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 Language and Communication
The story of Oz has been retold countless times, so it's fitting that storytelling itself is a major theme in this book. Wicked is all about re-telling the story of the Wicked Witch of the West. But there is never just one version of any story in the book, and this is particularly true of the Witch's. Her story is just one of many in Oz that gets retold and reinterpreted over and over again.
Arguably, Elphaba's life story (which is actually made up of several different stories) is separate from the story of the Wicked Witch. Wicked complicates this theme even further (which it has a tendency to do) by questioning the truthfulness of communication and storytelling itself. There are multiple versions of stories floating around, and every story contains a combination of truth and lies. Telling and hearing stories ultimately boils down to interpretation and perspective. For a book that's a "re-imagining" of another narrative, it's fitting that communication and stories are not static or fixed.
Questions About Language and Communication
- Is the Wicked Witch of the West more a product of rumors and stories than she is a real figure?
- How do themes of miscommunication play a role in the final confrontation between the Witch and Dorothy?
- How does Madame Morrible use and manipulate language during her "recruitment" session with Glinda, Elphaba, and Nessa after Ama Clutch's funeral?
- Elphaba's isolation and reserve seem to invite rumor and speculation. How do things like her disappearance from Shiz contribute to the rumors that surround her and later the Wicked Witch of the West?
- During her meeting with Princess Nastoya, Elphaba finds the idea of living in disguise distasteful, while Nastoya defends it by saying "The interior doesn't change ...except by self-involvement" (126.96.36.199). How is this debate explored in the narrative? Is one view eventually proven "right"?