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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz | Discussion Questions 21 - 30


In Chapter 11 of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz what is the significance of Oz's appearance to the Lion disguised as a ball of fire?

According to medieval lore lions are afraid of fire. Fire is also one element that even the bravest lion can't fight with traditionally courageous means. The Cowardly Lion has threatened all kinds of physical violence if Oz should take the form of a beautiful lady, a big head, or a monster—but he can't fight a ball of fire by biting, clawing, or otherwise attacking it. Oz appears to the Lion as a being who's impervious to even the most courageous beast. Yet readers will notice that the Lion is as brave as possible under the circumstances. When he thinks that Oz has caught fire, he approaches as near as he can before the heat is too much for him. When Oz orders him to bring back proof of the Wicked Witch's death, the Lion is angry. He does not despair, as Dorothy did. He stands "silently gazing at the Ball of Fire," only leaving the Throne Room when the heat becomes too intense. Readers have seen that the Lion already has plenty of courage. Here Baum gives him another chance to demonstrate his bravery.

In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Chapter 11, what is the significance of the green girl's warning to Dorothy not to cry?

When Dorothy turns tearful at the thought of never again seeing her aunt and uncle, the green girl warns her to be careful. "The tears will fall on your green silk gown, and spot it." Dorothy stops crying instantly. "I suppose we must try" killing the Wicked Witch, she says. Since this is, indeed, the only way she can ultimately return home, it's best for Dorothy to be pragmatic. Throughout The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Baum repeatedly suggests that crying is not only useless but also harmful. Dorothy's dress could be stained by tears, and every time the Tin Woodman starts to cry (Chapters 6, 8, 12, and 18), the joints in his face rust. Baum is not criticizing Dorothy or the Tin Woodman for their tears; he's reminding the reader that crying is an ineffective and inappropriate response to trouble. Baum repeatedly shows Dorothy learning to repress her sadness but express her anger—suggesting that some emotions should be hidden but others, when properly channeled, can be strengths. Despite Dorothy's age—and gender—Baum wants her to be as tough as any traditional hero.

In Chapter 6 of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz what is the significance of Dorothy's calling Toto a "meat dog"?

"He's a—a—a meat dog" is Dorothy's wonderful answer when the Lion asks if Toto is stuffed or made of tin. The remark seems so much like what a real child would say that readers may wonder if Baum heard it from one of his own children. "He's a meat dog" is not only a funny line but a reminder that Baum has aligned each of Dorothy's other companions with one of the three "kingdoms" of nature in a child's classification. The Lion stands for "animal," the Scarecrow for "vegetable," and the Tin Woodman for "mineral." In a sense the entire world is on Dorothy's side!

In Chapter 12 of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz why does the leader of the Winged Monkeys say, "the Power of Good ... is greater than the Power of Evil"?

The Monkey King's observation comes right before probably the scariest part of the book, when the Flying Monkeys capture Dorothy, Toto, and the Lion and whisk them off to the palace of the Wicked Witch of the West. His comment may indicate that, like the Winkies, the Flying Monkeys aren't purely evil; they are being controlled by an external force. But Baum is also signaling to his young readers that even though things are about to get rocky, everything will be all right in the end. As Baum states in his Author's Note The Wonderful Wizard of Oz will neither frighten children nor heap heavy-handed moralizing on them. However, because the novel would be dull without a few risks and unpleasant characters, Baum can't quite comply with his own directives. He is going to frighten his readers, and in the Monkey King's statement, he does moralize. The Monkey King's reassurance is probably unnecessary. Children familiar with traditional fairy tales would already understand the ground rules: everyone who deserves it will live happily ever after.

In Chapter 14 of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz what is the significance of the travelers getting lost when the sun goes behind a cloud?

Without a compass Dorothy and her friends must rely on the position of the sun to guide them back to the Emerald City. They start off correctly. "They knew, of course, they must go straight east toward the rising sun; and they started off in the right way. But at noon, when the sun was over their heads, they did not know which was east and which was west, and that was the reason they were lost in the great fields." The next day when the sun is behind a cloud, they have no idea which direction to take. The fact that the sun is their only reference point shows readers how isolated these characters are. There are no towns or even farms nearby. The travelers no longer have the yellow brick road to guide them; they're wandering through a true wilderness. Essentially they're lost in a preindustrial landscape. No wonder even Toto loses heart! Baum's use of the disappearing sun reflects his preference for the milder forms of folkloric conflicts. After all in most cultures the sun represents the constancy of good in the world. It may temporarily be hidden from our view, or give way to night, but it always returns. In this case however, the characters don't need to wait for the sun. The Queen of the Field Mice comes to their rescue.

In Chapter 15 of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz why does L. Frank Baum mention the Wizard is afraid of the Flying Monkeys?

After the travelers return to the Emerald City and the Wizard refuses to see them for four days, the Scarecrow finally suggests that unless Oz grants them an audience, they will call in the Flying Monkeys. "When the Wizard was given this message he was so frightened that he sent word for them to come to the Throne Room." At this point neither Dorothy nor readers know that there is no real wizard. The travelers have seen the Wizard take on terrifying forms; they believe he is indeed "Oz, the Great and Powerful." Why should someone who can turn into a ball of fire be afraid of monkeys, winged or not? Once readers learn that Oz is just a weak little man, this hint makes sense. The only reason a wizard would capitulate to the Scarecrow's threat is that he isn't actually a wizard.

In Chapter 15 of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz what does Oz's exposure as a fraud suggest about appearances and realities?

The events of Chapter 15 fully reveal the deceptive nature of appearances. When Dorothy and her friends first meet Oz, he takes on four different appearances designed to terrify his audience into doing his bidding. The four companions are deeply disheartened, having no faith in their powers. "I will go with you, but I'm too much of a coward to kill the Witch," says the Lion, whose self-doubt is echoed by the Scarecrow and the Lion. When the group unexpectedly succeeds in their mission, they return to Oz with new self-confidence, and the Wizard now struggles to resist their demands. His fraud is revealed, with Toto's help. As he describes how he fooled his visitors with special effects, the four friends learn that a show of strength can hide weakness. At the same time however, their experience with the witch has shown them that apparent weakness can hide great strength. The deceptive nature of appearances will recur when Dorothy learns later that she has been wrong about her own helplessness. With her silver slippers she has possessed the power to return home all along.

In what ways in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is Oz a good man or a bad man?

When Dorothy indignantly says, "I think you are a very bad man," Oz answers, "I'm really a very good man; but I'm a very bad Wizard, I must admit." Neither character's statement is completely accurate. Oz is a sympathetic character with a serious character flaw; he can't resist taking advantage of people. He's a con man through and through—but like many con artists, he's also very likeable. How does Baum convey this likeable quality? For one thing he makes it clear that Oz is genuinely conflicted about keeping up his end of the bargain with the travelers. (An evil person wouldn't care.) "I'm not much of a magician," he tells the Scarecrow with a sigh. Though the methods he comes up with aren't close to being magical, they do work: the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Lion all leave feeling much happier than they did before Oz "helped" them. None of the tricks Oz plays actually hurt anyone. He tricked his people into building the Emerald City. (It would have been nice to have more details about exactly how they succeeded.) But its residents love living there. Oz sends Dorothy into terrible danger, but she emerges much stronger for the experience. He plans to leave Oz the same way he came, in a hot-air balloon— a fitting symbol for a character who seems impressive but is full of hot air. For all readers know Oz may perish, whereas Dorothy learns that she can get herself home on her own. Like most memorable characters Oz is neither all good or all bad.

In Chapter 11 of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz why are Dorothy and her friends fooled by what will later be revealed as Oz's very amateurish disguises?

Oz has created several costumes that seem embarrassingly simple when he shows them to the travelers. But he has no trouble using these disguises to hoodwink his guests. One reason may be that each disguise seems peculiarly suited to fooling the traveler who sees it. Because Dorothy is a small child—and inclined to trust authority—it doesn't occur to her to question whether the giant Head is real. And the sight of a giant, disembodied talking head certainly would be bizarre, realistic or not! The Scarecrow, who had been made two days before he met Dorothy, has no experience with women, so he is less inclined to wonder why the lady's face (a mask) has so little expression. The Tin Woodman is more familiar with the way women look; after all he's been in love with one. He's also familiar with wild animals, having been a woodcutter in the forest for many years. But a monster like the Beast is well beyond his experience. The Lion enters the Throne Room ready to do battle with whomever he sees on the throne. Unfortunately there is no way he can fight a Ball of Fire. It would be nice to think that Baum consciously planned this mismatch between the four travelers and their four visions. Unfortunately that's something the reader can't know.

In Chapter 15 of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz what is significant about the green of the Emerald City?

Green is commonly associated with plants and nature, and Oz named his city "Emerald" because the surrounding countryside "was so green and beautiful." But the Emerald City's greenness is manmade. In fact as Oz explains the city is no greener than any other place: Oz simply requires every inhabitant to wear green spectacles so it will look that way. "When you wear green spectacles, why of course everything looks green to you," he cheerfully explains. In fact the Emerald City seems almost devoid of plant or animal life. Baum makes a point of saying that Dorothy and her friends don't see any animals when they first arrive. There's a nosegay of green flowers in Dorothy's room, but Baum doesn't mention other plants or even trees in the Emerald City. The green spectacles are a potent symbol of power: people who wear them see what Oz wants them to see. It's not known if Baum has chosen this color for any reason besides the fact that the emerald is his birthstone. True Dorothy and her friends leave the blue Land of the Munchkins and reach Oz's city via the yellow brick road—and mixing blue and yellow produces green—but that might just be a coincidence.

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