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Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West


by Gregory Maguire

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West Theme of Defeat

There's a reason we call Elphaba the John Locke (Lost version) of Oz. Like Locke, her life seems to be one big string of failures and disappointments. This is a fact that Elphaba herself notices with a lot of pain. She never seems to achieve her goals, and her failures range from minor, such as Chistery not progressing in his speech, to catastrophic, such as Fiyero's death. The latter is arguably not Elphaba's fault, but she thinks it is, which may be more important.

As the book progresses, Elphaba grows increasingly defeatist and stops trying. This attitude may be a form of evil itself, if evil can be defined as an "absence" of emotion or feeling. The psychological effects of defeat and loss are hugely important for Elphaba's character. It's no wonder she loses it when confronted with her freakishly effective doppelganger Dorothy.

Questions About Defeat

  1. What does Elphaba consider to be her greatest failures, and why? Do these perceived failures have anything in common?
  2. What does Elphaba's Animal rights crusade represent, and how is her lack of success significant?
  3. Dorothy always seems to do things (such as killing Nessa) unintentionally. How is Dorothy a "victim" of her own successes, and how does this character trait contrast her to the ineffective and failed Elphaba?
  4. Elphaba dies feeling like a failure, but we see what a major impact she had on Oz through characters like the Wizard and Nastoya. How is this dichotomy, or distinction, between Elphaba's private feelings and public reputation significant?

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