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Literary scholars have long interpreted The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a fable of populism, but it is more than that: It is a celebration of consumer culture as the the very meaning of America, this bright and shining land where men and women are happy to deceive themselves into believing a fairy tale, which, as the Wizard of Oz himself admitted, every sensible person ought to know is untrue…

Toward the end of the nineteenth century, a new culture emerged in the United States. At its heart was the quest for wealth, security, comfort, and pleasure. Increasingly disconnected from traditional family and community life, and existing in opposition to old-fashioned religious and social values such as self-restraint and self-denial, hard work and delayed gratification, repression and guilt, this new culture emphasized luxury and indulgence. The circulation of money and the exchange of goods were at the foundation of its aesthetic and moral sensibilities. Acquisition and consumption thus became the means to achieve happiness, purpose, and even salvation.[1]

For centuries, Americans, to say nothing of Europeans, had looked upon the New World as a garden of plenty, a veritable heaven on earth, where all human needs would be fulfilled and all human desires satisfied.[2] By the late nineteenth century, this myth was changing. It still affirmed the idea that American life could be perennially renewed and thereby invigorated. But America was no longer the land in which men and women from the Old World might find political and spiritual freedom to accompany social and economic opportunity. Severed from both a religious and political consciousness, the vision of America as a “Land of Opportunity” had given way, in the words of historian William Leach, to a vision of America as a “Land of Desire.”[3]

Above all, perhaps, America was the “Land of the New.” Prepared by their history to accept the cult of the new, Americans paradoxically embraced change and novelty as the essence of tradition. “The world and the books are so accustomed to use, and over-use, the word `new’ in connection with our country,” observed Mark Twain, “that we early get and permanently retain the impression that there is nothing old about it.”[4] However venerable, the past became a hostage to the present, obliged always to yield to evolving fashions and shifting tastes.

This new culture of abundance and consumption enabled, even encouraged, men and women to alter their identities as often as they pleased, and to do so without anxiety, fear, shame, or remorse. There was little about modern America that was fixed and stable. The inflation of desire, the longing for a greater number and variety of commodities in an expanding world of plenty, further diluted older values and customs. Americans found in the diffusion of money and possessions, the real, and enduring, promise of American life. Published in 1900, at this crucial moment of transition, L. Frank Baum’s Wonderful Wizard of Oz offers a vibrant, optimistic, and therapeutic tale designed to help Americans embrace the glamorous but unsettling world of delight they had entered.

Liberal and radical historians have tended to exaggerate the passivity of men and women who sought, and who sometimes found, independence and meaning through consumption. Regarding them as wholly subject to the manipulation of political and economic elites, historians cannot explain the fidelity to consumer capitalism that many ordinary, intelligent, and resourceful Americans displayed at the turn of the twentieth century. Baum understood, or at least intuited, that the culture of consumption offered both new opportunities and excited new possibilities for richer and fuller lives. In his novel, he emphasizes the transformative and liberating potential of consumption. Such an acknowledgment, of course, does not imply that consumer capitalism ever realized its early promise. It did not. Inequitable and unfair wages, the abuse of the working class, the exclusion and misery of the poor, and grotesque material indulgence were among the most visible consequences to accompany the rise of a market society and a consumer economy.[5]

Baum also recognized the importance of service to the new culture of consumption. When, for example, Dorothy and her companions enter the Emerald City, attendants pamper them and address their every need, overlooking no comfort. “Make yourself perfectly at home,” one of them tells Dorothy, “and if you wish for anything ring the bell.”[6] Service challenged, if it did not contradict, the Protestant ethic of personal responsibility, the republican ideal of individual virtue, and the insistence of both that Americans were self-sufficient. It hinted instead at a resurgence of the luxury, privilege, and decadence characteristic of aristocracy. But Baum appreciated that consumption and service had coalesced to present Americans with a new definition of independence and individualism, which had bestowed on them a more diverse range of personal expression and experience and awakened an imaginative reconstruction of self and world. Service encouraged the notion that all men, women, and children ought to be treated as individuals with their own interests, needs, and desires. Everyone merited satisfaction and contentment. In this respect, consumption and service endorsed the democratic and utopian possibilities inherent in the American way of life, suggesting that the happiness, the welfare, and even the dreams of all persons, including little orphan girls from Kansas, were within easy reach.

L. Frank Baum

Literary scholars and critics, of course, have long interpreted The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a fable of populism, arguing that Baum disparaged the social, political, economic, and moral order of the Gilded Age.[7] Baum himself, after all, seems to lavish unambiguous praise on a life of hard work, stubborn autonomy, and determined perseverance in the face of hardship. His fictional universe appears to be composed of immutable laws and absolute truths. He apparently found his inspiration in the revolt of urban workers and small farmers against the evil triumvirate of heartless bankers, profiteering railroad entrepreneurs, and powerful industrialists (represented in the novel by the wicked Witch of the East), which had come to dominate the society and government of the United States at the expense of the common man. Yet, in addition to venerating field and farm, and to sanctioning popular resistance to corporate ascendancy, Baum marveled at the grand hotels, theaters, dance halls, restaurants, amusement parks, and department stores that were then coming to tower above the landscape of major American cities. A deceptively simple children’s fantasy, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz conveys, and attempts to resolve, the many political, social, economic, cultural, and moral tensions that beset the American people at the turn of the twentieth century.

Young Dorothy arrives in Oz with a flourish when a terrible cyclone carries away the Kansas farm-house where she lives with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry and deposits it “in the midst of a country of marvelous beauty.”[8] Almost immediately, trouble ensues. The house has fallen on the wicked Witch of the East, killing her. By pure accident, an impersonal Nature, which, in one instance, has revealed its indifference to human well-being, has, in the next, brought about unexpected benefits. For, as Dorothy soon learns, the Witch of the East has kept the Munchkins, the little people, “in bondage for many years, making them slave for her night and day. Now they are set free,” and they are grateful to Dorothy “for the favour.”[9]

On her journey to the Emerald City, where she hopes to meet the Wizard of Oz who will help her return to Kansas, Dorothy encounters others who have either fallen victim to the dreadful wrath of Witch of the East or who suffer as a result of her power. Embodying the small farmer, the Scarecrow displays a tenacious sense of self-doubt and inferiority. In realty, the Scarecrow is intelligent, perceptive, and even wise. Yet, he labors under the illusion that he is ignorant, foolish, and stupid, and thus powerless to improve his condition. Similarly, the Tin Woodman, once an independent worker, endures the direct consequences of the witch’s curse. Each time he swings his axe, he severs another part of his body until tin has gradually replaced flesh and bone. The harder he has worked, the more damage he has done to himself. By the time Dorothy and the Scarecrow happen upon him, nothing of his former humanity remains. Thinking himself now more machine than man, and impervious even to the most basic emotions, the Tin Woodman has rusted in the rain. Paralyzed, standing in the same place for a year, going nowhere, he, like the Scarecrow, thinks he can do nothing to better his lot. It seems that the arcane, and often dishonest, financial arrangements and banking practices, which for Baum constituted the eastern witchcraft, to say nothing of mechanization itself, have dehumanized and, in the end, destroyed, the once self-reliant American working man.

The identity of the Cowardly Lion, Dorothy’s third companion on the road to the Emerald City, is more uncertain, since he denotes no particular social class. As the “King of the Beasts,” he is supposed to be a natural leader. But this lion regards himself as a cowardly failure. “Whenever there is danger,” he sobs, “my heart begins to beat fast.”[10] The most inspiring, and yet the most ineffective, spokesman for American workers and farmers during the late nineteenth century was William Jennings Bryan, whose last name conveniently rhymes with “lion.” A two-term congressman from Nebraska, Bryan lost his seat in the midterm elections of 1894. Two years later, in 1896, he secured the Democratic nomination for president with his passionate “Cross of God Speech,” delivered at the national convention in Chicago. “You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns,” he famously intoned, “you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.”[11] Facing political irrelevance, the Populist Party also nominated Bryan in 1896, although the Populists named Thomas E. Watson of Georgia as their vice-presidential candidate.[12]

“Free Silver” was the talisman that Bryan held up to save the “producing masses.” In 1873, Congress had put the monetary system of the United States exclusively on the gold standard, discontinuing the coinage of silver. Later denounced as “the crime of ’73,” a treacherous scheme to contract the money supply, congressional action was, in fact, a response to fluctuations in the market. The scarcity of silver relative to gold had raised the price. Mine owners earned far greater profits by selling silver on the open market, to be used, for example, in the manufacture of jewelry and tableware, than they did by selling it to the government to be minted into coins. When the discovery of new deposits of silver in the Rocky Mountains depressed the market value, silver producers had an economic incentive to lobby for a reinstatement of the “free and unlimited” coinage of silver. By the 1890s, the re-monetization of silver had assumed political significance; silver became a panacea guaranteed to lift farmers and workers out of destitution by expanding the money supply. Opposition to the coinage of silver, by contrast, revealed evidence of a vast conspiracy among the wealthy further to impoverish the poor and the downtrodden.

Throughout the novel, Dorothy wears the silver shoes that she has removed from the feet of the Wicked Witch of the East. It is, of course, also no accident that Dorothy travels along the Yellow Brick Road. In the Land of Oz, as in heaven, the streets are literally paved with gold. Innocent and guileless, she does not realize the marvelous power that the silver shoes have granted to her. Of their magical properties, Dorothy remains unaware. Near the end of the book, Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, who has protected Dorothy during her sojourn in the Land of Oz, tells her: “Your Silver Shoes will carry you over the desert…. If you had known their power you could have gone back home to your Aunt Em the very first day you came to this country.”[13] Dorothy did not know, and so must see her ordeal through to the end.

Having at last arrived in the Emerald City, Dorothy and her cohorts must perform one final service before the Wizard of Oz will consent to their requests, since, as he informs Dorothy, “in this country everyone must pay for everything he gets.” At the Wizard’s insistence, they must kill the Wicked Witch of the West, the sister of the Wicked Witch of the East. “When you can tell me that she is dead,” the Wizard asserts, “I will send you back to Kansas—not before.” Dorothy is horrified and protests, but the Wizard rebukes her. “Until the Wicked Witch dies you will not see your Uncle or Aunt again,” he says. “Remember that the Witch is Wicked—tremendously Wicked—and ought to be killed. Now go, and do not ask to see me again until you have done your task.” The Wizard leaves Dorothy no choice. Although she “has never killed anything, willingly,” she resolves to comply with his demands. It is the price she must pay to get home.[14]

If the Wicked Witch of the East symbolized the malevolent forces of the economy, her sister, the Wicked Witch of the West, personifies the hostile forces of nature. The terrain that Dorothy and the others must cross to arrive at the witch’s castle is forbidding, uncultivated, and desolate, reminiscent of the untamed western wilds of the United States. The Wicked Witch of the West uses all of the powers at her command to prevent the assembly from fulfilling the mission on which the Wizard has dispatched them. She first sends forty wolves against Dorothy and her friends, then forty vicious crows, and finally a swarm of black bees. After these efforts fail, the Witch summons the flying monkeys to capture Dorothy, and to dispose of the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion. Although the Witch enslaves Dorothy and compels her to work, in the end Dorothy kills her by dousing her with water, demonstrating the subjugation of nature to human control.

Dorothy has done what the Wizard required, and her triumph over evil portends well for her and her companions. To their dismay, when they return to the Emerald City with news that the Wicked Witch of the West is dead, they discover that the Wizard is a fraud, a confidence man, who cannot fulfill the extravagant promises he has made. Formerly a mimic, a ventriloquist, and a balloonist who performed at circuses and country fairs, the Wizard is a master of illusion and deception. Only once Dorothy learns the inadequacies of the Wizard, does she fully grasp that she has had the power all along to help her friends and herself. The Scarecrow at last recognizes his intelligence and rises to govern the Emerald City. The Tin Woodman finds that he has a heart after all, and comes to power in the West. Cowardly no more, the Lion assumes the responsibility of safeguarding the creatures of the forest. And Dorothy returns to her home in Kansas.

As the prevailing interpretation of the novel suggests, the moral of the story seems to be that the characters, like all Americans, carry within themselves the solutions to their own problems, if only they had the knowledge, fortitude, and confidence to implement them. At the same time, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz operates on a deeper cultural, ideological, and psychological level, enabling Baum to introduce into his apparently populist fairy tale an optimistic vision of modern America that affirmed the priorities and values of an emerging urban social order and a burgeoning consumer economy.

His sympathy for farmers and workers notwithstanding, Baum applauded the enthusiasm that many Americans felt for city life and material pleasures. The Emerald City is not only the geographical but also the moral center of the novel.[15] Dorothy approaches it with the same anticipation that many rural Americans felt as they arrived in the metropolis. The very name conjures a sense of glamour and excitement. The road to the Emerald City is “smooth and well paved… and the country about was beautiful.” The nearer Dorothy and the others get to the city, the more picturesque the landscape becomes, until they see “a beautiful green glow in the sky just before them.” Once they arrive and gain admittance, “Dorothy and her friends were at first dazzled by the brilliancy of the wonderful City,” the streets of which “were lined with beautiful houses… and studded everywhere with sparkling emeralds…. Everyone seemed happy and contended and prosperous.” Teeming with “jewels and precious metals,” the Emerald City is also filled with shops that sell “every good thing that is needed to make one happy.”[16]

Baum’s lavish description suggests less a real city and more the fanciful cities that Americans imagined. The celebrated urban fairs of the Gilded Age, such as the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia of 1876, the Columbian Exposition in Chicago of 1893, and the World’s Fair in St. Louis of 1901, implanted in the minds of many Americans a glittering but sanitized vision of urban harmony, abundance, and gratification. Baum likely modeled the Emerald City on the White City at the Columbian Exposition, which he and his family visited on numerous occasions. In the Emerald City, of course, everything and everyone appears to be green, the color of fertility and life.

By contrast, Kansas and everyone who lives there, except for Dorothy and Toto, are gray. After Dorothy’s Aunt Em comes to live in Kansas as a “young, pretty wife,” the sun and the wind of the prairie take away “the sparkle from her eyes and left them a sober gray; they had taken the red from her cheeks and lips, and they were gray also….” Life in Kansas has worn out Dorothy’s Uncle Henry, who “never laughed.” Instead, “he worked hard from morning till night and did not know what joy was. He was gray, too, from his long beard to his rough boots…. He looked stern and solemn, and rarely spoke. It was Toto that made Dorothy laugh, and saved her from growing as gray as her other surroundings.”[17] To Baum, agricultural life meant hard work, drudgery, isolation, scarcity, boredom, repression, and despair. Kansas is grim and repellent. Yet, Dorothy remains stubbornly immune to the charms of Oz and the Emerald City. She professes repeatedly the desire to go home.

Dorothy contends that “there is no place like home,” and that “all people of flesh and blood” long to get home, no matter how “dreary and gray” their homes might be. The Scarecrow is perplexed, and for once rejoices that he has no brains. “I cannot understand why you should wish to leave this beautiful country and go back to the dry, gray place you call Kansas…. If your heads were stuffed with straw, like mine,” he exclaims, “you would probably all live in beautiful places, and then Kansas would have no people at all. It is fortunate for Kansas that you have brains.”[18] The unintended irony of the Scarecrow’s comment reveals that no one in the Land of Oz seriously thinks Dorothy wants to make her way back to Kansas. Her aversion replicates the unease and guilt that many Americans felt about their attraction to the enchantments of the city. Dorothy’s resistance to Oz and the Emerald City intensify their appeal, making the Scarecrow’s bewilderment all the more humorous and instructive. Who, after all, would want to live in such a dismal place as Kansas?

There was, in Baum’s view, nothing inherently bad about desiring the pleasures that this world has to offer. In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, he replaced the Protestant morality of sin and damnation with the conviction that love permeated the universe. Baum’s divinity, in so far as he had one, personified the human wish for protection and sustenance, while defying apprehension, fear, and shame, all of which, he believed, were unnecessary, useless, and harmful. These negative ideas and emotions only prevented men and women from getting what they wanted and from becoming who they wanted to be. In addition, save for the Wizard, the Land of Oz is devoid of patriarchy, and of the tyranny and violence that Baum associated with patriarchal dominance. Governed by a benign and indulgent coalition of parental figures, Oz is a child’s dream come true. The Wizard turns out not to be the despot that he at first seems but instead a kindly, old, good-humored, somewhat blundering, non-judgmental, and permissive figure. The Good Witches of the North and South are equally generous, compassionate, protective, and forgiving. As Baum wrote in the Introduction, he intended The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to be a modern fairy tale “in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heart-aches and nightmares left out,” so that children everywhere will know they can partake of all the good things in life simply by wishing for them.[19]

As a result, the narrative lacks much of the drama typical of fairy tales. Even in the midst of the cyclone that carries her away, Dorothy feels “as if she were being rocked gently, like a baby in a cradle.” Although the winds howl, she sits “quite still on the floor” and waits “to see what would happen.” Eventually, “when nothing terrible” did happen, “she resolved to wait calmly and see what the future would bring…. In spite of the swaying of the house and the wailing of the wind, Dorothy soon closed her eyes and fell fast asleep.”[20] Whatever circumstances Dorothy encounters, even her perilous and harrowing enslavement to the Wicked Witch of the West, her fears and worries are ephemeral, disappearing as quickly as they arise. Like her bondage itself, her disquiet is temporary. Dorothy never feels threatened, not only because she enjoys the protection of the Good Witch of the North but also because of the benevolence that emanates from the Land of Oz itself.

Like Dorothy, none of the other characters ever really faces a crisis that requires them to examine their conscience, to make a painful choice, to confront a betrayal, to undergo a dark night of the soul, to suffer an epiphany, or to experience a heartrending transformation that at once chastens and enlightens them. All remain essentially the same from start to finish, already possessing what they think they lack. The Wizard instills in them only a belief in themselves. He grants no wishes, but in modern, therapeutic language, he puts them in touch with their abilities so that they can realize their own ambitions and cultivate their own happiness.

In the Land of Oz, then, no one ever need agonize about the future or fear that they will want for anything. No one need endure the usual disappointments and anguish that are part of the human condition. There is little distress and no cause for struggle or conflict. Everyone is well provided for; they must bear none of the scarcity that fosters self-denial or entails feelings of guilt at self-indulgence. The universe, on the contrary, is bountiful and munificent. There is enough for everyone. The inhabitants of Oz are thus free to control of their own lives and to shape their own destinies.[21] To Americans shaken by the vast upheavals that industry, cities, corporations, new technologies, and the consumer economy had engendered, Baum offered the comforting reassurance that the United States, like Oz, really was the land of plenty in which people could avoid all the suffering that had befallen others in the past or those who lived in less fortunate lands.

“The method of averting one’s attention from evil, and living simply in light of good,” declared William James, “is splendid as long as it works.” But such a world view is ultimately inadequate. Among other disabilities, it impoverishes the imagination for, James continued, “the evil facts which it refuses positively to account for are a genuine portion of reality; and they may after all be the best key to life’s significance, and possibly the only opener of our eyes to the deepest levels of truth.”[22] James’s analysis exposes an important and troubling deception that resides at the heart of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Although kind and compassionate, the Wizard is a trickster who is skilled at manipulating audiences and at fashioning illusions. When exposed, he confesses: “I am a humbug.”[23]

Even the magnificent Emerald City that he has long ago ordered the inhabitants of Oz to build turns out to be elegantly false. The Guardian of the Gates has told Dorothy and her friends that they must wear the green glasses to protect their eyes. If they do not, he warns, “the brightness and glory of the Emerald City would blind you.” By decree, those who visit or reside in the Emerald City must wear the glasses at all times. “They are locked on,” explains the Guardian, “for Oz so ordered it when the City was first built, and I have the only key that will unlock them.”[24] It is, of course, the glasses that give the city its emerald radiance. The color disappears when the glasses are removed. Then the city and everything in it becomes what it is: a sterile and bland white. Yet, despite the Wizard’s chicanery, Dorothy and the others forgive and forget, continuing to trust him even though he has given them ample reason not to do so. He may be a bad wizard, but he is a good man.

“How can I help being a humbug,” he laments, “when all these people make me do things that everybody knows can’t be done.”[25] The Wizard is Baum’s Satan, the master deceiver who assumes various shapes and plays many roles. He appears to be all things to all persons, becoming what each wishes or expects him to be. He may be devious and cunning, but he is, in Baum’s rendering, neither sinister nor evil. In fact, everyone in Oz regards him as a hero and a savior; he is happy to go on fooling them and they are happy to go on being fooled. An ordinary man with no aptitude for magic, the Wizard remains powerful and effective in a modern, peculiarly American way. He is a charlatan who can influence people, convincing them to do his bidding, inducing them to believe something that reason tells them is incredible.[26] Life and the world, Baum concludes, may rest on a marvelous hoax; a secret joke may distinguish the universe, but there is no evil, or even the possibility of evil, and so there is no cause for alarm. In defense of good cheer, material abundance, economic prosperity, comfort, enjoyment, and happiness, Baum ignored the wisdom of William James. He refused to take account of suffering, pain, sorrow, evil, and tragedy in the hope that, if they did not disappear, they would at least cease to matter to those who had embraced the modernist ethos.

Freed to participate in the consumer culture without fear or guilt, many Americans, by the early years of the twentieth century, imagined they had at last entered the paradise that the New World, from the beginning, seemed to promise. They could do what they wanted, get what they wanted, and go where they wanted without struggle, conflict, hardship, or insecurity. They lacked nothing and could possess all that their hearts had ever desired. Such aspirations, in time, came to constitute the very meaning of America, this bright and shining land where men and women were happy to deceive themselves into believing a fairy tale, which, as the Wizard of Oz himself admitted, every sensible person ought to know is untrue.

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Endnotes:

1) See Daniel T. Rodgers, The Work Ethic in Industrial America, 1850-1920 (Chicago, 1978) and Daniel Horowitz The Morality of Spending: Attitudes Toward the Consumer Society in America, 1875-1940 (Baltimore, 1985).

2) See Charles L. Sanford, The Quest for Paradise: Europe and the American Moral Imagination (Urbana, IL, 1961), especially 10-11, 74-93 and David Potter, People of Plenty: Economic Abundance and the American Character (Chicago, 1954).

3) See William Leach, Land of Desire: Merchants, Power, and the Rise of a New American Culture (New York, 1993).

4) Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (Hartford, CT, 1899), 18; see also Sanford, Quest for Paradise, 113.

5) In The Theory of the Leisure Class, published in 1899, a year before The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the political economist and social critic Thorstein Veblen labeled such extravagance “conspicuous consumption.” See The Theory of the Leisure Class (Oxford, 2007), passim, but especially 49-69.

6) L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (New York, 1900, 1960), 124.

7) See Henry Littlefield, “The Wizard of Oz: Parable of Populism,” American Quarterly, 1 (Spring 1964), 47-58; Fred Erisman, “L. Frank Baum and the Progressive Dilemma,” American Quarterly 3 (Fall 1968), 616-23; Brian Atterbery, The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature: From Irving to Le Guin (Bloomington, IN, 1980), 86-90.

8) Baum, Wonderful Wizard of Oz, 20.

9) Ibid., 22-23.

10) Ibid., 69.

11) William Jennings Bryan, “The `Cross of Gold’ Speech,” reprinted in A Documentary History of the United States, Fifth Edition, Richard D. Heffner, ed. (New York, 1991), 208; see also William Nisbet Chambers, The Democrats in American Politics (New York, 1972), 174.

12) The Democratic candidate for vice-president was Arthur Sewall, a Maine shipbuilder, banker, and disciple of the Swedish theologian and mystic Emanuel Swedenborg.

13) Baum, Wonderful Wizard of Oz, 257. A revealing contrast exists between The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and another book of immense popularity at the turn of the twentieth century, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. Bunyan’s protagonist, Christian, embarked on his own harrowing journey, encounters “By-Ends” who tells him that “We are always most zealous when religion goes in silver slippers.” Christian replies that “You must also own religion in his rags as when in silver slippers.” See Pilgrim’s Progress: From This World to That Which is to Come, James Thorpe, ed., (Boston, 1969), 194, 199. See also, Rodgers, The Work Ethic in Industrial America, 128.

14) Baum, Wonderful Wizard of Oz, 128-29.

15) See Frank Joslyn Baum and Russell P. MacFall, To Please a Child: A Biography of L. Frank Baum, Royal Historian of Oz (Chicago, 1961), 201.

16) Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, 110, 115, 121-22, 188.

17) Ibid., 12-13.

18) Ibid., 44-45.

19) Ibid., 1.

20) Ibid., 15-16.

21) See Donald Meyer, The Positive Thinkers: Popular Religious Psychology from Mary Baker Eddy to Norman Vincent Peale and Ronald Reagan (Middletown, CT., 1989). For an account nearly contemporary with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, see Williams James’s discussion of “The Religion of Healthy-Mindedness” in The Varieties of Religious Experience (New York, 1961; originally published in 1902), especially 89-92.

22) James, Varieties of Religious Experience, 140.

23) Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, 184.

24) Ibid., 117.

25) Ibid., 199.

26) See Karen Halttunen, Confidence Men and Painted Women (New Haven, CT, 1982).

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1 reply to this post
  1. The movie was better.
    It epitomizes American Classic Ideals. The heroine breaks the chains from oppression (Wicked Witch… Dorothy was cheered by the munchkins AND the Witch’s own guards) and from ignorance (the hegemony of the Wizard).
    Each member of her team showed the triumph of the individual over their place in society.. the triumph of existence over essence. The tin woodsman was always the source of heart, the Scarecrow always came up with the plans. The Lion was the point man attacking the castle. And a small female child lead them by example and the strength of her character. Freedom from bondage, from oppression, but moreso freedom to have new thoughts…those are the American ideals celebrated by the Wizard of Oz (mostly the movie).

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