Study Guide

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

By Gregory Maguire

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Versions of Reality

"But you try very hard at life, and so I will tell you this. I am the guardian of the book, and I was brought to this dreaded, forsaken land to watch over the book's history, to keep it from getting back to where it comes from." (5.8.18)

What's up with the crazy Grimmerie, and how and why did it come to Oz? We never really find out, and the dwarf is less than forthcoming on the topic.

"Please," she said. "I think I have never begged for anything before in my life. But I beg of you. It is not right that you should be here. Assuming for a moment you can sometimes tell the truth – go back to that other world, go anywhere, just leave the throne." (5.4.64)

Elphaba definitely has trouble embracing the idea of an other world, especially since she staunchly refuses to believe in the afterlife. (She should watch Fringe to help her get on board.) Here she only uses the idea of another world as a way to beg the Wizard to leave Oz.

"But I remember once when a tinker with a funny accent gave me a draft of some heady brew from a green glass bottle. And I had rare expansive dreams, Nanny, of the Other World – cities of glass and smoke – noise and color – I tried to remember." (1.4.90)

Melena's story about this mysterious stranger (the future Wizard) and her weird dreams is pretty creepy, especially since her daughter has very similar dreams years later when she too downs some Miracle Elixir.

At night she tried to train herself to look on the periphery of her dreams, to note the details. It was a little like trying to see around the edges of a mirror, but, she found, more rewarding.

But what did she get? Everything flickered, like a guttering candle, but more harshly, more stridently. ... Buildings were high and cruel. Winds were strong. The Wizard stepped in and out of these pictures, a very humble-looking man in this context. (5.11.33-34)

Elphaba's weird dreams are a huge shift for her character. She spends the bulk of the novel a raging skeptic and doubts that she even has an imagination. Here, though, she's actually analyzing her dreams and accepts that they have value.

When the Witch realized what he was approaching, she tried to back out of the dream with a howl, but could not manage to disengage herself. This was the mythical ocean, and the Wizard walked into water. (5.11.35)

This detail about the Wizard trying to drown himself is hugely important and ties into a lot of themes. First off, the water motif makes yet another appearance here, and it raises the question as to whether Elphaba's water-phobia is a result of the Wizard's failed suicide. We also like the detail that the ocean is a "myth" in Oz. Oz is a mythical world from our perspective, so it's cool that our world is mythic from theirs.

The other notable thing about this quote is that it ties in to themes of personal change and evolution. The Wizard was a bum and became a hugely powerful dictator. Not to get too Forrest Gump here, but there's really no telling how people are going to end up.

His avenging angel had come to call him home. A suicide was waiting for him back in his own world, and by now he ought to have learned enough to get through it successfully. (5.18.7)

The diction here is kind of odd – the Wizard calls Dorothy an "avenging angel," but she's also calling him home for a suicide. She might be more of a vengeful angel in that case. Or else she isn't "avenging" the Wizard but is avenging those he wronged.

"What a load of tripe," said Elphaba. "If it came from another world I shouldn't be able to read any of it. And I can make out a little."

"Even if it's as magic as he says?" said Sarima. "But you know, I believed him. He said that there's more congress between worlds than anyone would credit, that our world has attributes of his, and his of ours, a kind of leakage effect, an infection maybe." (

Ah, the irony. This is a major clue that Elphaba is partly from another world. Sarima gives us even more of a hint when she says the old guy believed there was a sort of "leakage" effect going on. This really is turning into Fringe!

Turtle Heart tumbled to his knees. "She sees him coming," he said thickly, " she sees him to come; he is to come from the air, is arriving. A balloon from the sky, the color of a bubble of blood; a huge crimson globe, a ruby globe; he falls from the sky. The Regent is fallen. The House of Ozma is fallen. The Clock was right. A minute to judgment." (1.8.127)

This scene is seriously creepy. Turtle Heart very notably changes his speaking style here. He usually uses infinitive verbs when he speaks ("to see," to fall," etc.). Here he uses mostly the present tense, though, as if all these future events are happening right this second.

"There is an otherworld," he said with certainty.

She felt chilled. She scooped Elphaba up and hugged her tightly. (1.5.33-4)

This is a great detail about how Melena is scared of an "otherworld," given the freaky Miracle Elixir dreams she's had.

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