Study Guide

The Wizard of Oz Cast

  • Dorothy (Judy Garland)

    The Good Witch Dorothy

    She's one of the most beloved figures in pop culture: farm girl of farm girls, freelance wicked witch slayer and best darn dog owner in the whole wide world. Dorothy Gale may have gotten her start as a literary figure, but Judy Garland made her a household name, and people still tend to think of Judy's performance whenever they hear the name.

    Dorothy's an orphan (we don't learn in the film what happened to her parents) and lives on a farm with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry and a bunch of farmhands who feel sorry for the lonely kid but don't really understand her. What kind of character is she? She's a hero to be sure, of Hero's Journey fame, and if we apply that template, we can see a lot about her personality.

    First of all, she doesn't seem to belong in Kansas. She's bright and peppy, while everyone else is sober and gray. She runs into all kinds of trouble, mostly with Miss Gulch, and grown-ups don't seem to understand her. We definitely get that in the film, as Dorothy attempts to explain why she and Toto are in trouble, and Aunt Em is too focused on adult things to care. (She's also pretty snippy around Dorothy too.) In fact, Dorothy's the only child we ever see in Kansas, suggesting that maybe Toto's her only real friend. She dreams of getting out:

    DOROTHY: Some day I'll wish upon a star and wake up where the clouds are far behind me. Where troubles melt like lemon drops […]

    We see her as an outsider from the get-go: she's different in age, temperament, outlook, and willingness to sing touchingly immortal songs right there in the middle of the barnyard. The movie pulls its cues from Baum's original books on that front, and honestly it makes for a pretty good source of inspiration. "Aunt Em had been so startled by the child's laughter," Baum wrote, "that she would scream and press her hand upon her heart whenever Dorothy's merry voice reached her ears; and she still looked at the little girl with wonder that she could find anything to laugh at." (1.3) It's a good place to start, and it stays intact even when the movie makes her somewhat different than she was in the novel.

    A Little Meeker

    And what about those differences? Well, they largely make her more vulnerable in the movie than she was in the book. Baum's Dorothy was quite calm and fearless. She rarely cried and when danger reared its ugly head, she met it full-on. (For instance, in the book she was kept prisoner by the Wicked Witch for months before what local covens refer to as The Unfortunate Bucket Incident.)

    Our Dorothy, however, is a little meeker. She's more prone to tears, she shows her fears more readily and she leans more heavily on her friends in times of trouble. Some of it comes down to gender politics at the time (Baum was an ardent feminist, but 1939 society thought less of women than he did), but it also reflects the actress. Garland always had a little sadness to her – as a child actor, she probably had to grow up way too quickly – and Dorothy's vulnerability in the movie reflects that. Maybe Garland felt equally trapped by the studio system that turned her into a drug addict by her teens:

    DOROTHY: Birds fly over the rainbow—why then, oh why can't I?

    This Dorothy is sad and introspective. Can you imagine the different vibe if Shirley Temple had been chosen to do it? (She auditioned but wasn't chosen.)

    Who's a Good Doggy Owner?

    Speaking of Toto, Dorothy loves him. A lot. In fact, Toto remains the central purpose in her life: leading her to both run away from home and take down troublesome Wicked Witches in order to keep him safe. She's willing to stand up to all manner of threats for his sake. Seriously, first she throws down against Miss Gulch over his fate, despite the utter indifference of Aunt Em and Uncle Henry.

    DOROTHY: Oh, no, no! I won't let you take him! You go away, you...! Oooh, I'll bite you myself!

    She delivers the most vicious slap possible to the Cowardly Lion when he threatens to eat Toto. (Luckily, the Lion is easily vanquished by vicious slaps.) She even agrees to give up the ruby slippers in exchange for keeping him safe (a four-alarm Hero's Journey moment that we'll talk about in a minute). All of that for one little terrier; now that's ASPCA-approved pet ownership.

    Sunny, Polite and Forgiving

    Beyond her concern for her dog, Dorothy always shows courtesy and respect for strangers. There's a lot of "pleases" and "thank yous in her vocabulary, and when she offends someone (as she does when she tell Glinda that witches are old and ugly), she's quick to apologize:

    DOROTHY: I'm not a witch at all. Witches are old and ugly! What was that?

    GLINDA: The Munchkins. They are laughing because I am a witch. I'm Glinda, the Witch of the North.

    DOROTHY: You are! Oh, I beg your pardon! But I've never heard of a beautiful…

    Dorothy's encouraging and protective of the new friends she meets on the way to Oz. She helps the scarecrow down from the pole he's nailed on, and she oils the rusty Tin Man. She worries about them going with her to the Emerald City:

    DOROTHY: It's just that the Witch is so wicked. I don't think you two ought to come with me because you'll get into trouble.

    Her politeness also gives way to a much more profound quality: forgiveness. With the exception of Miss Gulch/The Witch – who, let's face it, has it coming – she's happy to extend a welcome hand to people who've offended her. She even forgives Auntie Em for agreeing to hand over Toto:

    DOROTHY: Auntie Em was so good to me—and I never appreciated it. Running away, and hurting her feelings.

    Another example is the Lion, who threatens all manner of mayhem towards her friends before she whacks him in the face. When he breaks down and cries, his earlier behavior is forgotten and she invites him along on the journey to the Emerald City.

    It's the same thing with the Winkies, who were chasing her around with pikes moments before she melts the Witch. Suddenly, they can't thank her enough and with that, their murderous behavior is completely in the past. And all of that comes before the Wizard himself, who she manages to become friends with despite the fact that he sent them all off to be killed.

    She's awfully big to be so softhearted. We're not sure we could manage… but then again, that's why we're not the heroine.

    Qualities that Stand Up to Punishment

    Dorothy's good qualities form a pretty solid core of ethics, which nicely sets her up as pure Joseph Campbell: ready to go explore the world, but showing standards and principles that serve her well when the darkness falls and the flying monkeys close in. She sticks by her friends (like Toto) and sacrifices herself for others (by offering to be punished in Toto's place when Miss Gulch arrives). If you watch the movie closely, you see that the only times she really gets angry are when her friends are threatened.

    Even more importantly, her ethics don't crumble under pressure. When things get dark and giant fiery wizards start thundering at her, she doesn't break. And when she's in the Witch's clutches, she knows where her priorities lie: Toto's life matters more to her than the slippers. If you can stand up to Margaret Hamilton in full-bore cackle mode, you can stand up to anything. As scared as she gets, she always knows the right thing to do.

    Girl of Action

    Finally, she shows a willingness to act. Unlike Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, who get very angry at Miss Gulch but otherwise do nothing, Dorothy's prepared to run away from home rather than let Toto be killed. In that sense, Dorothy's the same as her other companions, who all exhibit the qualities they think they lack but need to complete their adventure to realize that. Dorothy learns who she is on her trip, and sees the kind of strength she carries inside for the first time. (Nice to know that a close encounter with a wicked witch has some positive benefits.)

    When she returns to Kansas, she's a little sadder, perhaps – those were some cool friends she left behind – but she also knows herself. Her good qualities can stand up to anything, and whether she heads back to Oz or not, we know that they're going to serve her extremely well.

  • Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton)

    Something Bad is Happening in Oz/Kansas

    Four of the five biggest characters in The Wizard of Oz present us with a thorny dilemma: they're actually two characters instead of one. We have the folks from Oz, and then we have a set of "real world" counterparts who live on and around Uncle Henry's farm in Kansas. That probably has something to do with the whole "it was all a dream" notion that frames the movie, which we'll talk more about soon. It's a pretty good device to use, because most theories of dreams suggest that they're made up of "day residue," i.e., the stuff on our minds because of what's happened to us during the day.

    In terms of personality, however, it lets the "real world" characters give us an exciting sneak preview of things to come. Nowhere is this more true that with the film's big baddie: the Wicked Witch of the West. Her real-world counterpart is Miss Gulch, who "owns half the county" and apparently has a serious grudge against Dorothy's dog Toto. Details are sketchy, but Toto has a habit of chasing her cat, to which she responds by trying to kill the little guy with a rake. When that doesn't work, she calls in the sheriff on him and scores herself an official notice claiming that she can take the dog away.

    MISS GULCH: That dog's a menace to the community. I'm taking him to the sheriff and make sure he's destroyed.

    Not "keep your dog out of my yard." She's going to have little Toto killed. That's pretty wicked-witchy in and of itself: a powerful figure throwing her weight around for the sake of showing us how mean she can be. We suppose she has a right to not get bit, and we agree with Hunk's assessment that Dorothy really needs to just stay away from the old lady's house. But rather than talking things over with Aunt Em and Uncle Henry like a civilized person, she lets her bloodlust run rampant. "He's really gentle… with gentle people," Em says, implying that maybe Gulch has it coming – but Gulch will have none of it.

    Not only does she insist that the dog be killed instead of non-lethal alternatives, but as the movie makes clear, this is business as usual for her. "For twenty-three years, I've been dying to tell you what I thought of you!" Em says. "And now... well, being a Christian woman, I can't say it!" Again, we're not sure why she's so mean or what brought her to that place.

    All we know is, you'd better cross the street when you see her coming.

    No One Mourns the Wicked

    Once she morphs over to Oz (and the specifics of that are still a matter of some debate), she's basically the same woman, only more exaggerated and blatantly evil. The nastiness is more overt, the bullying more out of control, and the inexplicable anger at sweet little girls and their dogs is flat-out homicidal. She wears a lot more black and has an army of flying monkeys to get take-out for her, but otherwise, she's just a meaner incarnation of that that Kansas shrew on her bicycle. Two minutes after she meets Dorothy, she's threatening to kill her for supposedly killing her sister:

    WITCH: Didn't mean it, eh? Accident, eh? Well, my little pretty, I can cause accidents, too—and this is how I do it!

    She then utters those famously terrifying words:

    WITCH: I'll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too!

    And oh my is she power-hungry! She's dying to get her hands on those magical ruby slippers, and with them, she could presumably go on to rule all of Oz beneath her bony green thumb (we're not sure on the details; perhaps Oz rulers are chosen based on how fly their shoes are?). And like Miss Gulch, she couches her saber-rattling in more "acceptable" terms. Miss Gulch goes on about "the law" protecting people like her from suspiciously non-existent dog bites. The Witch is supposedly avenging her sister (who by all accounts was no prize herself), which at least has the pretense of emotional legitimacy to it.

    She ain't fooling anyone though: the minute those ruby slippers get mentioned, she gets a case of the grabbies, and by the time Dorothy runs into her again, she's settled into a full-bore vendetta. In the same way, Miss Gulch can't pull the wool over anyone's eyes by waving her sheriff's orders around. She wants to hurt Dorothy and that's all there is to it.

    If we think about their similarities, it actually helps answer one of the movie's big unresolved issues. We never officially find out what happens to Miss Gulch at the end (assuming it really was a dream, and not just those magic shoes hitting the reset button), which leaves a troubling issue behind. After all that Dorothy's been through, what's to prevent a surviving Gulch from showing up again and dragging Toto off to be destroyed?

    No one worries and no one asks that question because Gulch and the Witch are so closely entwined as characters. And if the Witch went down through some deceptively simple means, it stands to reason that the same thing would happen to Miss Gulch. Maybe that tornado gave her a rougher landing than Dorothy. Maybe her cat finally got tired of her and dropped an electric fan in her bathtub. Maybe she perished of pure spite. But because we identify her so closely with the Witch, then we can guess her fate, even if the Witch was just a figment of Dorothy's imagination.

  • Scarecrow (Ray Bolger)

    The Strawman

    Like the Witch, the Scarecrow has a doppelganger in the real world: Hunk, the farmhand who scolds Dorothy about not having any brains.

    HUNK: Now lookit, Dorothy, you ain't using your head about Miss Gulch. Think you didn't have any brains at all.

    And like the Witch, the Scarecrow is just a flashier version of the same guy. He and Hunk both value brains, and he's so anxious to get them that he's willing to go all the way to the Emerald City despite Dorothy's warning about the Witch. And both characters have an affection for Dorothy that makes their connection very special. (In an early draft of the script, Hunk and Dorothy eventually form a relationship once she gets back to Kansas.) The Scarecrow has the cool floppy limbs and the stunning dance moves, but he's basically still Hunk with a little extra padding.

    So yes. Brains. The irony, of course is that the Scarecrow always had brains. He figures things out far more quickly than anyone else in the party, and his quick thinking comes in mighty handy on their adventures. Dorothy needs some apples to eat? Just taunt those living trees to get them! Need a way into the Witch's castle? Beat up the guards and take their uniforms!

    This is the guy who needs brains? Seriously Scarecrow, what you really need is a boost of self-confidence.

    That self-confidence actually forms the crux of the story for Dorothy's companions. All of them doubt themselves and their capacity, and all of them learn to rely on the qualities they really, truly seem to think they lack. That's why the Wizard can buy them off with a few bits of junk at the end.

    The Scarecrow stands at the vanguard of that. "Oh, I'm a failure because I haven't got a brain," he mopes to Dorothy: frustrated that he can't actually scare any crows and blaming it on a lack of brains. Frankly, we're going to blame Oz's crows—we're with Dorothy on the whole "scared to pieces" issue—but the Scarecrow's got this notion in his head, and nothing's going to dissuade him. Nothing, that is, except a long trip with some good folks who really like him, giving him a chance to prove how smart he is even if he doesn't realize it at the time.

    In fact, without that wish for brains, the Scarecrow wouldn't have gone on the journey at all. It may have been foolish of him not to realize how smart he really is, but if he were more self-aware, he'd probably still be stuck on the pole in the cornfield. It's his desire to better himself that leads him to confront the dangers of the road, to stick by Dorothy through thick and thin, and most importantly to face his greatest fear: a lighted match. He gets up close and personal with fire a couple of times in the course of his adventure, and learns that he can survive it and even conquer it (with the help of a few buddies and a bucket of water, of course).

    That's a lot for a guy made of straw to live up to, but like Dorothy, he does so with flying colors. He might not need brains, but he needs to go on this trip too… and at the end, he's really glad that he did.

  • Tin Man (Jack Haley)

    Old Rusty

    The Tin Man actually has less to do than the Scarecrow and the Lion. He's the "middle child" of the company. Dorothy finds him after the Scarecrow, but before the Lion, and like most middle children, he kinda has to fight for attention. That doesn't make him any less cool than his buddies, or deny him the right to a song and dance number about the trait he wants the most. It's just that once you get past that, the interesting questions become a little thinner on the ground. (Not that we judge. We love him just as much as we love his buddies.)

    The Tin Man and Hickory both follow the same basic template as the Scarecrow. Both are mirror images of each other, and while Hickory doesn't speak about the virtues of a gentle heart the way Zeke and Hunk do with their respective missing traits, he still presages his fate as the Tin Man by saying,

    HICK: Oh! Oh, it feels like my joints are rusted. Listen, Dorothy, don't let Hunk kid you about Miss Gulch. She's just a poor sour-faced old maid that… she ain't got no heart left. You know, you should have a little more heart yourself, and have pity on her.

    Not to mention:

    HICK: Someday they're going to erect a statue of me in this town!

    (Be careful what you wish for, Mr. I-Spent-Years-Rusted-Solid!)

    Again, the Oz version of the character is basically the Kansas guy with a snazzier wardrobe. Like the Scarecrow, he's positively dripping with very quality he's searching so hard to find. No heart? Seriously dude, you cry more than the audience during the first five minutes of Up. Seeing a dead bee in your hand, you're a puddle:

    TIN MAN: Oh, see, I killed it. Oh, I killed that poor little honeybee!

    You sing songs about loving everyone! You get mopey and depressed any time any of your friends suffers a setback, and like the Scarecrow, you'll cheerfully crawl through an ocean of tin shears to help those who are close to you. Your round metal chest isn't big enough to hold your heart.

    We can see that all-important trait in Jack Haley's vocal performance, which he developed by telling bedtime stories to his kids. The Tin Man always talks like he's reassuring a little child: not condescending, but gentle, supportive and with the promise of a lollipop if we all behave. That echoes the character's kind nature and almost lethal levels of empathy. We wonder why he even carries an axe at this point; it's not like he's going to ever use it on anyone.

    As with Dorothy's other companions, it's not so much a heart that he needs as belief in himself. And though he's plenty scared by where he has to go, he mans up (Tin Mans up, actually) and does what's required to keep his friends safe. What he earns in the end means so much more than the heart he already has, let alone that silly watch thing the Wizard gives him.

    (And seriously, where did the Wizard get that tacky piece of junk anyway?)

  • Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr)

    Scaredy Cat

    Of all of Dorothy's companions, the Lion raises the most questions about whether or not he gains his desired trait at the end. It depends on how you look at it, and once again, his less-interesting twin Zeke back in Kansas holds some clues about what it all means.

    The Lion's a coward, of course, which means he's afraid of everything. He's even afraid of the sheep he counts to try to get to sleep, and if you've ever met a sheep, you know just how pathetic that is. Mufasa he is not.

    Here's the tricky part. He never really stops being scared. He goes into the Witch's castle only under extreme duress and his initial interview with the Wizard starts with a faint and ends with him diving out the nearest window. So yeah, not much in the guts department. That continues when he gets to the Witch's castle, vowing to go in and save Dorothy, then begging his friends to "talk me out of it!" It makes you wonder how he's going to hold up if any other Wicked Witches show up after Dorothy's leaves.

    The good news is that at least he acknowledges it. He has no illusions about himself and he's very clear that everything in the world scares him to death. And once you get past the bullying he uses to keep everyone at bay, he's actually quite a sweetheart. He sings, he cracks jokes, and he has a knack for self-effacement that kind of steals the show. (Notice that he gets two songs about his courage, while the Scarecrow and the Tin Man only get one.)

    But good qualities aside, he's still an abject coward, and we're not sure he ever gets better.

    Or does he?

    The Lion's a coward only if you think of courage as a lack of fear. Real courage, the Hero's Journey definition of courage, means being scared enough to wet yourself and doing what you need to do anyway. In this sense, the Lion is as brave as they come. Granted, he needs some help from his friends from time to time. They remind him of the consequences, such as when he needs to go into the Witch's castle to rescue Dorothy or when he has to enter the Wizard's hall to ask for his courage. And if he needs his paw to be held, they do it without question. (In that way, he's probably the most child-like of the companions, definitely someone all the little kids in the audience can relate to.)

    With his friends at his back, the Lion eventually finds that elusive courage, powering past his fear and going to places he never thought he could. Seriously, that castle is bad news, but he marches in there just the same... with his tail sticking out behind him the whole way. He doesn't quite figure that out that the end (he thinks it's all because of his medal), but it doesn't matter.

    And we can see that reflected in Zeke back on the farm. Like the Lion, Zeke's kind of a blowhard. He talks a big game about Miss Gulch:

    ZEKE: Then the next time she squawks, walk right up to her and spit in her eye. That's what I'd do!

    But we'd bet that if he ever ran into her, he'd shiver himself into a coma. How do we know? Well he's shaking like a leaf when he pulls Dorothy from that pig pen, and he freaks out even more when the tornado arrives. (Though we have to concede the twister to him: those things are scary!)

    But like the Lion, he does what he needs to do when the chips are down. The hogs don't cut quite the same menacing figure that the Witch does, but if they terrify him, then who are we to judge his heroic plunge into their snuffling, grunting ranks to extract Dorothy? Though everyone gives him a very hard time for being scared, that might actually the bravest thing he's ever done. And that, friends, is the point of the whole darn trip: whether in Kansas, Oz, or otherwise.

  • The Wizard of Oz (Frank Morgan)

    Mr. Smoke and Mirrors

    The "Wizard" (we have to use quotes, because he really is a big fraud) actually bears the closest resemblance to his real-world counterpart, Professor Marvel. He's "an old Kansas man," who arrived in Oz via hot-air balloon. That could be Professor Marvel himself. In fact, if you look closely at Marvel's wagon, you can see a hot-air balloon as one of the attractions he offers. (A little trivia tidbit to dazzle your friends.)

    Both of them are essentially con artists. The Wizard has everyone fooled into thinking he's an all-powerful magician. It's enough to keep the Wicked Witch (who has plenty of real power) at bay, and maybe even enough to fool Glinda, though we can't be too sure about that. It's a clever ruse in a land where magic calls the shots; he gets to be in charge without actually having to perform any magic. But it's clear that he's a great big phony, and he lives his whole life terrified that someone's going to find out.

    Similarly, Professor Marvel is full of bluster and hot air, rambling on about the "power" of his crystal and expressing surprise that Dorothy might actually think he's performed before the crowned heads of Europe.

    PROFESSOR: That's right. Here…sit right down here. That's it. Ha ha! This…this is the same genuine, magic, authentic crystal used by the Priests of Isis and Osiris in the days of the Pharaohs of Egypt, in which Cleopatra first saw the approach of Julius Caesar and Marc Anthony, and…and so on…and so on.

    He's a flim-flam artist: spinning stories to wow the yokels in hopes that they don't recognize how cheap and shoddy his tricks really are. If this guy really took a balloon trip to Oz, we think he'd act exactly, precisely like the Wizard does.

    Besides their penchant for deception, the two characters are also joined by another characteristic: their compassion. Though they may be happy hustling people out of their money, they still try to look out for good people.

    Okay, YES, the Wizard sends Dorothy and Co. off to die at the hands of the Wicked Witch, but hey, people do stupid things when they're scared. And when the jig is up, he's happy not only to give the Scarecrow, Lion and Tin Man what they think they want, but he lays down some real wisdom on them like:

    WIZARD: A heart is not judged by how much you love but by how much you are loved by others.

    He wants them to feel good about themselves. He wants what's best for them. And if he uses a little trickery to do it, hey there's no harm done, right?

    That all pales before his willingness to give up the Emerald City and travel back to Kansas in order to get Dorothy home. He can't have liked Kansas much, or else why did he stay in Oz so long? But having resolved to live up to his promises, he's willing to undertake a "technically unexplainable" journey and possibly get killed in order to give Dorothy what she most wants. You don't do that if you're just about swindling people out of their money. Marvel and the Wizard are both father figures of a sort to Dorothy, and they eventually come through.

    And Professor Marvel's no different. He too sends Dorothy home, using a little trickery and crystal-ball mystical mumbo-jumbo. Why? Because he doesn't like seeing little girls all alone on the road and he knows from the picture she carries with her that she has someone at home who she loves. Taking a few coins for a good story is one thing, but he's not gonna let some kid get gobbled up by hobos or serial killers. That's a sign of good character, and you can see it in both Professor and Wizard versions.

    Makes it easier to forgive him for sending a little girl off to her death, doesn't it?

  • Glinda the Good Witch (Billie Burke)

    Thank Goodness for Glinda

    Funny thing about Glinda: she's the only character in Oz who doesn't have an eerie lookalike back in Kansas. Not that she could traipse around the prairie in that ballroom gown she wears, but even so, you'd think she show up as a nice teacher or a crusading dog lover or something.

    As it turns out, no. Glinda is only Glinda, and that may say something about her part in all of this. It certainly emphasizes her magic-ness more than the others, since she doesn't have to live down to the black-and-white normal world. Add to that the fact that she travels around in an enchanted soap bubble, and you really get her "not from around here" vibe.

    That's important to her role as Dorothy's mentor. She's from the outside world, the place Dorothy has never been to, and as such she knows all about what Dorothy's getting herself into. But while most of Oz is surprising and pretty weird, Glinda just gives out a friendly grownup vibe, and while she definitely represents a new and untested world, she's still more than happy to give a girl a hand when first stepping into it.

    She also knows that she can't just hand Dorothy everything she needs. If you think about it, she could have just told Dorothy how the ruby slippers worked at the beginning. But then, of course, there would be no movie… and as Glinda herself says,

    GLINDA: She had to find it out for herself.

    So she acts as a guide: pointing the way, giving good advice and occasionally stepping in when the kid can't quite make it herself, but letting Dorothy find her own way as much as she can. Just like a good mentor, or mother, does. Maybe she's the idealized version of Dorothy's missing mother—beautiful, kind, all-knowing, helpful, and protective, but letting Dorothy figure things out for herself.

  • Aunt Em and Uncle Henry (Clara Blandick and Charley Grapewin)

    Home Grown Family

    Em and Henry are kinda bound at the hip, and though Auntie Em gets all the press (because Dorothy tends to go on about getting home to her a lot), Uncle Henry plays the same role. They're an older couple, which suggests that Dorothy's mom might have been Henry or Em's little sister. Or maybe they're just foster parents to Dorothy—the relationship's not clear. They're also focused on running a working farm in the middle of the Great Depression yet, which has a way of taking it out on the nerves. They're stern, they're distant, they definitely don't get Dorothy, and at times they seem to just want her to go away.

    DOROTHY: Just listen to what Miss Gulch did to Toto! She --

    AUNT EM: Dorothy, please! We're trying to count! Fifty-eight--

    They also prove surprisingly impotent when the chips are down. When Miss Gulch comes to collect Toto, it's clear that they don't like the woman, and think what she's doing is the sort of thing they used to hang people for 'round those parts. But they can't stand up to her when push comes to shove, and let her walk out with their niece's beloved dog without even tossing a few f-bombs her way.

    Why does that matter? Well it forces Dorothy to act on her own to save her dog, something she couldn't have done otherwise. Auntie Em, foreshadowing Glinda's message to Dorothy, says,

    AUNT EM: I know, but we all got to work out our own problems, Henry.

    From a Hero's Journey perspective, it also presents Dorothy with a problem the whole community is facing. Miss Gulch is really, really horrible and no one can do anything about it. That puts their general grumpiness in perspective, symbolically at least, and gives Dorothy a very good reason to leave home.

    And come back home when she's done. Let's face it: while they're not the warmest people in the world, they clearly care about Dorothy very much. Dorothy tells Professor Marvel how Aunt Em took care of her when she had the measles, a tendency Aunt Em shows us by calling for Dorothy when the twister hits. Friends will go after you, but family goes after you with a tornado bearing down on them. We're willing to bet she worried herself to death while Dorothy was gone too. She and Henry make for a very compelling home to get back to. They may not understand Dorothy, but they always take her in—something a good family never hesitates to do.