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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

L. Frank Baum

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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz | Chapter 15 : The Discovery of Oz, the Terrible | Summary

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Summary

When Dorothy and her friends at last reach the Emerald City, they wait for several days before Oz agrees to see them—which he only does after the Scarecrow threatens to bring in the Winged Monkeys.

The next morning the travelers are taken to Oz's Throne Room. A booming voice greets them, saying that he, Oz, is invisible but will sit on his throne to talk to them. When the travelers remind him that they've fulfilled the mission he gave them, Oz says he'll need more time to think it over. The Lion roars in rage, causing Toto to jump and knock over a screen in a corner of the room.

Behind the screen is a small, elderly bald man—the actual Oz, a charlatan who has been using special effects to fool his subjects for years.

Analysis

For Dorothy and her companions, the discovery that Oz isn't really a wizard is devastating. Their disappointment is twofold. First comes the destruction of a beloved illusion: the supernatural being they've all worshipped doesn't exist. On the heels of that discovery comes the realization that Oz can't grant them the wishes they've been seeking for so long. They can't depend on a mysterious outside force for salvation. They'll have to rely on themselves. This focus on self-reliance is a common device in children's literature of the Golden Age, of which The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a primary American example.

The shattering of illusion is a traditional device in myths and fairy tales. (Think of Cinderella's coach turning into a pumpkin.) A sudden descent back into reality, while painful, tends to be a positive step. Facing the truth is harder than relying on illusion, but it's the only way to achieve one's goals.

In Chapter 15 Oz himself benefits from being revealed. He is now free of the fear that someone will expose him. Paradoxically Oz's unmasking means that he can truly help Dorothy and her friends. He is not a wizard who can magically grant wishes; he's a human being who can use his own ingenuity (and a couple of real-world props) to give them what they want.

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