Study Guide

The Wizard of Oz Lies and Deceit

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Lies and Deceit

AUNTIE EM: I'm afraid poor Toto will have to go.

Grown-ups lie sometimes. Dorothy is depending on Aunt Em and Uncle Henry to protect her dog, and they can't. It's one of the first big disappointments in life – realizing that your parents aren't perfect – and in this case, it prompts Dorothy to start her journey.

PROFESSOR MARVEL: Professor Marvel never guesses. He knows!

This is a lie being used for good. Notice that he hides her picture with Aunt Em after he looks at it: maybe a way to bring in the authorities if he can't convince her to go home? In any case, you can see this guy really looking out for the "poor little kid" and willing to use some razzle-dazzle to send her somewhere safe.

GLINDA: Oh. Well, is that the witch?

DOROTHY: Who, Toto? Toto's my dog!

Dorothy never lies, of course, because she's a good girl. But it also shows that anyone can be fooled, even Glinda, who's really holding all the cards in Oz and who you wouldn't expect to be easily deceived. Goes to show you that anything is possible in Oz.

WITCH: And now, my beauties, something with poison in it, I think. With poison in it, but attractive to the eye, and soothing to the smell.

The Witch isn't afraid to do her own dirty work, as we have seen, but she clearly prefers something easier to manage than direct confrontation. It's a little cowardly, and despite all her cackling, it suggests that she might be more scared of Dorothy than she lets on. No wonder Glinda steps in to declare a mulligan on this one.

COWARDLY LION: You're right, I am a coward! I haven't any courage at all. I even scare myself.

A common theme here is that threats turn out to be a lot less dangerous than we thought they were. Here it's a guy who we end up really feeling for, once we get past his blustering and see him for who he really is.

WITCH: You cursed brat! Look what you've done! I'm melting! Melting! Oh, what a world! What a world!

This woman thoroughly terrorized our heroes for the better part of two hours, and all they needed to take her out was a bucket of water? Full marks for your poker face, oh Wicked Witch, but maybe you shouldn't go around scaring people if they can ice you that easily.

WINKIE LEADER: She's... She's dead. You killed her.

DOROTHY: I didn't mean to kill her. Really, I didn't. It's just that he was on fire.

WINKIE LEADER: Hail to Dorothy! The Wicked Witch is dead!

It's a big thing in this movie: once the deceit is revealed—once we see the people Dorothy meets for who they really are—it comes as a big relief. The Winkies put on a big show because they're afraid the Witch will fricassee them, but when she's out of the picture, they're really kind of cool.

WIZARD: Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!

Seriously Dorothy, you need to pay attention to the man behind the curtain. HE'S RUNNING THE GIANT HEAD!!!

WIZARD: Back where I come from we have universities, seats of great learning, where men go to become great thinkers. And when they come out, they think deep thoughts, and with no more brains than you have.... But! They have one thing you haven't got! A diploma!

The Wizard, a fraud himself, has some hilarious stuff to say about the false pretenses in the real world. Like those snooty intellectuals who really don't know much at all, even though they might have a fancy college degree. Nobody's really what they appear to be, he seems to be suggesting.

WIZARD: I hereby decree that until what time, if any, that I return, the Scarecrow, by virtue of his highly superior brains, shall rule in my stead, assisted by the Tin Man, by virtue of his magnificent heart, and the Lion, by virtue of his courage.

Here's another example of deceit being used for good. The Wizard isn't copping to the fact that he can't use any real magic. He's perpetrating a lie… and yet he's doing so in order to help the Scarecrow and his buddies take charge (which presumably benefits both them and the Emerald City). Not all lies are evil ones here, it seems, and even if it doesn't work out, the Wizard seems to be telling this one for selfless reasons. He's well aware of the placebo effect.

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