Study Guide

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

By Gregory Maguire

Defeat

Elphie clenched her fists and tried to keep from striking herself. "Liir gone too," she said. "I came here to make my apologies to Sarima and I lost Liir in the bargain. Am I good for nothing in this life?" (4.3.7.3)

The initial detail here before Elphaba speaks is really "striking" – pun intended. It's notable that this passage occurs at the beginning of the last volume. It really sets the tone for the book's conclusion by giving us insight into Elphaba's increasingly defeated state of mind.

But she was not a visionary. Behind the blue and white marbleized paper of the lake, beyond the watered silk of the sky, Elphaba couldn't see any deeper in. (4.3.7.2)

The water motif pops up once again here in some great imagery. We also like the use of the word "deeper" to describe Elphaba's limited vision, since "deeper" connects well with the water imagery. It's almost as if Elphaba has spent her life peering at the surface of a body of water (or the surface of Turtle Heart's mirror) and can't see anything underneath.

Virtually every campaign she'd set out for herself had ended in failure. . . .

The Witch would go and try to accomplish the task set out for herself fifteen years ago. Madame Morrible still waited to be killed. (5.5.66)

It's interesting that the narrator refers to Elphaba as "the Witch" here and also references "her" self from fifteen years ago. This implies that the Witch and Elphaba are the same.

The Witch had waited fifteen years, but her timing was off by five minutes. ... She didn't care if she was sentenced and executed for the battery of Madame Morrible's corpse. (5.7.1)

The first sentence here really hammers home Elphaba's defeat. Again, we also hear about the "Witch" waiting fifteen years to kill Morrible, even though back then Elphaba wasn't a witch yet. Or she wasn't called a witch at least; perhaps the witch was lurking within Elphaba the entire time.

He could see Elphaba working, he could see her hands fighting with each other, to do it anyway, to keep from doing it – whatever it was....

Elphaba crumpled and sank back against a pillar, shivering with self-loathing so violently that Fiyero could see it from fifty yards away. (3.15.23-24)

It's notable that this scene is told entirely from Fiyero's point of view. We have no idea what Elphaba is thinking, and we are never told what her inner turmoil was about here. Was she fighting to go through with the assassination or fighting to stop herself?

"The poor poppet is failure itself," she murmured. ...She couldn't quite pull Elphaba out of her position of dreamless, sleepless grief. (3.17.15)

Yackle is one crazy freak. Here she's creepily saying something mean and hurtful in a sweet tone of voice.

"No," said Two again, "no, I'm afraid we mustn't express undue interest. We may not listen and we will not tell Sarima what we hear."

In the end, Elphaba left them, drooping. (4.2.4.68-69)

Elphaba does a total Charlie Brown walk of shame here after Sarima's sisters refuse to listen to her. In many ways, Elphaba spends her entire adult life failing to get others to listen to her.

"Everything is undocumented," said the Wizard, "but I believe Sarima and her sisters are all dead."

The Witch's breath caught in her chest. The last hopes of forgiveness gone! (5.4.41-42)

The Witch's reaction here is really telling in its selfishness. Though she's obviously distraught over Sarima's death, her first thought is how that death affects her, now that Sarima is no longer around to forgive her.

Her first true motherly feelings were of incompetence and of being blithely ignored as inconsequential. She could not understand how the human race had ever managed to develop past a single generation. (4.3.2.28)

Elphaba's thoughts on difficult teenagers are pretty hilarious. In a way, this is actually a victory for Elphaba, since part of being a mother is being ignored.

"I can't bring him back," said Elphaba. "I can't! I have no aptitude for sorcery! I never did! That was all a foolish campaign of Madame Morrible's which I rejected!" The six sisters looked at her askance. (4.2.10.23)

Elphaba seems afraid of her own magical powers here, as well as of her ability to take action and accomplish things. We do have to wonder whether Madame Morrible knew what she was saying to Elphaba during that career advising session. Did she tell Elphaba she had no sorcery skills in order to make her doubt herself? Or is Elphaba linking magic to Madame Morrible and refusing to embrace it because of that?

"We'll be back," she said. "This is an exercise in your education, not ours. Mark my words, my rump'll be served up rare on your finest Dixxi House porcelain dinner plates before the year its out." (4.3.5.54)

The parting shot by the Cow is really cutting and depressing. It's also interesting that Elphaba comes off as hopelessly naive here, given her normal sarcasm and cynicism. This actually recalls her attitude toward the Wizard while at Shiz; she is convinced that he'll stop his anti-Animal campaign once he hears good evidence about the Animals' origins.