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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz | Discussion Questions 41 - 50

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In Chapter 6 of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz what is significant about the Tin Woodman's saying "I have no heart, and so I must be very careful"?

The Tin Woodman doesn't realize that it's his loving nature that makes him careful not to step on insects. He already has a heart, whether or not it literally exists in his chest, and he doesn't need a real heart to feel heartbroken! In his innocence the Tin Woodman believes that human beings don't need to be mindful of things like stepping on insects because their hearts will naturally prevent them from making that kind of mistake. He doesn't realize that even without a heart he is already kinder and more sensitive than many people. It's possible, though, that not having a heart makes the Tin Woodman a bit too sentimental. And walking with his eyes on the road seems like an overreaction. What the Tin Woodman actually needs, and what he learns to do on his journey, is the ability to regulate his emotions, so that he doesn't rust himself with his tears.

In Chapter 7 of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz what is significant about the Tin Woodman's remark "I should certainly weep if you killed a poor deer"?

When the Lion suggests that he kill a deer to feed Dorothy and Toto, the Tin Woodman begs him not to. The Tin Woodman was a real man once, so he knows that flesh-and-blood people need to eat. It's nice of him to be concerned about the deer's welfare, but what about Dorothy's? What about the Lion's? Surely the Tin Woodman knows that lions are carnivores; the idea of the Lion killing his own food shouldn't shock him. This passage hints at the possibility that without a heart, the Tin Woodman is unable to regulate his emotions appropriately. He doesn't yet realize that there are gradations of caring for others. He says he would cry if a deer were killed, but surely he would cry even harder to be the cause of Dorothy's going hungry.

In Chapter 5 of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz what is noticeable about the Scarecrow's fall on the road?

Although it will become clear that the Scarecrow is intelligent even without a physical brain, this passage shows that he's not there yet. He seems not even to have any reflexes; nothing keeps him from walking into the hole in the road. Recall that Dorothy only freed the Scarecrow a few minutes ago, so he's never walked before. This is the first and last time he will make this particular mistake. In future chapters he will know to watch where he walks. The fact that he can learn from his mistakes proves that the Scarecrow already knows how to think.

In Chapter 7 of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz what is the significance of the Scarecrow's statement, "If we cannot jump over [the ditch], we must stay where we are"?

The Scarecrow's remark shows that he learned his lesson when he fell into the pothole in Chapter 5. This time he won't try to walk across something that can't be crossed that way! It's not that the Scarecrow is right this time. The fact that most of the travelers can't jump over the deep ditch doesn't mean they're stuck where they are. But as the journey progresses the Scarecrow is at least learning to profit from past experience. Falling into the pothole seems to have taught the Scarecrow to evaluate the depth of the ditch as well as its breadth. He's never seen a ditch before, but he can see that this one is too steep to descend on foot.

In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz how do the female characters, aside from Dorothy, reflect folkloric traditions of the female life cycle?

According to some folkloric traditions there are three stages in the female life cycle: the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone. Whether or not Baum was familiar with Paganism, the women in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz tend to fall into one of those categories. Several of these characters have overlapping roles. Aunt Em, the Witch of the North, and the Wicked Witch of the West may all be said to embody the Crone image. All three women are old and somewhat ineffectual. Aunt Em is too careworn to laugh; the Witch of the North, although she's kind to Dorothy, doesn't know how to help her except by directing her to the Emerald City; and the Wicked Witch of the West is afraid of the dark and of water. Several females in the book assume the role of surrogate mother to Dorothy. Again Aunt Em and the Witch of the North are two of these. In addition two women feed Dorothy and her friends and give them a place to stay for the night. Glinda tells Dorothy how to get home. Although Glinda is also a witch, she defies the stereotypical crone image. "She was both beautiful and young to their eyes." Glinda embodies the Maiden role. The green girl who lives in Oz's Emerald City Palace is young, "dressed in a pretty silk gown," and with "lovely green hair and green eyes." She also tends to Dorothy as a maid would, making her even more of a Maiden. Even the "beautifully dressed young Princess" and the "pretty" China Milk-Maid fall into the Maiden role. Baum was an ardent supporter of feminist causes, so it's unlikely that he consciously intended to fit his female characters into these traditional roles. But the fact remains that every female Dorothy and her friends meet on their journey is either a Maiden, a Mother, or a Crone.

In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz what is the inspiration for the magic slate in Chapter 2?

In the 19th and early 20th centuries a much-discussed occult belief called spiritualism was fashionable among the British and American middle classes. Spiritualists believed that it was possible to communicate directly with the dead through a "medium"—a human with the power to channel spirits in the afterlife. Some mediums must have believed in their own powers, but most of them were frauds who used various tricks to fool their customers. "Slate-writing" was one such trick. A medium would place a piece of chalk between two school slates to collect written messages from unseen beings. Through sleight of hand or with the help of an accomplice, the slates would reappear covered with messages. Whether or not Baum believed in slate-writing, the characters take seriously the message of the Witch of the North's slate in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

In Chapter 17 of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz why does the Scarecrow keep his newfound thoughts to himself?

Once the Scarecrow has received his "brains" from Oz, he is a happy being. He tells his friends that there are "wonderful thoughts in his head" but refuses to describe those thoughts "because he knew that no one could understand them but himself." Whatever is taking place inside the Scarecrow's head, it's not complex reasoning! As the reader knows, Oz did not give the Scarecrow a real brain, just a quantity of bran. Nothing else about the Scarecrow's thinking process has changed, but the Scarecrow dupes himself into thinking that it has. Baum is making a mild joke at the Scarecrow's expense and possibly also poking fun at people who show off their learning. But the passage is also a convincing portrayal of the way confidence can change a person's attitude.

In Chapter 11 of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz why do Oz's courtiers have "nothing to do but talk to each other"?

Like many who hang around powerful people, the ladies and gentlemen of Oz's court do not have clearly defined jobs. They loiter outside Oz's Throne Room for no other reason than the hope of seeing him. Since Oz never permits this, the courtiers are wasting their time. Although Oz's castle seems to be full of activity, Baum doesn't really describe what goes on there. If the Land of Oz has any real governance, it's not shown to the reader. The hustle of the Emerald City seems unrelated to what takes place in the castle, and since everyone in Oz agrees that he hardly ever receives visitors it's fair to suspect that nothing of importance actually happens within the halls of power.

In what ways is the Tin Woodman in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz symbolic of the Machine Age?

Several critics have suggested that Baum intends the robot-like Tin Woodman to be a symbol of the ever-increasing power of machines in the early 20th century and a hint that an increasingly industrialized society is losing touch with what's important. This is probably incorrect. Although machines play a role in later Oz books, the Tin Woodman is hardly a machine. Nor does he represent the dehumanizing side of technological progress; if anything his tremendously sentimental nature "over-humanizes him." A witch created him, not an engineer. He is hollow, with no "works" inside, and his only real skill is chopping wood. Even the Wicked Witch of the West can think of no way to put him to work. At some point before beginning The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Baum created a prototypical Tin Man for a hardware store's window display. His creation even had a funnel as a hat. It's more likely that Baum remembered that window display than that he meant the Tin Woodman to symbolize anything in particular.

In Chapter 1 of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz why is it noteworthy that "the north and south winds met where the house stood," forming the cyclone's center?

This detail is one of the many examples of L. Frank Baum's love of plot symmetry. The house is at the "exact center" of the cyclone; Dorothy meets Oz exactly halfway into the book. Baum must have known that tornadoes sometimes lifted entire houses off their foundations. The notion of the winds meeting adds a pleasant fairy-tale touch to this passage. In Greek mythology the four winds are living beings, each with its own personality. Each wind is named for the direction from which it comes: North, South, East, or West. Dorothy's journey will begin when she meets the kindly Witch of the North and end when she meets Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, another symmetrical flourish.

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