Study Guide

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Respect and Reputation

By L. Frank Baum

Respect and Reputation

"I don't mind my legs and arms and body being stuffed, because I cannot get hurt. If anyone treads on my toes or sticks a pin into me, it doesn't matter, for I can't feel it. But I do not want people to call me a fool…." (3.49)

The Scarecrow is really sensitive about how he's perceived, and his self-esteem suffers for it.

"Many crows and other birds flew into the cornfield, but as soon as they saw me they flew away again, thinking I was a Munchkin; and this pleased me and made me feel I was quite an important person." (4.21)

That feeling was fleeting, though. Soon afterward the crows came back and ate the corn, and the Scarecrow felt like a failure.

"Why, it is said that he never lets anyone come into his presence. I have been to the Emerald City many times, and it is a beautiful and wonderful place; but I have never been permitted to see the Great Oz, nor do I know of any living person who has seen him." (10.22)

No one? Ever? Really? Seems like this statement should have raised some red flags for our intrepid travelers (or for us as readers). And when you go back and reread this part, it does, right? That's foreshadowing. It hints at something to come, but you don't always notice it the first time through. Initially, we think it's just that Oz cultivates a reputation as a man of mystery. Ultimately we find out he limits his exposure to people because he's afraid they'll figure out he's just an ordinary man.

"It has been many years since anyone has asked me to see Oz," he said, shaking his head in perplexity. "He is powerful and terrible, and if you come on an idle or foolish errand to bother the wise reflections of the Great Wizard, he might be angry and destroy you all in an instant." (10.60)

As Dorothy and her friends get closer to the Emerald City, Oz's reputation is still mysterious, but it takes on a more sinister edge. Well played, Oz. Well played.

"I am a Cowardly Lion, afraid of everything. I come to you to beg that you give me courage, so that in reality I may become the King of Beasts, as men call me." (11.95)

For the Lion, nothing seems so important as being able to live up to his reputation. Being scared all the time makes him feel like a fraud.

"Hush, my dear," he said; "don't speak so loud, or you will be overheard—and I should be ruined. I'm supposed to be a Great Wizard."

"And aren't you?" she asked.

"Not a bit of it, my dear; I'm just a common man." (15.45-47)

Turns out the wizard's mysterious and scary reputation is totally unwarranted. He's just a regular guy.

"When I return I shall be as other men are."

"I have always liked you as you were," said Dorothy, simply. …

"But surely you will think more of me when you hear the splendid thoughts my new brain is going to turn out." (16.1-16.3)

The Scarecrow doesn't quite get that his reputation isn't as a fool. In fact, his friends recognize that he often has good ideas.

"It was easy to make the Scarecrow and the Lion and the Woodman happy, because they imagined I could do anything. But it will take more than imagination to carry Dorothy back to Kansas…." (16.49)

Imagination is a powerful thing. Oz capitalized on his reputation as a wizard to trick the Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tin Woodman into thinking he solved their problems—even after they had discovered that he was a fraud! The solution to Dorothy's problem isn't going to be quite so easy to fake, which makes the wizard more than a little nervous. He knows he's going to have to come through for her for real if he wants maintain some level of respectability.

"I am tired of being such a humbug. If I should go out of this Palace my people would soon discover I am not a Wizard, and then they would be vexed with me for having deceived them. So I have to stay shut up in these rooms all day, and it gets tiresome. I'd much rather go back to Kansas…." (17.14)

The wizard has his people fooled, and he definitely benefitted from that deception. But it also seems like it's made him live in constant fear of being found out—and that doesn't sound like a lot of fun. Does it?

For many days they grieved over the loss of the Wonderful Wizard, and would not be comforted. (17.33)

The people of Oz were devastated when he left, but then again they didn't know he had been deceiving them. The wizard himself thinks they would have been angry had they known the truth. Do you agree?