Literature Study GuidesWickedBook 1 Chapter 2 Summary

Wicked | Study Guide

Gregory Maguire

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Wicked | Book 1, Chapter 2 : Munchkinlanders (The Clock of the Time Dragon) | Summary

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Summary

Frex is eager to get to the village of Rush Margins because he has received a letter from a distant cousin describing a traveling entertainment phenomenon called The Clock of the Time Dragon. The clock is more than just entertainment. It is a large clockwork puppet theater mounted on a wagon with a green clockwork dragon on the roof; the puppets below act out scenes that reveal the immoral actions of select members of the audience. In his letter, Frex's cousin shares details of the show he saw: in it, a husband sneaks out at night to cheat on his wife with a mother and daughter pair; the puppet husband conveniently has two sets of genitalia to facilitate this activity. Frex's cousin reports the townspeople in the audience recognize the puppets as representations of a well-digger named Grine, a woman named Letta, and her daughter. The crowd turns on Grine, Letta, and the daughter, attacking Grine—and checking for his unusual equipment—and shunning Letta. The daughter disappears; Frex's cousin writes, "We suspect the worst." Having learned of this entertainment and the savage behavior it inspires, Frex resolves to save the people of Rush Margins from themselves and from this clockwork show inspired by the "pleasure faith."

Analysis

The Clock of the Time Dragon demonstrates how people can be moved to do evil in service of a sense of strict morality. The beliefs of the "pleasure faith," which the clock appears to serve, do not seem to celebrate pleasure in any conventional sense. The targets of the audience's violence are allegedly availing themselves of physical pleasure, but they do so in a grotesque manner, which incenses the audience. The true pleasure of the pleasure faith appears to lie in inciting mob rule and violence that far outstrips anything the puppets present. The Clock of the Time Dragon may expose people's darkest secrets in an attempt to stamp out the evils of immorality, but these puppet shows do not present a complete or even reliable story. Later performances of the clock show that it does reveal real-life indiscretions of audience members, but these indiscretions are exaggerated and presented in salacious terms designed to rile the audience. It is possible Grine has been cheating on his wife, perhaps with Letta and her daughter, but the details are probably distorted. Instead of stamping out evil, the clock encourages the evils of neighbors turning against one another based on rumor and innuendo. Grine is violated, and his purported physical anomaly remains unconfirmed. Letta is isolated from her community, and the chilling line "We suspect the worst" implies her daughter has been killed and the body hidden. Frex is right to be concerned about a traveling show that creates such chaos, but he may be ill equipped to fight the dark urges of the audiences by preaching additional morality to them.

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