A strange thing happened then. The house whirled around two or three times and rose slowly through the air. Dorothy felt as if she were going up in a balloon. (1.14)
The book begins with Dorothy being uprooted from her home. Well, technically, her home is uprooted from Kansas. Either way, the place her house lands—isn't home.
"I am anxious to get back to my Aunt and Uncle, for I am sure they will worry about me. Can you help me find my way?" (2.39)
From her first moment in Oz, Dorothy is obsessed with getting back home to Kansas. She remains focused on it until pretty much the last page. Why is it so important for her to get back? Why can't she just make a new home in Oz?
"No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there any in any other country, be it every so beautiful. There is no place like home." (4.8)
You could look upon Dorothy's dedication to home as sweet…but it's also limited. After all, aren't there other awesome places in the world? Why is it that some people feel closely tied to one place—like Dorothy to Kansas—while others roam far and wide to find their homes?
"Where is Kansas?" asked the man, in surprise.
"I don't know," replied Dorothy, sorrowfully; "but it is my home, and I'm sure it's somewhere." (10.37-38)
One of the running jokes in the book is that no one in Oz knows where Kansas is. It's pretty funny to see a quintessential American place made unfamiliar in this way. Of course, this also begins to ask the question, "Where is home?" Is home a place that exists exclusively outside of ourselves, or is it something we carry with us?
"But I don't want to live here," said Dorothy. "I want to go to Kansas, and live with Aunt Em and Uncle Henry." (18.10)
Do you think Dorothy wants to go home? Maybe just a little? Consider for a moment how the story would be different if Dorothy was an adult. Does she want to go home so much because she's a child, or is this pull toward home just as strong for, say, grandparents? College students? Adults traveling for work or on a vacation?
"My greatest wish now," she added, "is to get back to Kansas, for Aunt Em will surely think that something dreadful has happened to me, and that will make her put on mourning; and unless the crops are better this year than they were last I am sure Uncle Henry cannot afford it." (23.6)
That's Midwestern practicality for you. Dorothy doesn't just think about home sentimentally. She's thinking about business. Or…perhaps she doesn't want to admit just how homesick she is. Kind of like when a kid who's staying overnight at a friend's house says, "I have to go home because my parents miss me." Mm hm. Sure.
"What will you do when Dorothy has left us?"
"I will return to the Emerald City," he replied, "for Oz has made me its ruler and the people like me." (23.14-15)
The Scarecrow started the story alone on a pole in a field. But by the end, he has a place where he is wanted—in other words, a home.
"The Winkies were very kind to me, and wanted me to rule over them after the Wicked Witch died. I am fond of the Winkies, and if I could get back again to the country of the West I should like nothing better than to rule over them forever." (23.21)
Looks like the tin man has given up the dream of finding his fiancée. He has a new home, and it's with the Winkies.
Then the Witch looked at the big, shaggy Lion and asked, "When Dorothy has returned to her own home, what will become of you?"
"Over the hill of the Hammer-Heads," he answered, "lies a grand old forest, and all the beasts that live there have made me their King. If I could only get back to this forest I would pass my life very happily there." (23.25-26)
Even the Lion has found a home! Great job, guys. Now everyone's sorted.
"And oh, Aunt Em! I'm so glad to be at home again!" (24.3)
The eagle has landed. Repeat: the eagle has landed. Dorothy has finally, finally made it back to Kansas.