Study Guide

The Wizard of Oz What's Up With the Ending?

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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.

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