The Wizard of Oz is the most viewed movie of all time. The film wasn’t a large commercial success during its time but grew to fame due to it repeat re-releases. Despite the film’s original 1939 release, it continues to shape the childhood of generations to come. The wonderful world of oz being filmed in beautiful technicolor is what defined the film and made it legendary. The film’s bright, and vibrant colors, the campy and whimsical characters, express the very essence of childhood. Rushdie wrote that the film’s “driving force is the inadequacy of adults, even of good adults, and how the weakness of grown-ups forces children to take control of their own destinies.” We continue to watch this films, nearly 90-years later because of how powerfully it touches on the keystones of a child’s journey into adulthood.
You Know The Story
The heroine of the story Dorothy Gale played by Judy Garnder is ignored and ridiculed at home for simply being herself and dreams of leaving the safety of home and traveling to new strange places “over the rainbow.” We also learn that Miss Gulch played by Margaret Hamilton owns half the town and is set on forcibly euthanizing Dorothy’s pet dog Toto and is using her influence to do so.
After Miss Gulch takes the dog to have him destroyed Toto escapes and returns to Dorothy! Fearing that Miss Gulch will come back for the beloved Toto, Dorothy executes her plan to run away from home. Not long after leaving home Dorothy meets Professor Marvel (Frank Morgan) a phony fortune teller who uses his crystal ball to trick Dorothy into returning home by convincing her that her Auntie Em (Clara Blandick) is sick.
Dorothy and Toto quickly race home just as a tornado approaches. Locked out of the storm cellar poor Dorothy seeks refuge in her home, where the wind violently forces her head and a window to meet effectively knocking her unconscious. The house is picked up by the twister and later lands in Munchinland, a part of the Land of Oz, and this is where her journey begins.
Upon arrival, Dorothy learns that she has killed the Wicked Witch of the East by dropping a house on her! The tyrant witch’s death quickly becomes the munchkins independence day. The Wicked Witch of the West also played by Margaret Hamilton furiously appears during the munchkins celebration to claim her deceased sister’s ruby slippers. But she cannot have them because Glinda the Good Witch of the North (Billie Burke) has placed them on Dorothy’s feet.
Here the theme of the story is established. It is symbolic of it the transition into adulthood. The sun rises in the East and sets in the West; if life is applied to that cycle, the East represents childhood, and the West represents adulthood. By killing the Wicked Witch of the East at the start of her journey Dorothy doesn’t simply kill her inner child. The Wick Witch of The East terrorized the people of Munchkinland, a village of diminutive humans. Muchkinland and its inhabitance are the true symbols of childhood and innocence with their childlike appearances and stature, and vibrantly bright and colorful environment. In this sense, the Witch of the East isn’t Dorothy’s inner child but a representation of inadequate and weak adult role models. By abandoning her as their ruler the Munchkins are forced to take control of their destinies just like Dorothy. By extension, the ruby slippers can be interpreted as a representation of the power and influence associated with the independence and adulthood.
Every character Dorothy encounters during her journey relates back to her in one way or another; It is literally her world and everyone else is just living in it. The Scarecrow represents her head, the Tin Man is her heart and the Cowardly Lion is her courageous spirit. Throughout the film, each of the characters searches aimlessly for something that has always been a part of them in one way or another.
For example, the Scarecrow doesn’t really need a brain he simply desired for someone to validate his intelligence. When Dorothy first meet Scarecrow he claims to not to have a brain but devises the plan to get himself off of the wooden stake throughout the film he devises all of the major plans of action and rescue. Scarecrow constantly displays that he is both cunning and creative and uses his talents to save his companions time and time again.
When Dorothy and Scarecrow meet the Tin Man, he claims to not to have a heart despite this he has proven himself to be the most emotional person in this band of misfits. Later when the Cowardly Lion threatens the gang, Dorothy runs scared like Scarecrow and Tin Man. It isn’t until the Lion threatens Toto that Dorothy displays courage. This parallels events that occur later in the film. When Dorothy is captured by The Witch of the West, the Lion is willing to come to Dorothy’s rescue regardless of being scared. Regardless of consistently proving that they are smart, thoughtful, and brave they seek something external to validate their intrinsic self-worth. Regardless Scarecrow’s honorary degree, Tin Man’s “good-dead-doer” award, and Lion’s metal of bravery are stilled something they earned through their trials.
This is why the ruby slippers are unattainable to the Witch of The West. The Wicked Witch parallels Miss Gulch who unfairly uses her financial resources to bully the poorer townspeople and get her way. It is through this financial abuse and exploitation that Miss Gulch attempts to make a claim to power and influence. Likewise, the Wicked Witch abuses magic and uses threats and intimidation in an attempt to gain greater power and influence which is why she seeks the ruby slippers.
It has already been established that the ruby slippers represent the power and influence that comes with adulthood, and throughout Dorothy’s heroine’s journey, she earns those things. Dorothy liberates oppressed people by eliminating two tyrannical rulers, forms and leads a band of rebels, and bravely stand up for people who can’t stand up for themselves. The ruby slippers are the brand of Dorothy and how others in the Land of Oz recognize her achievements. It isn’t the slippers that define Dorothy but quite the opposite. The Wicked Witch’s attempt at simply stealing this power and exploiting authority as opposed to earning her title is why the ruby slippers are unattainable for her and ultimately leads to her downfall at the hands of Dorothy.
It Was All A Dream
Many critics the film for the “it was all a dream” ending because they believe that it minimizes Dorothy’s trials. However, Dorothy returns home changed whether you choose to believe that what happened was real or not. She has proved to herself that her intelligence, bravery, and compassion are more valuable than Miss Gulch’s money and ultimately more impactful. It is through her strength of character that Dorothy overcomes Miss Gulch’s oppression and continues on her journey to maturity. At the end of the day, there is no place like home when what you’ve been searching for has been in your backyard all along.