Wizard of Oz

Date:         Thu, 5 May 1994 11:37:19 -0600                                    
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From:         "Jim Oberly, History Dept.,                                       
              U of Wisc-Eau Claire" <JOBERLY@CNSVAX.UWEC.EDU>                   
Subject:      Reading L. Frank Baum <fwd from PEN-L>                            

Thanks to Dale Wharton for sending along the appended item on reading _The Wizard of Oz_

 

This item appeared in pen-l (progressive economists network).


Dale Wharton dale@dale.cam.org M O N T R E A L Te souviens-tu?

8<--------------------------- cut here --------------------------->8

From: Jim Devine <JNDF@LMUACAD.BITNET>

Date: Wed, 4 May 1994

For those interested in L. Frank Baum's "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" (1900) as a populist novel, the following translation table and discussion are helpful:

In the Wizard of Oz:        Meaning:                                            
-----------------------     ---------------------                               
Oz                          ounce (oz) of gold                                  
Dorothy                     "Everyman"                                          
Tin Woodsman                industrial worker                                   
Scarecrow                   farmer                                              
Cowardly Lion               William Jennings Bryan, populist                    
leader                                                                          
Munchkins                   the "little people"                                 
Yellow Brick Road           gold standard                                       
Toto                        a dog                                               

"In the story, Dorothy is swept away from Kansas in a tornado and arrives in a mysterious land inhabited by `little people.' Her landing kills the Wicked Witch of the East (bankers and capitalists), who `kept the munchkin people in bondage.'

"In the movie, Dorothy begins her journey through the Land of Oz wearing ruby slippers, but in the original story Dorothy's magical slippers are silver [a reference to the bimetallic system advocated by W.J. Bryan]. Along the way on the yellow brick (gold) road, she meets a Tin Woodsman who is `rusted solid' (a reference to the industrial factories shut down during the depression of 1893). The Tin Woodsman's real problem, however, is that he doesn't have a heart (the result of dehumanizing work in the factory that turned men into machines).

"Farther down the road Dorothy meets the Scarecrow, who is without a brain (the farmer, Baum suggests, doesn't have enough brains to recognize what his political interests are). [Shades of Marx's critique of peasants!] Next Dorothy meets the Cowardly Lion, an animal in need of courage (Bryan, with a load roar but little else). Together they go off to Emerald City (Washington) in search of what the wonderful Wizard of Oz (the President) might give them.

"When they finally get to Emerald City and meet the Wizard, he, like all good politicians, appears to be whatever people wish to see in him. He also plays on their fears.... But soon the Wizard is revealed to be a fraud--only a little old man `with a wrinkled face' who admits that he's been `making believe.' `I am just a common man,' he says. But he is a common man who can rule only by deceiving the people into thinking that he is more than he really is.

"`You're a humbug,' shouts the Scarecrow, and this is the core of Baum's message. Those forces that keep the farmer and worker down are manipulated by frauds who rule by deception and trickery; the President is powerful only as long as he is able to manipulate images and fool the people. [Politics doesn't change, does it?]

"Finally, to save her friends, Dorothy `melts' the Wicked Witch of the West (just as evil as the East), and the Wizard flies off in a hot-air balloon to a new life. The Scarecrow (farmer) is left in charge of Oz, and the Tin Woodsman is left to rule the East. This populist dream of the farmer and worker gaining political power was never to come true, and Baum seems to recognize this by sending the Cowardly Lion back into the forest, a recognition of Bryan's retreat from national politics.

"Dorothy is able to return to her home with the aid of her magical silver shoes, but on waking in Kansas, she realizes that they've fallen off, representing the demise of the silver coinage issue in American politics."

Source: Michael A. Genovese, _Los Angeles Times_, 19 March 1988. (He teaches Political Science and is director of the Peace Studies program at Loyola Marymount University, where I teach.)

It's amazing what I do to keep from writing my final exams.

Sincerely,

Jim Devine BITNET: jndf@lmuacad INTERNET: jdevine@lmumail.lmu.edu Econ. Dept., Loyola Marymount Univ., Los Angeles, CA 90045-2699 USA 310/338-2948 (off); 310/202-6546 (hm); FAX: 310/338-1950 if bitnet address fails, try jndf@lmuacad.bitnet




Date:         Mon, 9 May 1994 11:16:26 -0600                                    
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From:         "Jim Oberly, History Dept.,                                       
              U of Wisc-Eau Claire" <JOBERLY@CNSVAX.UWEC.EDU>                   
Subject:      Re: Reading L. Frank Baum                                         

[Moderator's Note:

Lowell Dyson of H-Rural observed that a posting forwarded from PEN-L last week lacked proper source attribution. This is often a problem in Internet communication where people forward messages along and sometimes neglect to supply full citations, or inadvertently delete the full reference. Anyway, Lowell's posting to H-POL, appended below, is relevant to this discussion.]

--Jim Oberly, H-Rural Moderator


*

I enjoyed your forward on H-Pol, but you should be aware that all of that material appeared originally in The Wizard of Oz as a Parable for Populism (or some similar title) published in the early 1960s by a graduate school friend of mine, Hank Littlefield, and it has been antologized several times since under his name, so presumably the copyright still applies. I don't know the background of the present article but it seems eminently fair as well as good scholarship to give Littlefield due credit.

Lowell


|LOWELL K. DYSON                                            |                   
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Date:         Wed, 11 May 1994 09:45:49 -0600                                   
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From:         "Jim Oberly, History Dept.,                                       
              U of Wisc-Eau Claire" <JOBERLY@CNSVAX.UWEC.EDU>                   
Subject:      More on Reading L. Frank Baum                                     

Moderator's Note--

Thanks to Dale Wharton for sending along an extended summary of Henry Littlefield's work on reading _The Wizard of Oz_, as crossposted from PEN-L. (Progressive Economists Network).

The submission comes from an economist, Salem Ajluni, and the attributions he includes at the beginning are an important part of any scholarly dialogue, whether on the Internet or off, as Lowell Dyson reminded us earlier this week.

--Jim Oberly, H-Rural Moderator



[From: IN%"dale@dale.cam.org" "Dale Wharton" 9-MAY-1994 04:56:30.24 [To: IN%"JOBERLY@CNSVAX.UWEC.EDU" "Jim Oberly, H-Rural editor" [Subj: Oz and Monetary History

 

What follows is a summary of Henry Littlefield's "The Wizard of Oz: Parable on Populism" from Michael patrick hearn ed _The Wizard of Oz_ (New York:Schocken Books, 1983) which is exerpted from lecture notes from a money and banking course I taught at Guilford College in the spring of 1990. Those interested in an economist's analysis can refer to Hugh Rockoff's "The 'Wizard of Oz' as a Monetary Allegory in _JPE_ (August 1990).

The Wizard of Oz and Its Relation to Monetary History

The Great Deflation lasted over 30 years and the entire period was characterized by the pauperization of American family farmers and sharecroppers. To combat consistently falling farm prices, farmers struggled to produce more and more to maintain incomes which led to further declines in farm prices and farm incomes. Millions were pushed off the land as they were unable to meet their debt obligations and were forced to give up their lands to settle their debts. These rural people flooded the cities to join the ranks of the proletariat throughout this period.

But also there was resistance to this process. Agricultural producers banded together to demand, among other things, democratic control over money such that its supply would be sufficient to meet their needs. Thus the farmers and other rural people supported inflationary policies to maintain their incomes. To do so they created the Populist movement which reached the apex of its power in the late 1880s and early 1890s. The Populists pushed a scheme to create a money system independent of gold- a fiat money- which the government (which they saw as the only power capable of challenging the "money trust" of New York, Chicago and St. Louis) would control and mold to meet the needs of farmers and producing classes generally. Thus they sought to circumvent the private banks who controlled the money supply and establish public control of money- democratic money. They ran the People's Party candidate William Jennings Bryan (who was also endorsed by the Democratic Party's candidate) in 1896 on the restricted platform of a bi-metallic system of money in which silver would augment gold as the monetary base.

The story "The Wizard of Oz" is the allegorical story of this period. Dorothy represents the good and simple farmers of the Midwest. Kansas is a dreary and gray place symbolizing the difficult lives of the farmers. Dorothy is swept into a new world by the forces of nature (a cyclone) and kills the wicked Witch of the East- who was a tyrant and detested by the Munchkins who are apparently yeoman farmers. The Witch of the East represents the Eastern banks. The silver slippers of the Witch become the possessions of Dorothy and she sets out to find the Wizard of Oz in the Emerald City (Washington, D.C.) who, she is told, will show her how to get back to Kansas.

On the way she first meets the Scarecrow who represents farmers and who has a low opinion of himself and his intelligence. He spouts the urban view of farmers who are seen as ignorant. He sets out with Dorothy to the Emerald City to seek a brain from the Wizard. On their way they come across the Tin Man who represents the urban working-class. The Witch of the East had put a spell on our former woodsman and every time he swung his axe, he would cut off a different part of his body. But in the land of Oz it was possible to repair such accidents by replacing body parts with tin parts. But the rain caused the parts to rust. In the Tin Man, Baum suggests the debilitating power of the banks in both making manufacturing difficult via tight money policies but also seems to be alluding to the Marxist notion of alienation. With each exertion the Tin Man lost his body (his self) and became less human and more part of the machine. Moreover, he feels he has lost his heart and the ability to feel. Baum (like Marx) seems to be saying that with wage labor, the working class creates the means for its continued enslavement by capital. Labor becomes complicit in its own exploitation through its creation of surplus value, part of which becomes the means of the capitalist to enlarge and expand the relations of capital.

The three set out on their journey down the Yellow Brick Road (representing the gold standard) toward the Emerald City and soon come across the Lion representing William Jennings Bryan whose roar is greater than his bite. Bryan was quite an orator but his co-optation by the Democrats and the watering down of Populist demands in the process are the allegory here. He strikes out at the Tin Man but hardly phases him paralleling the inability of Bryan to gain the support of the urban working-classes in the election of 1896. The Lion feels he lacks courage and the others suggest he join them on their journey to see the Wizard and the four set out toward the Emerald City. This is an allusion to Coxey's Army of tramps and indigents marching to Washington in 1894 to ask President Cleveland for work.

The Wizard sees them but appears to them each in a different form, an allusion to politicians' proclivity to be all things to all people. He is feared and respected by all in the land of Oz- including the witches- but he remains an enigma to them. In this Baum is speaking to the awe in which the common citizenry view the political center and its power (which derives from nothing more than their collective consent). The Wizard tells them that in order to grant their wish, they must kill the wicked Witch of the West who symbolizes the cruelty of nature and the perennial droughts which ravaged farmers in this period. Thus the politician passes the buck in effect telling them that their problem is with nature not with the political power. They cross the desert and confront many obstacles before Dorothy kills the witch by dousing her with water- that rarest and most valuable of resources which were it to be in sufficient supply, would alleviate much of the burden of the farmers.

Dorothy and company return to the Emerald City and discover the Wizard to be a phoney (i.e. a real politician). The Wizard is just a common man who informs the four that they had the ability within them to achieve their aims. This is to say that the people have the power to solve their solutions for themselves independent of any reliance on the government. The story ends with the Scarecrow in command of the Emerald City (alluding to the rise of a farmers' lobby in Washington), the Tin Man ruling in the West (an allusion to the westward spread of industrialization) and the Lion ends up ruling a forest full of lesser animals (an allusion to Bryan's defeat in national elections but his continued prominence in the political world of the jungle full of petty hacks and functionaries).

Dorothy, just before leaving Oz, is told by Glinda, the Witch of the South: "Your Silver Shoes will carry you over the desert...If you had known their power you could have gone back to your Aunt Em the very first day you came to this country. All you have to do is to knock the heels together three times and command the shoes to carry you wherever you wish to go." This is a direct reference to the ability of the people to control money- a democratic money- to serve their needs in any way they choose. It is the affirmation of the power of people to control their own destiny. Dorothy finds her way back to Kansas but loses Silver Slippers on the way which is Baum's way of poking fun at the Populists for whom silver became an end in itself. Dorothy finds reality in Kansas less the silver shoes and perhaps minus the illusion of money in its silver form and the illusions that the solution to the problems of the people of Kansas are to be found in money.

Salem Ajluni Department of Economics Siena College Loudonville, NY 12211 e-mail: Ajluni@Siena.Bitnet




Date:         Thu, 12 May 1994 11:20:00 -0600                                   
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From:         "Jim Oberly, History Dept.,                                       
              U of Wisc-Eau Claire" <JOBERLY@CNSVAX.UWEC.EDU>                   
Subject:      Re: Oz                                                            

[From: IN%"LKDYSON%ERS.BITNET@VTBIT.CC.VT.EDU" "RDRLIST" 12-MAY-1994 08:24:51.21 [To: IN%"Jim <JOBERLY@CNSVAX.uwec.edu" [Subj: Oz

In all of this discussion of the Wizard of Oz, let's remember that if there was an allegory, Baum didn' let it get in the way of telling a smashing good story. As he said, it "was written solely to pleasure childrenof today."

If the allegory had been as obvious as recent writers say -- then why wasn't it pointed out before 1962-64?

Which gets me to all the net traffic which this has generated. Henry Littlefie ld, scholar, Columbia football tackle, Marine veteran, and a true gentle-man, developed this thesis in 1962, tested and honed it, and published "The Wizard of Oz: A Parable of Populism in the Spring 1964 issue of _American Quarterly_.

A lot of teachers like myselfused the article, as it was intended

  • tongue in cheek, and students loved the irony (as much as my other favorite device, Ari Hogenboom's article on the beard factor on why the North won the Civil War).

But maybe students are more realistic than academics. By the 1980s, a whole slew of professors were knocking off Hank's gentle article and putting a hard edge on it of all sorts of ideological reason -- ing the _NY Times, Boston Globe, SF Chronicle, LA Times, and Utne Reader_ among others. Not for fun any more, but -- dare I say it -- for PC. They really didn't have anything to add to Hank's wonderful little premise, but they ground on.

I forst read Ox over 50 years ago, and I still find it a delight.

I have belonged to the International Wizard of Oz Club (known among those few of us who find both Ox and Communism as fantasies as the "Ozintern". It is analogous to the Baker Stree Irregulars for you know who), and I am offended by the lack of respect paid to Littlefield.

May I suggest that those of you who are interested in seeking reality on this subject, read Michael Gessel, "Tale of a Parable," _Baum Bugle_ (a horrible title for a first rate scholarly, but stil fun journal), Vol. 36(Spring 1992), p. 19-23, and Littlefield's amiable response in the same journal.

Now, for those of you who are not sick of the whole subject, and who retain a sense of wonder, The International Wizard of Oz Club publishes the very-well- done _Bugle_ 3 times a year, send only $10 to Fred M. Meyer, 220 North 11th St. Escanabe, MI 49828

lkd


|LOWELL K. DYSON                                            |                   
|ECONOMIC RESEARCH SERVICE                                  |                   
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Date:         Sat, 14 May 1994 09:03:11 -0600                                   
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From:         "Jim Oberly, History Dept.,                                       
              U of Wisc-Eau Claire" <JOBERLY@CNSVAX.UWEC.EDU>                   
Subject:      Re: Oz                                                            

[From: IN%"CAMPBELLD%LYNX.APSU.EDU@UICVM.UIC.EDU" "H-NET (Richard Jensen)" 13-MAY-1994 13:24:56.85 [To: IN%"h-rural@uicvm.uic.edu" [Subj: Oz was always a political kingdom

The Wizard of Oz WAS seen as a political parable by the people of the time. Proof: a 1908 Harpers Magazine cover on publisher/politician William Randolph Hearst as the scarecrow, mired in mud, with the caption "The Wizard of Ooze."

While none of the many other OZ books are political, Baum did write a non-Oz novel about the Progressives.

Richard Jensen U of Illinois-Chicago u08946@uicvm,uic.edu




Date:         Mon, 16 May 1994 11:35:25 -0600                                   
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From:         "Jim Oberly, History Dept.,                                       
              U of Wisc-Eau Claire" <JOBERLY@CNSVAX.UWEC.EDU>                   
Subject:      Times Square Tin Man (was RE: Oz)                                 

All our recent talk of the meaning of the "Wizard of Oz" prompts me to share my favorite New York scene of last weekend. It just goes to show the workings of the rural-to-urban cultural exchange:

--location: Times Sq. subway station, waiting for the uptown IRT --time: Saturday night, after the Broadway theaters let out --protagonist: guy dressed up as the Tin Man, complete with

battleship gray skin, oil funnel for a hat, and unthreatening ax --quote (on placard): "The Tin Man is rusty. Money will

oil his system. Won't you please help?"

Jim Oberly, H-Rural Moderator




Date:         Tue, 17 May 1994 09:02:34 -0600                                   
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From:         "Jim Oberly, History Dept.,                                       
              U of Wisc-Eau Claire" <JOBERLY@CNSVAX.UWEC.EDU>                   
Subject:      Re: Oz                                                            

[From: IN%"LKDYSON%ERS@UICVM.UIC.EDU" "Lowell Dyson" 17-MAY-1994 06:28:32.64 [To: IN%"H-Rural Rural & Agricultural History discussion list <H-RURAL@UICV M>" [Subj: RE: Oz

> [From: IN%"CAMPBELLD%LYNX.APSU.EDU@UICVM.UIC.EDU" "H-NET (Richard Jensen)" > 13-MAY-1994 13:24:56.85 > [To: IN%"h-rural@uicvm.uic.edu" > [Subj: Oz was always a political kingdom > > > The Wizard of Oz WAS seen as a political parable by the > people of the time. Proof: a 1908 Harpers Magazine cover on > publisher/politician William Randolph Hearst as the > scarecrow, mired in mud, with the caption "The Wizard of > Ooze." > While none of the many other OZ books are political, > Baum did write a non-Oz novel about the Progressives. > > Richard Jensen > U of Illinois-Chicago > u08946@uicvm,uic.edu

The second book, -The Land of Oz- has a broad (no pun intended), and I do mean broaaaad, parody of the women's rights movement. Curious because LFB's Mother- in-Law was Maude Gage.

lowell


|LOWELL K. DYSON                                            |                   
|ECONOMIC RESEARCH SERVICE                                  |                   
|U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE       202-219-0787          |                   
|1301 NEW YORK AVENUE, NW 932         202-219-0391 FAX      |                   
|WASHINGTON, DC 20005-4788            LKDYSON@ERS.BITNET    |                   



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Posted: 7 Jul 1994

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