Dorothy vs. Nature

ozThis is an academic piece that I wrote about The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum about how Dorothy’s connection to nature and man-made items influence her time in Oz. It was for a Children’s Literature class I took, which was probably one of my favorite classes in college.

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In L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy proves that she is incapable of surviving on her own in this strange new place without help from her man-made friends, the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow, or the helpful animals she comes across such as the Cowardly Lion, the Winged Monkeys, and the field mice. Through her male counterparts, Dorothy makes her journey safely through the Land of Oz with their guidance and constant assistance on the path to maturation. When Dorothy first arrives in the land of the Munchkins, she is completely inexperienced when dealing with the environment because although the family lives on a farm, the nature they deal with is domesticated and contained; a sense of danger is necessary in the growth process and she was previously limited from dealing with anything too wild. However, nature becomes important and necessary on the path to help Dorothy grow and mature especially in this new place where she must adapt to parts of nature that she never experienced before.

From the start of Dorothy’s journey, she becomes a victim to nature and must rely on her man-made companions, the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman, to help her along because their distance from nature gives them an advantage that Dorothy lacks. It begins with the cyclone carrying her into a strange place with the potential to damage her, but without actually doing so. She is scared but soon becomes relaxed and “in spite of the swaying of the house and the wailing of the wind, Dorothy soon closed her eyes and fell fast asleep” (Baum 7). From the beginning of her journey, nature immediately takes advantage of Dorothy and she responds in a child-like way by ignoring the issue and falling asleep instead of trying to find help or come up with a solution. After meeting the Scarecrow, Dorothy and her new ally continue their journey upon the yellow brick road and he helps her when she stumbles over the rockier surface because he is not harmed by the rocks that slow and hurt her. Since he is a more technologically advanced character by not being human and weakened by nature’s obstacles, the Scarecrow is able to prevail against it and overcome any obstructions Dorothy is slowed down by. When the Tin Woodman is acquired next as a companion, he further protects Dorothy from any threats from nature, particularly creatures that threaten her life. With his axe, he is able to create other man-made objects from the nature at his disposal and can also threaten any dangerous animal with his weapon, such as the wild cat chasing the Queen of the Mice. According to Culver, “women are…organic, or ‘meat people’ while men are more often than not manikins or robots; thus Baum’s child reader learns sexual difference as she learns what Hall saw as the more basic distinction between organic and vital organization” (619). These male companions help Dorothy to grow up quickly by being the woman in need of constant protection by her man-made friends. The fact that they are more technologically developed and distanced from nature gives them an upper-hand in the constant battle against natural elements in the Land of Oz; every time one of the two becomes absent, Dorothy’s life is once again at risk and they need to be fixed for her sake. When the Wicked Witch sends bees, scarecrows, and wolves to hurt the four travelers, the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman destroy them all with abilities that Dorothy or the Cowardly Lion would not have been able to apply because they are not man-made creatures. The two “are taken as reminders that humanity is really transcendent and never reified, always present but never located in a specific body part” (Culver 620). In Kansas, the nature that Dorothy deals with is domesticated animals and gray land that lack any trees or other greenery. These factors give her a disadvantage when she arrives in the lush green Land of Oz and therefore she is limited due to previously dealing with nature in such a contained way.

Although Dorothy is constantly struggling with nature, she is also aided by certain aspects such as the water, which destroys the Wicked Witch, and the numerous animals that help her. The Cowardly Lion is one of Dorothy’s first positive interactions with nature; although the Lion is unable to protect her from attackers because he is either afraid or the Tin Woodman or Scarecrow act first, he offers helpful ideas and is the idea of protection since danger that comes across the group is intimidated by him. “‘A Lion!’ cried the little Queen; ‘why, he would eat us all up.’ ‘Oh, no;’ declared the Scarecrow; ‘this Lion is a coward’” (Baum 80). At the sight and mention of the Lion, any weaker threats from nature become alarmed although he actually could not harm anything due to his immense fear. Aside from the Lion, there is aide offered from the mice and the Winged Monkeys as well; the mice become allies after the Tin Woodman saves their queen and the Winged Monkeys are bound to Dorothy because of the Golden Cap. Since there is no danger when Dorothy lives in Kansas, she does not need protection and guidance. The animals she encounters would not have helped her much because they live contained lives also and would not understand nature fully either. The only aide for Dorothy in Kansas is Toto, who “made Dorothy laugh, and saved her from growing as gray as her other surroundings” (Baum 3). Although Toto is a small connection to nature, he is enough to keep her innocent and protect her individuality, which Aunt Em and Uncle Henry lack and become gray and spiritless without. Aside from animal aide, Dorothy is also able to prevail by using water to her advantage to help kill the Wicked Witch. Throughout her journey, the girl uses water to revitalize herself upon waking up; she washes her face and makes sure she has a drink of water before she can start traveling again. Dorothy becomes driven by her desire to get the silver shoe back that the Wicked Witch steals off her foot, and for the first time she protects herself and throws water in her face, causing her demise.

The split between the two worlds that Dorothy encounters is that her life in Kansas is ancient and not as advanced as the Land of Oz where everything points towards the capitalistic and technologically advanced future. Certain colors point to capital references such as the Silver Shoes, the Golden Cap, and the Emerald City, which are all vital aspects of Dorothy’s adventure. The shoes, cap, and kiss shaped like a diamond all help her get to the ultimate destination of Emerald City to see the Wizard of Oz. Oz set up the country in a way that the citizens live in fear of him but respect him regardless, and they focus on constant movement forward and on monetary values. “The conservative financers who run the Emerald City, in other words, force its citizens to look at the world through money-colored glasses” (Rockoff 739). The green glasses give a vision of a world entirely focused on capitalism and its progress through the capitalist system; the people in Emerald City are busier than the other smaller, rural towns that Dorothy encounters and it is the first city the four are introduced to in Oz. The green city is clearly more advanced technologically than anywhere else they visit, and Dorothy witnesses the people selling food and other items on the streets and customers paying for those items, which is the first instance of exchange in Oz. In Kansas, Dorothy lives a similar poor and rural lifestyle as the rest of the people she encounters before arriving at Emerald City. When she is imprisoned by the Wicked Witch, the only time she is able to defend herself is because “she had lost one of her pretty shoes” (Baum 128). Dorothy is driven by the shoes’ switch from necessity to artifice, and this drives her to unintentionally destroy the Witch for them. She then uses the Golden Cap and Silver Shoes for their charms, and realizes “the power to solve her problems (by adding silver to the money stock) was there all the time” (Rockoff 756). From the start of the journey, she wants to go home and by the end she gains knowledge and matures by acquiring new information and life lessons but still makes the decision to leave. “No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home,” (Baum 33). She has experience with nature that she can now apply to her life at home and will be able to appreciate a simpler world without technology and capitalist containment.

Throughout Dorothy’s journey in the Land of Oz, she acquires new friends both man-made and distanced from nature, and animal and directly connected to nature who help her overcome her inexperience with the environment. She is able to mature during her journey by learning how to deal with nature, which her farm in Kansas did not give her; although a farm would be thought to give a direct connection to life and the natural world, their animals were domesticated and unable to give much insight because they did not have it either. By the end of the journey, Dorothy has grown into a wiser girl that can now return back to Kansas and properly deal with the environment that she had previously been clueless about.

Works Cited

Baum, L. Frank. The Wonderful Land of Oz. New York, NY: Penguin Group, 2006. 1-

  1. Print.

Culver, Stuart. “Growing up in Oz.” American Literary History 4.4 (1992): 607-628. Web.

9 Dec 2009.

http://www.jstor.org.proxy.binghamton.edu/stable/489788?seq=14&Search=yes&term=nature&term=wizard&term=dorothy&term=oz&list=show&searchUri=%2Faction%2FdoBasicSearch%3FQuery%3Dthe%2Bwizard%2Bof%2Boz%2Bdorothy%2Band%2Bnature%26x%3D0%26y%3D0%26wc%3Don&item=2&ttl=198&returnArticleService=showArticle&resultsServiceName=doBasicResultsFromArticle.

Rockoff, Hugh. “The “Wizard of Oz” as a Monetary Allegory.” Journal of Political

Economy 98.4 (1990): 739-760. Web. 9 Dec 2009.

http://www.jstor.org.proxy.binghamton.edu/stable/2937766?seq=18&Search=yes&term=nature&term=wizard&term=dorothy&term=oz&list=show&searchUri=%2Faction%2FdoBasicSearch%3FQuery%3Dthe%2Bwizard%2Bof%2Boz%2Bdorothy%2Band%2Bnature%26x%3D0%26y%3D0%26wc%3Don&item=1&ttl=198&returnArticleService=showArticle&resultsServiceName=doBasicResultsFromArticle.

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