Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
by Gregory Maguire
Analysis: What's Up With the Title?
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, is a very descriptive, biographical title, which we here at Shmoop applaud. You definitely know what you're in for when you pick up this book – unlike, say, the deceptively sweet-sounding A Rose for Emily, which is in reality massively creepy. Of course, that story was written by Faulkner, which probably tips people off to the potential insanity.
As a title, Wicked might seem very up-front and self-explanatory, but it is actually somewhat deceptive. When most of us hear "Wicked Witch of the West," we probably think of a cackling green maniac with a serious shoe fetish, a serious water phobia, and a seriously weird army of flying monkeys. In other words, the Witch from the Judy Garland movie.
And that's what Maguire is banking on in his novel. He's all about challenging preconceptions and exploring the power of word connotations, or the symbolic meanings we attach to words, like the Wicked Witch of the West. Maguire even jokes that he found that by writing about characters from Oz he could "trick" people into reading his novels "for the plots, perhaps, not even noticing that they really are novels of ideas done up in Halloween costumes" (source). So is this title just total false advertising?
Well, not really. But the Wicked Witch that people might be expecting to read about doesn't really exist in Wicked. As the book suggests, the Wicked Witch of the West is more of an idea than a person, and that idea is more of an accident than anything else. So the title Wicked might suggest that it's a biography, or that it's about the cackling green figure people remember from their childhoods, but the book is really more of a re-imagined history of an iconic character.