Study Guide

The Wizard of Oz Analysis

  • The Yellow Brick Road

    The most famous road in movie history has been analyzed to death and is probably one of the most famous metaphors in the English language. Though some believed that Baum intended it in his novel as a symbol of the financial gold standard (and the Emerald City as corrupt Washington, D.C.), most of us see it as a symbol of the journey of life that everyone has to take, filled with thrills and dangers and holding the promise of something wonderful at journey's end.

    Sometimes this tempting road leads to success and enlightenment, and sometimes it's just plain deceptive and disappointing, like in Elton John's interpretation, where the road represents dazzling but hollow big-city life. ("I should have stayed on the farm/should have listened to my old man.") Psychoanalytic types have understood it as a road trip into our unconscious minds, where our deepest fears and wishes are explored and conflicts worked out.

    For Dorothy, it's a journey where she discovers many things: the lure of adventure, the exciting possibilities outside her sheltered life, and a lesson about the real meaning of growing up and the comforts of home. The road seems exciting at first, but ultimately leads to the realization that Wizards are just ordinary people and that our sparkling dreams sometimes aren't all they're cracked up to be. The message, though, is that you gotta take the journey to find that out.

  • The Ruby Slippers

    It's amazing what a few red sequins will do.

    The most famous footwear in all of movies actually got an update from the book. They were silver slippers in Baum's world, but MGM had Technicolor and wanted to show it off. So the silver shoes became red, and in one fell swoop cinematic history was made. One pair's on display at the Smithsonian.

    So what do they mean symbolically? Well, we know that they're magic, and that the Wicked Witch wants them so bad she's willing to cheerfully murder the owner to get them. We also know that they're stuck on Dorothy's feet until she dies (or returns to a more monochrome reality, whichever comes first), which means they're inextricably a part of her. Hmmm, wonder if that means anything…

    All kidding aside, the slippers make for a pretty straightforward representation of Dorothy's own potential power. She has it, she just doesn't know how to use it yet, which is really why Glinda sends her off to see the Wizard. Only after all of her adventures, and the attendant self-reliance that comes with taking out two wicked witches single-handedly, can she tap into that power and use it to get what she wants.

    It's the only time we actually see the slippers used (besides zapping certain grabby parties who can't keep their green hands off of them), and it shows us the rich irony of magic devices in stories like this. By the time you're able to unleash all that power, you no longer need it because you've found it within yourself.

    They do sparkle gorgeously, though. How many other symbols of your untapped potential make you look that fabulous?

  • The Witch

    We've all had a Wicked Witch in our lives.

    A teacher, a boss, even (God forbid) a family member. They seem to exist to make our lives miserable and take great joy in sticking the knife in whenever they can. And if you need a cinematic equivalent of their general horribleness, Margaret Hamilton has the hook up, baby!

    Besides being one of the greatest bad guys (or girls) in movie history, the Witch carries a lesson that everyone could stand to learn: the scary people in your life are only as scary as you let them be. After chasing Dorothy around like a demented traffic cop for 90 minutes, threatening her and her friends with various types of gruesome deaths, all it took to get rid of her was a splash of water. (As we've said elsewhere, troubles really do melt like lemon-drops in Oz.) All Dorothy needed was a little bravery and the right instincts… in this case, concern for her friend the Scarecrow who was on his way to becoming a singing, dancing charcoal briquette.

    The sudden, surprising ease of the Witch's death shows Dorothy more of her own potential. So when and if another witch shows up, she won't be quite as scared, and may even have a garden hose handy just for the occasion. She's learned that bad things aren't always as frightening as they seem, which is all anyone could ask when taking a trip like hers.

  • The Cyclone

    Unlike the Witch, the cyclone isn't evil. It's natural, which means it just happens. An act of God. A force majeure. It comes suddenly and without warning, which can be pretty scary, but also leads the way for new things. That makes the cyclone a catalyst for change, both in terms of the landscape (Aunt Em and Uncle Henry are going to need a new house) and in terms of the character. It's no coincidence that Miss Gulch morphs into the Wicked Witch in the middle of it, or that Dorothy learns the meaning of the phrase "be careful what you wish for" at the same time.

    That's why it has to be something natural, or at least without a moral agenda. Otherwise, you'd see it tilted more dramatically on the side of Team Hero or Team Villain. But because it does both good and bad things, it really doesn't take sides. Furthermore, it also stresses the fact that change is inevitable. You can't stop the cyclone with magic slippers or a magic sword or even a light saber. It can't be tricked with a clever riddle or beaten with a spell from a mystic text. It hits you, it knocks some big things around, and you basically just have to sit there and take it.

    However, you can also pick yourself up, take stock, and deal with anything in your life that just got turned upside down. (Like ending up in a magical land full of dancing little people, for instance). Not everything can go your way, and the cyclone is a great way to showing Dorothy how to hop back on the horse once everything he or she knew has been blown away.

    You know how it's often said that the Chinese word for "crisis" is made up of two characters meaning "danger" and "opportunity"? Unfortunately, that isn't really true, but it would be cool if it were. You could include it in your essay about The Wizard of Oz. Regardless, sometimes in life it takes something dramatic to blast us out of our ruts and make us try new things.

  • The Missing Traits

    Dorothy's looking for an actual physical place, but her friends? Their wish list is a little less concrete. The Scarecrow wants intelligence, the Lion wants guts and The Tin Man wants a heart. Not exactly things you can pick up at the local Wal-Mart, and even magic caves or inner sanctums are usually out of them. What's an enterprising misfit to do, then, but find a wizard to see if magic can't help them out?

    The film's big twist is that the characters actually don't need any of those things: they have plenty of their own already. The journey helps them find it and use it (whatever "it" happens to be for each of them) to help their buddies out of their various scrapes, but they already had it in copious amounts before Dorothy came skipping into their lives. Like the ruby slippers, the gifts they get at the end are just symbolic representations of their own capacity to think, love and stand up to the boogeymen.

    Ironically, they never seem to realize any of it. After all they've been through, they still don't see their own fulfilled potential. (Jury's still out on whether Dorothy does or not.)

    That makes them rather silly in some ways, and the movie gently mocks them for not getting in on the lessons it worked so hard on. (It might even prompt another hypothetical Hero's Journey, where they have to get rid of those crutches, like Dumbo and the magic feather, and rediscover their capacities on their own.) But it doesn't mean they don't have them, or that they came from anywhere but their own ability to face down the problems in their path. The fact that the characters treat them as objects to be won becomes part of the (kindly delivered) joke.

    And in any case, the missing traits still serve as the goal to pull them all along. Regardless of whether they actually have what they want already, they need something to pull them along, something they want so badly that they're willing to face down a million Wicked Witches to get them. It ultimately doesn't matter what that thing is. The only thing that matters is that it's important to the characters.

    Some psychoanalysts have even suggested that what Dorothy's pals are looking for (heart, brains, courage) represent things that Dorothy herself needs to find. So they're really the wounded parts of Dorothy that she needs to heal along the journey to adulthood, maybe because of losing her parents. (Source)

  • Home

    You can't accuse the filmmakers of being subtle about the differences between home and the rest of the world; they famously shot Kansas in black-and-white and Oz in color. You don't have to be Freud to figure out the latent symbolism in that equation, or the way it expands to fill the story's most important purpose.

    In the beginning, we need to see how stifling Kansas is, especially to Dorothy. That means more than just getting chased by a mean old lady. It means the whole place looks like it's going to kill you with sheer boredom and indifference. Contrast that with the world she eventually finds herself in. Kansas is dull and lifeless. Oz is popping with enough colors to crush a Skittles factory. Kansas is largely fashion-free. Oz wants to make sure you see every sparkly sequin on Glinda's duds. Kansas is full of dour people who probably don't approve of all that Munchkin dancing. Oz is full of people who devote every waking moment to dancing and giggling.

    So yeah, you get the sense of a bright fresh amazing universe that Dorothy's seeing for the first time, and yet the only way she's going to explore it is to find a way back to that dull gray stretch of farmland that she was once itching to leave. And suddenly all those qualities start to reverse themselves. The bright, shiny tastefully manicured Oz starts revealing scary and disorienting things, like talking trees and crazy old witches on broomsticks. And while Kansas may be dull, it's also cozy, with people who care about you and who (almost) always make you feel good.

    Shmoop is hoping against hope that the moral of the film isn't something like "OK, Miss-Wants-to-be-Grown-Up, you just go out into the world and see what happens. Think you're so special? You'll come running back here in two days."

    We'll give the film the benefit of the doubt. By the time Dorothy gets back home, the black-and-white now looks reliable and safe instead of stifling and soul-crushing. She appreciates the comforts she had there, and won't take anything for granted anymore. That's what home means in stories like these: starting out one way then becoming something else, all without changing a thing. Almost like what happens when we leave home in real life.

  • Hero's Journey

    Ever notice that every blockbuster movie has the same fundamental pieces? A hero, a journey, some conflicts to muck it all up, a reward, and the hero returning home and everybody applauding his or her swag? Yeah, scholar Joseph Campbell noticed first—in 1949. He wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which he outlined the 17 stages of a mythological hero's journey.

    About half a century later, Christopher Vogler condensed those stages down to 12 in an attempt to show Hollywood how every story ever written should—and, uh, does—follow Campbell's pattern. We're working with those 12 stages, so take a look. (P.S. Want more? We have an entire Online Course devoted to the hero's journey.)

    Ordinary World

    The ordinary world is supposed to be dull and gray: the hero's bored with it, and the excitement has gone out of his or her life. Enter Kansas. It has everything a beleaguered starting point needs. For starters, it's kind of overly familiar. Dorothy never thinks too much of it, at least at first, and it definitely isn't burdened by any details like color. She even goes so far as to sing a song about going somewhere over a rainbow or something.

    Kansas is full of people who definitively don't get her, and as far as interesting activities go, anything more sophisticated than slopping hogs and counting chickens is pretty much off the table. No wonder she's singing: there's nothing else to do!

    Call to Adventure

    In the most literal sense, the Call to Adventure comes with the tornado that whisks her to Oz. It's a pretty impressive tornado too; that funky cool effect they used to create it still freaks us out.

    But the tornado's incidental compared with the emotional disaster wrought by Almira Gulch. The cyclone becomes a symbol of what she's trying to do to Dorothy, and by extension anyone she can get her bony claws on. The tornado is dangerous, but Gulch? That woman's scary.

    She shows up with murder on her mind after some ongoing troubles with Dorothy and Toto, involving cats supposedly chased and legs purportedly bitten (though for all her complaining, Miss Gulch gets around on that bicycle like Lance freaking Armstrong). She owns half the county, she throws words like "lawsuit" around with ease, and her bloodlust for good-natured little terriers knows no bounds. For some reason, no one likes her very much. In short, she's just the kind of disaster that any Campbellian heroine needs to take down. And take her down Dorothy shall.

    Refusal of The Call

    Refusing the call never goes well, and The Wizard of Oz is no exception. In this case, Dorothy resorts to running away to keep Toto safe. (And maybe travel somewhere that doesn't have the color turned all the way down.) She balks, however, once she realizes that Aunt Em and Uncle Henry really do care about her, and tries to head back home. Nothing doing. The Road to Adventure cannot be denied, and if you refuse to walk it, it's just gonna send a cyclone to do its dirty work.

    Meeting the Mentor

    The good news for Dorothy is that she doesn't have to wait long for some advice. After inadvertently cutting Oz's wicked witch population in half, she gets an extra-special visit from the lovely Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. Glinda explains the basic political scene in Oz and suggests a way Dorothy might get home. She even helps her with a pair of magic shoes, though the shoes do more harm than good since the Witch of the West is jonesing for them.

    No matter. Dorothy has somebody looking out for her, and while she'll eventually have to go on along, it's nice knowing that Glinda and her space bubbles have got a gal's back.

    Crossing The Threshold

    One nice thing about The Wizard of Oz: the road is clearly labeled. Literally. We infer from Glinda's dialogue that Dorothy safely crosses the border to Munchkinland, but the threshold here is so prominent that they actually have a whole musical number to celebrate it. Dorothy heads off down the road with high hopes and a garland of flowers. There's a long journey ahead of her, but at least she knows that it's begun and how to get there without Google Maps.

    Tests, Allies, Enemies

    Dorothy only has one enemy, but she's a big 'un. She and her buddies run into the Wicked Witch of the West over and over again, and it's clear as they go on that nobody gets any goodies until the old bat is out of the way.

    She picks up some good friends too. Toto was with her from the beginning, but the other three find themselves at common purpose with Dorothy. She seems to have a way to get what they need, and they each bring something to the table that she wouldn't have otherwise. More importantly, they love her to death and would cheerfully give their lives in her defense (which they may have to do, considering the Witch is so mean.) Best of all, they have each other's back on the road of trials: whatever they have to face, they're not doing it alone.

    Speaking of the Road of Trials… yeah, they have some tests to pass, almost all of them sent over by that cackling lunatic on the broomstick. Some of them they can handle on their own, like the fireball that W3 shoots at the Scarecrow, which the Tin Man puts out. Others require help from local good witches, like the soporific poppies. But there's certainly no shortage of challenges, and even the ones that don't directly come from the Witch, like that scary giant head in the Wizard's throne room, seem to point them to an inexorable showdown with her. Sounds like a Campbellian boss fight headed right this way.

    Approach to The Inmost Cave

    The period between the Wizard's throne room and the rescue of Dorothy is probably the scariest in the whole film. And with good reason: when you dive into the Cave, you're at your most vulnerable and the monsters are getting ready to bring out the big guns. That haunted forest is bad enough, but when the Witch sends her flying monkeys out, you'd better believe our heroes are wetting their pants. Admit it—you did, too. Dorothy's friends keep picking themselves up after the monkey attack and sneaking into the Witch's castle, but Team Good Guys is looking pretty darn dejected right about now.

    Ordeal

    The Ordeal might begin when the Witch turns that hourglass over to kill Dorothy, or it might start when Dorothy's friends have freed her and the Witch locks them in. The two moments are only a couple of minutes apart, but already it spells bad news. Soon enough, they're cornered by her guards, and as the Witch herself says, "the last to go will see the first three go before her." (Seriously lady, have you tried decaf?)

    But just when things look their bleakest, Dorothy rallies with a nearby water bucket, and suddenly the scariest woman in all of cinematic history collapses into a puddle. Notch another dead witch on Dorothy's belt, and let's get the party started.

    Reward (Seizing The Sword)

    Technically, the Witch's broomstick is the reward Dorothy and her friends get for going through all those trials and ordeals. But that's just to keep the story moving. What they really get is the knowledge that they survived all that, and if it should return again, they'll be ready to face it.

    They might even teach that Wizard a thing or two, too.

    The Road Back

    The road back cuts straight through the Wizard's throne room, as the gang first demands and then receives everything they had coming to them. Granted, they always had those things to begin with, but who are we to spoil their day? They're just so happy. Dorothy, however, is going to need a little more, so the road takes an airborne detour, first with the Wizard's balloon and then, after Toto complicates Dorothy's life again, with those magic ruby slippers.

    Resurrection

    In the old-school stories, resurrection means returning to the mortal world from the realm of the gods. In this case, it means leaving the eye-popping colors behind in favor of plain old Kansas. Yup, boring gray Kansas, where the monkeys don't have wings (do they even have monkeys in Kansas?), the wizards have lousier effects budgets, and no one asks you to go mano-a-mano with a wicked witch. Welcome home Dorothy! Enjoy the rich sepia tones!

    Return With The Elixir

    Here and only here does the film start to get a little muddied on the Hero's Journey front. And then only a little. The "elixir" is basically Dorothy reunited with her family, which completes her Hero's Journey even though her family doesn't realize she's been gone. She's happy to be home and they're happy to have her. Maybe the elixir is self-confidence. Or the knowledge that "there's no place like home."

    Now technically speaking, she needs to share her rewards with the whole community, and while we suppose she does that simply by popping back up in her bed, the fact that she killed the Wicked Witch should reverberate over into the "real world." To folks back home, Miss Gulch is the Wicked Witch, and Dorothy's journey won't mean anything unless she's out of the way. The film never definitively answers the question, but if it was all a dream, then the possibility exists that she's still alive.

    Thankfully, The Wizard of Oz stuck so closely to the Campbellian formula that it's reasonable to assume Miss Gulch bit the big one. Maybe the tornado killed her, drowned in the storm, possibly (the water thing). Could be it doesn't matter, because Dorothy, newly confident, killed her off psychologically. Regardless, she had to go, and even if it was all a dream, Dorothy's symbolic killing of the Wicked Witch should translate into a very real Gulch-free life for everyone else. That does make home worth coming to, doesn't it?

  • Setting

    Rural Kansas

    The Wizard of Oz famously breaks its story down into two sections: Kansas prairie, which is shot in monochrome brown, and Oz, which apparently banished from its shores any color that doesn't make your head spin. That's not an accident, and the rest of the set design works to push those differences.

    As we talked about in the "Symbols" section, we first get the sense of how incredibly not-interesting Kansas is. The shot we get of the prairie shows it stretching off into nothing, without so much as a grain silo to perk things up. Uncle Henry's farm is no-nonsense and by the numbers, lacking any distinguishing features to make you say anything more than "blah." One of the reasons why the cyclone—the bridge between Kansas and Oz—grabs our eye so sharply is because nothing else in Kansas merits any attention at all.

    That's in the beginning at least. At the end, the filmmakers want Kansas to feel like that snuggly blanket you grew up with and now only get to use at Christmas. Notice that we don't go anywhere but Dorothy's room when we get home: no reminders about how flat the landscape is or about how there's nothing else to do. Dorothy's in her bed with all the people she loves around her, and those dull colors mean that nothing scary's going to jump out and get her. Those same bland qualities now soothe and relax us, as we see what Dorothy's been fighting for the whole time, and we want her to be happy and safe now that she's found it again.

    Oz

    Oz, on the other hand, needs to surprise us at every turn. Most of those surprises are delightful, or at least have a snappy sing-along to accompany them. But some of them are of the nasty variety. That gives them a certain potency, since we never know what's around the corner.

    The Technicolor plays some part in giving us that, but it goes beyond just pretty colors. The painted landscapes on the set are designed to look just a little surreal, with hills rounder than they would be in real life, and trees sharper or pointier. There's a lot of tropical birds like toucans and emus hanging out around the Tin Man's house, even though the trees look like classic European fairy-tale types. The trees all have expressionistic faces (the ones in the haunted forest still freak us out). And if you look closely, you can see the cool ways the filmmakers blend the painted backgrounds with the actual props and sets. It brings that surreal energy to life in ways you just don't see anymore…again, in contrast to Kansas, which sticks to garden-variety photorealism as much as it can.

    The beauty of Oz is intended to show Dorothy how wonderful the world can be sometimes, but also to stress that home is home, no matter what. The surrealism always holds a hint of danger, as with the poppies that put you to sleep. The slightly skewed visual look reminds you that as awesome as it can be, Oz is never entirely safe. It's a great place to visit, but living there? That might not be so grand. It takes some very good set design to perform a switcheroo like that, but as we've noticed, The Wizard of Oz wasn't exactly hurting for brilliant filmmaking.

  • Point of View

    Third Person Omniscient

    Some things in Hollywood never change. When you crank out blockbusters the way MGM did in the 30s, you don't go against formula. That meant no daring experiments in narrative technique. While parts of The Wizard of Oz get a little trippy, it's nothing you wouldn't see in dozens of other movies at the same time. We follow the story linearly from beginning to end, and the action stays more or less centered on the main character the whole time. Nothing fancy, nothing tricky, just get the story told.

    The most notable feature, which they made very clear with that slick color/B&W thing, is the framing device, whereby Dorothy appears to have dreamed her entire adventure. The Kansas sections serve to set up what she wants to get away from, then welcome her back home when she's done. The "it was all a dream" notion helps give the narrative a little elegance, since she can imagine any sort of landscape in her head without having to explain what (or where) it is. It closely resembles other narrative types, such as flashback narratives, which also frame the main story, though rarely with a slick visual cue like this one has.

    Beyond that, though, things stay pretty simple. We don't jump back in time and things move resolutely forward. Intro and exposition follows with rising action, until climax and denouement bring us home. To keep things even simpler, we almost never leave Dorothy's side. Oh, there are a couple of brief scenes of witch-plotting and an even briefer shot of Miss Gulch riding ominously toward the farm, but otherwise, Dorothy stays front and center the whole time.

    So the narrative can definitely shift away from her if it needs to; it just doesn't, in the name of presenting this all as expediently as possible. We know our heroine, we know where she's going, and the narrative gets right to the business of telling us. Otherwise, there might be undue delays in the singing Munchkins, and no singing Munchkin fan wants to be kept waiting.

  • Genre

    Musical; Fantasy; Comedy; Horror

    Whenever the characters suddenly break into song for no apparent reason, you know you're in musical country. The Wizard of Oz starts and ends with the musical, and as you may have suspected, actually served as the inspiration for countless musicals to come. There's actually a term to describe the pattern perfected by Dorothy's "Over the Rainbow:" "I Want" songs, which have since become a staple of the genre. Disney uses "I Want" songs quite a bit: with The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and The Nightmare Before Christmas.

    You can also see it in the likes of Little Shop of Horrors, (which was written by Disney stalwart Howard Ashman), My Fair Lady, Fiddler on the Roof, and Into the Woods, which composer Stephen Sondheim uses as a satire of the formula. Beauty and the Beast actually performs the pertinent number in a barnyard (with Belle wearing a blue dress like Dorothy's) and Little Shop of Horrors has a line referring to The Wizard of Oz: "Downtown… where the rainbow's just a no-show." So yeah, if you have any doubts as to how influential The Wizard of Oz is, feast your eyes on that cornucopia of musicals that would have looked a lot different without it.

    To that, you can add the fantasy genre, as evinced by the talking animals, magical witches and general air of an acid. Like a lot of fantasies, it takes place somewhere far from our own world, and it has its own internal rules that need to be obeyed. Granted it's a lot less orc-heavy than, say the Lord of the Rings, but a lack of scary monsters and beheadings doesn't make it any less of a fantasy.

    And because they want to keep that fantasy light, they throw in a lot of jokes. Most of them come straight from Vaudeville, which the actors had experience in. (The "that's you all over" joke in the Witch's forest is a pun-tastic example.) Most of the dialogue has that witty, joke-y vibe to it, and while the physical comedy is more subtle, you can definitely see it in Ray Bolger's clown-like moves. Even the scary parts throw in the gags to remind us all that it's not as frightening as we might think.

    Then again, The Wizard of Oz is likely the first film many people saw, and when you're four or five, the Witch and her minions can be really scary. The haunted forest gets a heck of a lot creepier when the Lion's quivering in fear, and the Witch's look of glee when she finally has them cornered is bound to send a chill down the spine. When we grow up and get jaded, we don't really think of it as horror, but it's probably caused more sleepless nights than any other film in the genre. Somewhere down deep, we'd probably rather run into Freddy Krueger than the Witch and her flying monkeys any day of the week.

  • What's Up With the Title?

    Like a lot of things about this movie, the title is pretty self-evident. The book on which it's based is officially named The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but Hollywood dropped the "wonderful" as superfluous. The Wizard of Oz it is and remains, and we've all heard the title so often that we never really stop to think about what it might mean.

    It's not hard to figure out the basics. Dorothy seeks the Wizard of Oz to return her home, thus making him a key character as well as the object of her quest. If you get at least two dramatic concepts in a single four-word term, you run with that. He's quite literally the center of Oz, after all, so what better way to sum up the whole movie?

    In fact, the two big words in the title – "wizard" and "Oz' – also convey what it's all about in the first place. No one's heard of Oz after all, meaning that it's probably a magical land far away. What would you find in such a land but a wizard doing those things that wizards do, like impress the yokels, fly around on balloons and send hobbits off to destroy magic rings. (Okay scratch that last one; wrong movie.) The title gives the viewer a good sense of what's waiting for him or her in this one: a little foreshadowing for anyone who could use a little magic and wonder in their lives. There was a Great Depression on, and Europe went to war a week after the movie opened, so we imagine that's quite a lot of people.

  • What's Up With the Ending?

    We could write a whole article about the ending, which on the surface looks pretty straightforward. After clicking her heels together three times, Dorothy wakes up in bed at home. Apparently, it was all a dream…

    Or was it? Granted, on the surface, the signs are pretty clear, but on the other hand we're dealing with magic here. Couldn't the slippers have restored things at the Gale farm by making everyone think she had hit her head? That would avoid a lot of awkward questions like, "where did you go?" and "I thought you were dead?"

    Why does that matter? Well for starters, there's the tricky question of what happened to Miss Gulch (we presume she's gone, but have no way of knowing). More importantly, it raises the question of whether anything actually happened to Dorothy. If she just dreamed it all, it suggests that her entire journey is completely invalid, which is a bit of a cheat and could leave some people feeling cranky and upset. The deeper you push on the issue, the more troubling logic questions arise, which kind of puts a damper on the whole thing.

    But as we said, it might be more than a dream, which leaves "Miss Gulch" dead back in Oz and Dorothy's adventures as concrete as the Kansas prairie. That's why the theory holds so much appeal for those of us who cherish the Hero's Journey.

    Having said all that, it probably doesn't affect the Hero's Journey one way or another. (Though there's still the tricky question of Miss Gulch.) If Dorothy is convinced that it actually happened, then her experiences have weight and validity even if they were just a dream. Or, to quote another famous variation of the Hero's Journey. "Of course it's happening inside your head. Why should that mean that it's not real?"

    And regardless of the dream-or-real question, the ending represents fulfillment of Dorothy's Hero's Journey: returning home, safe and sound with people who love her. She's learned self-reliance from her experiences, and newfound appreciation for her family, who can be stern but clearly care a great deal about her. She knows there are people out there who care about her, and if she ever meets them again, she'll be all the stronger for their shared experiences. If another Wicked Witch shows up, or someone more mundane tries to take Toto away? Please. Girl will cut them.

    ...or throw water on them at any rate.

    That's a happy ending, any way you slice it. And now that we think about it, that answers the Miss Gulch question too. So what if she does try to come back for Toto? Dorothy's ready. And if you're a wicked witch, you do not want to mess with her.

  • Shock Rating

    G

    We're not going to lie: this can be a very scary picture, especially for little kids for whom Wicked Witches are a daily scourge demanding constant vigilance to prevent. But for all of the implications of euthanized dogs and houses dropped on people, it remains the ultimate family friendly film. There's not a hint of sex, there's no harsh language, and the violence is either left off-screen or limited to a bucket of water getting splashed in someone's face. Add good witches, dancing munchkins and other eerily happy people, and that makes The Wizard a supreme example of entertainment for all ages. Just be ready to leave the night light on for a few days afterwards.