Study Guide

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Perseverance

By L. Frank Baum


"…it is a long way to the Emerald City, and it will take you many days. The country here is rich and pleasant, but you must pass through rough and dangerous places before you reach the end of your journey."

This worried Dorothy a little, but she knew that only the great Oz could help her get to Kansas again, so she bravely resolved not to turn back. (3.27-28)

Who wouldn't worry when told that the road ahead will be rough and dangerous? Um…no one. Still, Dorothy pushes through her fear because she has her eye on the goal of returning home. Have you ever had to overcome your fear in order to achieve something important?

"[…] the walking grew so difficult that the Scarecrow often stumbled over the yellow bricks, which were here very uneven. Sometimes, indeed, they were broken or missing altogether, leaving holes that Toto jumped across and Dorothy walked around. As for the Scarecrow, having no brains, he walked straight ahead, and so stepped into the holes and fell at full length on the hard bricks. It never hurt him, however, and Dorothy would pick him up and set him upon his feet again, while he joined her in laughing merrily at his own mishap. (4.1)

These travelers are not going to let a few bumps in the road get them down. Literally. When the Scarecrow falls down—over and over and over again—Dorothy picks him up and they keep on walking. And they're not whining about their difficulties either. They're laughing! How would this story be different if the characters lamented every little problem they encountered? What effect does it have that they so often just shrug and move on?

"If this road goes in, it must come out," said the Scarecrow, "and as the Emerald City is at the other end of the road, we must go wherever it leads us." (4.29)

Part of what keeps the gang going is faith that they'll find their destination. And, of course, simple logic like this from the Scarecrow and the other characters. It's like one really long Nike ad: if there's a task to be done, it's best to just do it.

"We cannot fly, that is certain; neither can we climb down into this great ditch. Therefore, if we cannot jump over it, we must stop where we are."

"I think I could jump over it," said the Cowardly Lion, after measuring the distance carefully in his mind. (7.9-7.10)

The travelers have many, many opportunities to give up. Instead, when they're presented with an obstacle, they work hard to overcome it.

"We must journey on until we find the road of yellow brick again," said Dorothy, "and then we can keep on to the Emerald City." (10.5)

Dorothy and the Lion almost died in the poppy field, but their first thought upon waking up is that they must carry on until they reach the Emerald City. Did someone say perseverance?

The Wicked Witch was so angry when she saw her black bees in little heaps like fine coal that she stamped her foot and tore her hair and gnashed her teeth. And then she called a dozen of her slaves, who were the Winkies, and gave them sharp spears, telling them to go to the strangers and destroy them. (12.37)

Note that this is the fourth of five attempts that the Wicked Witch makes on Dorothy's life. Did you get that? Five attempts. Of course, this is the only instance in the book when persistence just doesn't pay off.

After he had eaten he would lie down on his bed of straw, and Dorothy would lie beside him and put her head on his soft, shaggy mane, while they talked of their troubles and tried to plan some way to escape. (12.69)

When Dorothy and the Lion are captured by the Wicked Witch of the West, it seems like all is lost. But the Lion refuses to let the Witch put a harness on him, and Dorothy finds a way to sneak him food. And together, every night, they comfort each other and dream of escaping—right up until the day they do.

They thought the Great Wizard would send for them at once, but he did not. … The waiting was tiresome and wearing, and at last they grew vexed that Oz should treat them in so poor a fashion, after sending them to undergo hardships and slavery. So the Scarecrow at last asked the green girl to take another message to Oz, saying if he did not let them in to see him at once they would call the Winged Monkeys to help them…. (15.13)

The Scarecrow and his friends are going to get what they were promised. And if that means a little intimidation, so be it! They're a determined lot, and they won't be put off. Not even by a menacing wizard.

"I have come for my brains," remarked the Scarecrow. (16.6)

Though the wizard has told the Scarecrow that he doesn't need a brain—and that, in any case, he's not a true wizard—it hasn't deterred the Scarecrow from his goal one bit. No sir.

"That will be a hard hill to climb," said the Scarecrow, "but we must get over the hill, nevertheless." (22.2)

In a sense, the gang's entire journey is about climbing a hill (albeit a metaphorical one). Occasionally they have to climb actual hills, too. And they tackle those with just as much gusto.