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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

L. Frank Baum

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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz | Chapter 20 : The Dainty China Country | Summary

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Summary

Since the china wall seems endless, the Woodman builds a ladder to scale it. The travelers are amazed at the sight on the other side: a "great stretch of country" made of white china punctuated with colored china houses, barns, and people no higher than Dorothy's knee.

Jumping down from the wall (onto the Scarecrow), the friends begin making their way through the strange country. A cow being milked is startled by their appearance. She kicks out, breaking both the China Milk-Maid's pail and her own leg.

Next they meet a timid china princess whom Dorothy wants to bring home to Kansas. The princess refuses, saying that anyone taken out of the China Country becomes stiff and motionless. Since the travelers are obviously out of place in this fragile country, they decide to leave. The Lion's tail breaks a church as he climbs over the wall.

Analysis

Like the previous chapter, Chapter 20 feels out of place with the rest of the book, but more intriguingly so. For example, the chapter begins with a visual pun (a great china wall—Great Wall of China). Dorothy's request that the China Princess come back to Kansas with her seems out of character. Would Dorothy really want to "collect" one of the residents of Oz and confine her to a mantel? Still the princess's answer is interesting. Speaking of the paralysis that affects residents of the China Country who are removed, she says, "We can only stand and look pretty. Of course that is all that is expected of us when we are on mantel-shelves ... but our lives are much pleasanter here in our own country."

Her explanation raises the question of how the china figurines in Dorothy's world actually get there. (Are they actually kidnapped from China Country?) But the point the princess is making is that she and her countrymen are only comfortable in their own world. Her royal background wouldn't help her if she had to leave her tiny sphere of action.

The China Princess offers a sharp contrast to Dorothy, who misses Kansas but has shown a great ability to handle the adventures her journey has thrown her. She's even managed to kill two witches. It's no wonder that she feels uncomfortable in brittle China Country.

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