March 18, 2009

BETTER BE CAREFUL WHO YOU CALL A FLYING MONKEY:

Secrets of the Wizard of Oz : The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is one of the world's best-loved fairytales. As Judy Garland's famous film nears its 70th birthday, how much do its followers know about the story's use as an economic parable? (Rumeana Jahangir, 3/18/09, BBC News)

Baum published the book in 1900, just after the US emerged from a period of deflation and depression. Prices had fallen by about 22% over the previous 16 years, causing huge debt.

Farmers were among those badly affected, and the Populist political party was set up to represent their interests and those of industrial labourers.

The US was then operating on the gold standard - a monetary system which valued the dollar according to the quantity of gold. The Populists wanted silver, along with gold, to be used for money. This would have increased the US money supply, raised price levels and reduced farmers' debt burdens.

In 1964, high school teacher Henry Littlefield wrote an article outlining the notion of an underlying allegory in Baum's book. He said it offered a "gentle and friendly" critique of Populist thinking, and the story could be used to illuminate the late 19th Century to students.

Since its publication, teachers have used this take on the tale to help classes understand the issues of the era.

And Littlefield's theory has been hotly debated. He believed the characters could represent the personalities and themes of the late 1800s,with Dorothy embodying the everyman American spirit.

SYMBOLISM OF CHARACTERS

Dorothy: Everyman American

Scarecrow: Farmer

Tin Woodman: Industrial worker

Lion: William Jennings Bryan, politician who backed silver cause

Wizard of Oz: US presidents of late 19th Century

Wicked Witch: A malign Nature, destroyed by the farmers' most precious commodity, water.
Or simply the American West

Winged Monkeys: Native Americans or Chinese railroad workers, exploited by West

Oz: An abbreviation of 'ounce' or, as Baum claimed, taken from the O-Z of a filing cabinet?

Emerald City: Greenback paper money, exposed as fraud

Munchkins: Ordinary citizens



MORE:
-ESSAY: The Wizard of Oz: Parable on Populism (Henry M. Littlefield, Spring 1964, American Quarterly)
-ESSAY: The Rise and Fall of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a "Parable on Populism" (David B. Parker, 1994, JOURNAL OF THE GEORGIA ASSOCIATION OF HISTORIANS)
-ESSAY: So Was the Wizard of Oz an Allegory for Populism? (Quentin P. Taylor, Feb 2005, Independent Review)
-ESSAY: Colors/ Ruby (and beyond) (Darren Wershler-Henry, Fall 2001, Cabinet)
-ESSAY: The Fork in the Yellow Brick Road (David B. Parker, 49th Parallel)

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
Posted by Orrin Judd at March 18, 2009 8:45 AM
blog comments powered by Disqus
« THE AMERICAN WAY: | Main | GIVEN THE HOMOSEXUAL SUBTEXT OF THE GAME...: »