after watching and analyzing the documentary, I was struck by another curious thought.
Those of you who communicate with me know that in my e-mail replies, I usually use this quote by Robertson Davies:
"A truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon and by moonlight."
It occurred to me that at different chronological stages of one’s life, a great book, such as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, mean different things.
To a child who reads this book soon after she or he learns to read, this book represents magic – wonderful, pure, magnificent fairytale. However, when this book is being read or re-read by someone in his 30s the reader might in fact draw parallels between the US history and the political movements that might have been depicted in the book. Finally, when one re-reads the book at a mature age, with not only the benefit of life experience but also with the benefit of financial knowledge, one may begin to wonder whether there are parallels between the book and the national debt, need for reform, and the economy in general.
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