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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

L. Frank Baum

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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz | Quotes

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1.

When Dorothy stood in the doorway and looked around, she could see nothing but the great gray prairie on every side.


Narrator , Chapter 1

Baum never lived in Kansas, but he was profoundly influenced by the years he and his family lived in South Dakota. In presenting this vast, overpowering expanse of gray, Baum sets up a contrast between Kansas and the Land of Oz, which will be revealed as a near-paradise when Dorothy arrives there. Baum also wants to make it clear that Dorothy's love for her home, and her homesickness in beautiful Oz, have nothing to do with the beauty of the Kansas landscape. She loves her home simply because it is home.

2.

I do not want people to call me a fool, and if my head stays stuffed with straw instead of with brains as yours is, how am I ever to know anything?


Scarecrow , Chapter 3

The Scarecrow begs to accompany Dorothy to the Emerald City because it so troubles him to know he has no brain. He can't feel physical pain, but he finds it emotionally painful not to be able to think. Shortly after the Scarecrow is introduced, it becomes obvious to readers that he does know how to think—but he won't believe it until Oz "proves" it by filling his head with bran and pins.

3.

While I was in love I was the happiest man on earth; but no one can love who has not a heart, and so I am resolved to ask Oz to give me one.


Tin Woodman , Chapter 5

The Tin Woodman believes he lacks the human capacity to love simply because he no longer possesses a human heart. His loving actions and his devotion to his friends prove that the Woodman is wrong. However, he clings to the notion that he is heartless until Oz presents him with a pincushion heart. Like the Scarecrow, the Woodman is unable to recognize the strengths he already has.

4.

Now it is well known that when there are many of these flowers together, their odor is so powerful, that anyone who breathes it falls asleep, and if the sleeper is not carried away from the scent of the flowers, he sleeps on and on forever.


Narrator , Chapter 8

Dorothy and her friends have just exited the dark woods to find themselves in the midst of a huge meadow filled with red poppies, a traditional symbol of perennial sleep—in other words, death. Actually botanists know that red poppies do not in fact cause sleepiness, although the opium derived from the opium poppy certainly does!

It's not the accuracy of Baum's natural history that makes this passage so memorable; it's the visual image created by the vast sea of bright red that surrounds the helpless warm-blooded travelers in the group: Dorothy, the Lion, and Toto. The contrast between the beauty of the flowers and the deadly threat they embody is unforgettable, especially because the harder the group tries to escape, the sleepier the three living beings become.

5.

I am Oz, the Great and Terrible. Who are you, and why do you seek me?


Oz , Chapter 11

This is the impressive greeting Oz extends to Dorothy as she stands before his throne. In this incarnation Oz appears as an enormous, limbless Head staring down at Dorothy. No wonder she tries to placate him with the reply, "I am Dorothy, the Small and Meek."

The 1939 film The Wizard of Oz made this exchange famous, but Oz's greeting is terrifying even without the memory of the filmed scene. The line takes on additional power in retrospect, once readers know that the real Oz is neither great nor terrible; he's a small, ordinary man who, like Dorothy, is from Kansas.

Dorothy's answer is no truer than Oz's salutation; though she may be small she's not meek. She's canny, though; her self-definition is the perfect way to placate a tyrant.

6.

I have been wicked in my day, but I never thought a little girl like you would ever be able to melt me and end my wicked deeds. Look out—here I go!


Wicked Witch of the West , Chapter 12

These are some of the most famous last words in the history of American literature. They are uttered despairingly by the Witch of the West, whom Dorothy has just drenched with a bucket of water. She is, indeed, melting, and practical Dorothy will clean up the mess by throwing another bucket of water over the puddle that was once the witch.

Dorothy is horrified when the Wizard of Oz ordered her to kill the witch, but notice that in this scene she doesn't kill her on purpose. It never occurred to Dorothy that as simple a weapon as water could harm someone so evil. She's able to carry out the Wizard's challenge without violating her own sense of right and wrong.

7.

Oh, no, my dear; I'm really a very good man, but I'm a very bad Wizard, I must admit.


Oz , Chapter 15

Toto has just knocked over the screen hiding the so-called Wizard from his visitors, Dorothy has told Oz he is a bad man, and Oz explains that he's a fraud. It's to his credit that he confesses in such detail and is ashamed of himself, but that doesn't make Dorothy and her friends any less disappointed.

Oz's biggest limitation is that he lacks empathy. When his balloon originally brings him to his new country, he allows the people to believe he was a wizard because "they were afraid of me, and promised to do anything I wished them to"—as if that's a perfectly normal reason to trick people on a massive scale. "It was the only thing I could do," he insists. He doesn't seem to realize that a truly good person remains honest even if it's inconvenient. Oz isn't bad in the sense of being evil, but he's definitely immoral.

8.

You know, of course, that courage is always inside one, so that this really cannot be called courage until you have swallowed it. Therefore I advise you to drink it as soon as possible.


Oz , Chapter 16

This is how Oz explains why he wants the Lion to drink a dish of what's almost certainly gin. To the degree that he's capable of telling the truth, he has tried to explain to the Scarecrow, Woodman, and Lion that he can't give them brains, a heart, or courage. But the three friends find that answer unacceptable; they would rather he give them faux-magic talismans than trust their own instincts. So Oz supplies them with "humbug" objects and sends them away happy to have gotten "exactly what they thought they wanted."

Is Oz morally wrong to give his visitors genuine happiness by counterfeit means? Baum doesn't make it clear. But Dorothy's problem is different by an order of magnitude, and Oz is right to worry about how to help her.

9.

'Come back,' she screamed. 'I want to go, too!'


Dorothy , Chapter 17

Poor Dorothy! She has just missed her chance to go away with Oz in his hot-air balloon. At this moment that balloon is her only hope, and it's dreadful to watch it drifting out of sight.

This is Dorothy's lowest point in the book. She has met Oz's original demand, only to find out that he's not really a wizard and would never have been able to grant her wish. She has watched him give her friends what they wanted, even though they haven't met Oz's terms. (He promised to help them if they helped Dorothy kill the witch, and none of them was able to do that.) She has labored in good faith to make a hot-air balloon with him not realizing that Oz's balloon-making skill is weak and he doesn't know the way to Kansas.

There is something almost unbearably poignant about Dorothy's plea. "I want to go, too!" is a line straight out of everyone's childhood. But once Dorothy realizes that she is truly on her own, she becomes stronger. When she gets over her first grief, she's glad she's not stuck in a balloon with Oz. At some deep level she must have known that he was unreliable. Being unsure about her fate is better than depending on false hope.

10.

All you have to do is knock the heels together three times and command the shoes to carry you wherever you wish to go.


Glinda , Chapter 23

Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, now reveals what Dorothy and her friends never knew: as long as she was wearing the silver shoes, she could have gotten back to Kansas any time.

Of course from a literary point of view, not knowing is the best thing that could have happened to Dorothy. Without making her long journey she would never have learned how competent, brave, and beloved she was. Still readers might not blame Dorothy for protesting that it would have been nice to know about the shoes' power earlier.

In any case she never gets the chance: the Scarecrow speaks up immediately to point out that without Dorothy's journey, he wouldn't have gotten his brains. The Woodman says he might have rusted in the forest until the end of the world, and the Lion chimes in that he might have stayed a coward forever.

Dorothy agrees that this is a fair assessment. But now, at last, she's really, really ready to go home.

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