Literature Study GuidesWickedBook 1 Chapter 1 Summary

Wicked | Study Guide

Gregory Maguire

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Wicked | Book 1, Chapter 1 : Munchkinlanders (The Root of Evil) | Summary



A Munchkinland minister named Frex and his wife, Melena, prepare for their child's birth. Melena predicts the child will arrive that day, but Frex prepares to go on a trip to minister to the people of the nearby town of Rush Margins. He tells her the timing of the birth is terrible and wonders if he is, in fact, half to blame for it. While Melena makes breakfast and Frex dresses for the day, she recalls a childhood nursery rhyme and her Nanny's belief that when women understand the full hardship of life, they "halt production" and can no longer have children. When Melena observes men can father children until they die, Nanny says women are slow learners but men don't learn at all. While he eats, Frex remains indifferent to the pending birth, declaring his ministry more important and saying, "The devil is coming." Melena scolds him for saying this on the day his child will be born, but he says he is not talking about the baby but rather the evil and temptation in Rush Margins. She reluctantly lets him leave and tells him to try not to be killed. He says he will if it is "the will of the Unnamed God." She declares his safety is her will too, but he tells her to apply her will to more worthy causes.


Frex and Melena's exchange on the morning before Elphaba's birth offers little assurance Elphaba will be born into a happy family. The tension between husband and wife is palpable; Frex values his ministry, which he believes to be a higher purpose, over his wife and child's safety and well-being. Melena laughs when he hints he may not be the child's father, but Frex does not directly retract it; he refers to her promiscuity before their marriage and his subtle distrust of her. She later reflects she does "not particularly enjoy" her minister husband thinking of her as a sinner.

Melena's recollection of the nursery rhyme is an early indication that women in Oz perceive themselves as more sensible than men, yet Melena's hope to have a son—whom she is sure will "not be as dull as most men"—indicates this belief has little impact on how much women value themselves in this society. Melena also seems to recognize the dramatic irony in Frex's observation that "the devil is coming." Readers aware of Wicked's content know the child to be born will grow up to be the Wicked Witch of the West, so his remark portends the arrival of an evil force. The exchange is also an example of situational irony, because the frivolous and sinful Melena fears the remark will jinx the child, showing her level of insight is greater than her husband's. The pious and scholarly Frex should know better, but he makes remarks without considering the full weight of their meaning.

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