The Wonderful Wizard of Oz | Study Guide

L. Frank Baum

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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz | Chapter 6 : The Cowardly Lion | Summary



Dorothy and her friends are stumbling fearfully through the woods when a huge lion suddenly springs at them, knocking over the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman. When he tries to bite Toto, Dorothy slaps him on the nose and scolds him.

The Lion confesses that he's always been a coward. "It is my great sorrow." Taking pity on him, Dorothy and the others invite him to accompany them. The rest of the day is uneventful until the Tin Woodman accidentally kills a beetle and begins to cry with regret. His jaws rust together, and the Scarecrow has to apply the oil can before he can talk again.

After that the Tin Woodman carefully watches his step so he won't hurt any more insects.


"You people with hearts have something to guide you," says the Tin Woodman, "but I have no heart, and so I must be very careful."

Baum is making a satirical point here. The Tin Woodman naively supposes that having a heart prevents people from being unkind. Once he has his own heart, he believes he'll be kind without having to think about it.

Of course kindness is revealed through actions, not from having a heart. Readers can see for themselves that the Tin Woodman is already kind to the point of hurting himself. Similarly the Cowardly Lion is braver than he realizes; it takes a certain amount of boldness to attack Dorothy's group, even though it's the wrong thing to do. And in the following chapter he'll jump over a ravine right after admitting that he's terrified. Again Baum is saying that our behavior is what counts. What we actually do is more important than what we have.

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