Study Guide

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

By Gregory Maguire

Guilt and Blame

"But the fault is mine --" began Glinda.

"You would do me more good if you hushed, sweet Galinda, my duck," said Ama Clutch gently, and patted Glinda's hand. (2.3.5.33-34)

Notice the use of both "Glinda" and "Galinda" here. After Ama Clutch dies, no one seems to ever call Glinda by her birth name again, so this is the last instance where Glinda is a bit like two people. Ama Clutch also introduces one of the book's major themes: the idea that asking for forgiveness can sometimes be very selfish. We see this theme crop up a lot once Sarima arrives in the story.

Life has been very hard. If you can hear me when I cannot hear myself ...you could help me do no harm in this world. That's all I want – to do no harm. (4.1.3.40)

Elphaba is unusually open and vulnerable here. We can also see how her experience with Fiyero, and her ensuing guilt, dominated her adult life. Elphaba is almost scared of her own shadow here.

He covered her with a sense of holiness, and it was more than her undergarments that would drop away from her when they tumbled panting onto the bedclothes. She would lose her sense of shame. (1.7.29)

Melena's affair with Turtle Heart is, interestingly, the antithesis of guilt. She almost feels a sense of pride about the whole thing, and their relationship is not what you'd necessarily expect from ex-party girl Melena. There are a lot of parallels between mother and daughter in this book, and it's fitting that Elphaba herself has an affair (with a married man) that's similar to the type of loving and beautiful relationship that Melena had with Turtle Heart.

Well, I won't be lectured to by you about my everlasting duties to Nessie. I gave her my childhood. ... She's made her life the way she wants it, and she still has choice and free will even now. (4.3.3.16)

Two themes for the price of one here! Elphaba refuses to feel guilty about her "duties" to Nessie, and she also points out that Nessie is a big girl who can make her own choices. Frex doesn't seem to have a problem with Nessie making choices, but he does have a problem with her facing the consequences, which is where his guilt trip routine comes into play.

"You were born to curse my life." He patted her hand affectionately, as if he didn't mean much by this. (5.3.20)

Frex should not pursue a career in writing Hallmark cards. This idea of the "curse" crops up a lot of times in the book. Oz is cursed; Elphaba is cursed (and is a curse); Elphaba thinks Dorothy is some sort of curse; and so on.

"I would say to you: Would you ever forgive me for that accident, for the death of your sister; would you ever forgive me, for I could never forgive myself!"

The Witch shrieked in panic, in disbelief. (5.17.37-8)

This bit of irony proves too much for the poor Witch, finally pushing her over the edge. Unlike Elphaba, Dorothy gets to ask for forgiveness. But she also suggests that forgiveness ultimately won't do much good, since she'll still have to live with her own guilt.

Yet how much really could you owe other people? Was it endless? (4.3.2.52)

The fact that Elphaba constantly feels beholden to others makes a strong case against her "wickedness." Would a truly evil person feel like she "owed" something to other people? The Wizard certainly doesn't.

I spent a year following every useless clue. You know this. Don't torture me with the memory of my failure. (5.2.37)

Poor Elphaba. We'd like to argue that it's really the loss of Sarima and her family that does the most to push her toward her new identity as the Wicked Witch.

"Not unless I want to hear it, which is my prerogative. This is my house and I choose to hear what I want."

"You must hear it, so that I can be forgiven," said the woman, turning her shoulders this way and that, almost as if she were a beast of burden with an invisible yoke on her. (4.2.1.54-5)

We were waiting for Sarima to bust out with Britney Spears' "My Prerogative" here, but alas. The image of Elphaba as an animal with an "invisible yoke" on her is really powerful. It's rather ironic, too, given her fight against Animal cruelty.

You want to throw down your burden, throw it down at my feet, or across my shoulders. You want perhaps to weep a little, to say good-bye, and then to leave. And when you leave here you will walk right out of the world. (4.2.2.49)

Sarima gives one of the best assessments of Elphaba's character in the book. As Fiyero once accused her, Elphaba wants to get rid of her own burdens, her sense of guilt, and her sense of personal responsibility. But all that is precisely what's holding her to the world.

And I think you wish me ill. You wish me ill and you don't even know it. You want to punish me for something. (4.2.2.55)

Sarima calls it once again – she would have made a rocking psychologist. Elphaba does seem to subconsciously resent Sarima for existing. But is Elphaba just punishing Sarima in all of this? It seems like she might be punishing herself as well. This idea of Elphaba harboring subconscious malice, or ill-will, is also significant; it does a lot to explain what happened to Manek.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...