Study Guide

The Wizard of Oz The Wizard of Oz (Frank Morgan)

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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?

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