Study Guide

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West Memory and the Past

By Gregory Maguire

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Memory and the Past

In the fine tradition of soap operas and time-traveling sci-fi extravaganzas, Wicked features amnesia, jumps through time, gaps in time, and mysteries that only get cleared up years later. Melena and Elphaba are at the center of this action, which is fitting in a book that loves mirroring characters. Both mother and daughter experience memory loss, and their respective bouts with forgetfulness are, interestingly enough, linked to pregnancy. Themes of memory and remembering are also a major part of the cultural myths and legends that permeate the book, particularly the long-lived legends of the Kumbric Witch. In Wicked, memory has as much to do with remembering as it does with forgetting, and characters forget and remember (willingly or not) both good and bad things. Memory and the influence of the past often act in rather unexpected ways on characters.

Questions About Memory and the Past

  1. How does the legend of the Kumbric Witch impact the perception that characters have of Elphaba as the Wicked Witch of the West?
  2. We have a few significant time gaps in the books: the jump from Elphaba's childhood to her college days and the seven-year gap following the capture of Sarima and her family, for instance. What is the significance of these gaps in the narrative?
  3. How does Elphaba view her past and deal with it? What does this tell us about her character?
  4. Sarima's sisters describe her as being in denial. How does Sarima deal with, or not deal with, her past, and how does this impact her present relationships?
  5. Elphaba and Melena both experience amnesia related to their respective pregnancies: Melena can't recall getting pregnant with Elphaba and Elphaba can't recall being pregnant with Liir. What is the thematic significance of these two instances of memory loss?

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