Study Guide

The Wizard of Oz Courage

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DOROTHY: I'm the one who ought to be punished!

Dorothy steps in to keep her dog safe here. That's some grade-A pet ownership, that is. But it also demonstrates early on how this little girl can find her courage. Threaten someone she loves, and she'll step up every time, even before she hits that Yellow Brick Road.

DOROTHY: It really was no miracle/what happened was just this…

Dorothy's properly humble—she didn't actually do anything to knock off the Witch of the East—but her confidence starts to percolate too. "Wow, I killed the witch without even trying!" That makes her at least a little aware of her own power and potential; realizing that she doesn't need to be as afraid of the bad things as she thinks.

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

Just so we're aware of the stakes: Dorothy has good reason to be afraid of this nasty witch. In addition, though, the "little dog" reference is really important. The Witch isn't just gunning for Dorothy: she's after Toto too. As we've already seen, Dorothy tends to forget how scared she is when her friends get threatened. You may want to rethink that last line, lady.

GLINDA: Just follow the Yellow Brick Road…

The Hero's Journey always takes some guts to start off. Dorothy doesn't know where that road is going to lead, or what kind of freaky-weird things are going to pop out at her along the way. (And believe us, they get plenty weird.)

SCARECROW: I'd face a whole box of 'em in order to get some brains…

The other two companions don't make such declarations of their bravery, but they're just as dedicated to the notion of courage as the Scarecrow. (Granted, the Lion takes some prodding.) It's also worth noting that the Scarecrow needs some motivation to face down that box of matches. Hey, we'd be scared of them too if we were made of straw. That's what makes quests so important: they force us to face our fears and overcome them to get what we want.

SCARECROW: I'll see you get safely to the Wizard now, whether I get a brain or not. Stuff a mattress with me. Ha!

On the face of things, the Scarecrow and Tin Man aren't the bravest guys in the world, but they definitely show their resolve when danger rears its head. And like Dorothy, they're not thinking of themselves. "Threaten our buddies? You just made a big mistake missy…"

DOROTHY: You should be ashamed of yourself! Frightening him like that, when he came to you for help!

We love this line, and not just because Dorothy is sticking up for her friends yet again. It shows that she already has the courage to face the Wizard. She forgets it when the Wizard bellows at her, but it was always there. He'd better be careful because if she comes back, that saber-rattling just ain't gonna work.

COWARDLY LION: Alright, I'll go in there for Dorothy. Wicked Witch or no Wicked Witch. Guards or no guards, I'll tear 'em apart. There's just one thing I want you guys to do: talk me out of it.

The screenwriters make a little joke here with the Lion not quite following through on his convictions, but it's a really important moment for him. He finally gets with the program and shows his bravery. And again, it's prompted by concern for a friend.

WIZARD: Frightened? Child, you're talking to a man who's laughed in the face of death, sneered at doom, and chuckled at catastrophe. I was petrified.

Good to know that grown-ups get scared too. In this case, it's the Wizard: the same guy who scared the pants off of everyone just a few minutes earlier. A good way of saying it's okay to be afraid; everyone's afraid sometimes.

WIZARD: As for you, my fine friend, you're a victim of disorganized thinking. You are under the unfortunate delusion that simply because you run away from danger, you have no courage. You're confusing courage with wisdom.

Sometimes running away from danger is just plain brilliant, the Wiz seems to be saying. There's no shame in that. This little children's film has a lot of wise stuff to say about what real courage is. Being afraid of fire if you're a scarecrow? That's just smart.

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