The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Book summary

Lyman Frank Baum

Overview

About

The wonderful wizard of Oz was written by L. Frank Baum in the year 1900, and it was illustrated by W.W. Denslow. Frank Baum had set out to create a modern fairy tale that would be distinctly American. The book has certainly had a profound impact on the world of literature, and it remains a beloved children's book. It is understood that the author drew inspiration from a variety of sources including the fairy tales by Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, the 1893 Chicago’s world fair, and Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

After its publication, the book has been ascribed deep symbolism and is touted to represent profound ideas that prevailed at the time of its writing. It has been linked to populism which was just beginning to wane at the end of the 19th century. According to an article written by Henry Littlefield in 1968, Dorothy represents the American people that are fooled and misled by politicians and other leaders, that are represented in the book as the Wizard of Oz. Additionally, it is also said to support bimetallism, which was a policy position that Frank Baum had himself favoured. In this analogy, the road of yellow was thought to represent gold and the silver shoes represented silver, and they together led to the Emerald City which was green in colour like money.

Perhaps the most important reason why this continues to retain such an important place in pool culture is because of the film adaptation of the book made in 1939 starring Judy Garland.

Plot Summary

Dorothy is a young orphan girl that lives on the Kansas prairies with her adoptive parents, Uncle Henry and Aunt Em. Dorothy and her small dog, Toto, are transported to the land of Oz by a cyclone that lifts her entire house and deposits it right on top of the Wicked Witch of the East. By killing the Wicked Witch, Dorothy sets free the Munchkins and earns the goodwill of the Good Witch of the North. Dorothy learns that Oz is divided into four quadrants, and each quadrant is ruled by a witch, while the witches of the north and south are good, the witches of the east and west are wicked. In the centre lies the Emerald City and there sits the Wizard of Oz, a sorcerer of significant repute. Dorothy wishes to return home but Oz is surrounded by a desert that no one has ever crossed. The Good Witch believes that Dorothy can only seek help from Oz and directs her to keep to the yellow path to reach the city. She also gives Dorothy the silver shoes of the Witch of the East and kisses her on the forehead to keep her safe. Dorothy sets out to Emerald City but on the way, she encounters three companions that want to see Oz for their wishes. The first to join the adventure is the Scarecrow stuffed with straw who wishes for brains so that he may be better at his work. The second is the Tin Woodman, who wishes for a heart so thathe may learn to love again the woman he had intended to marry when he was a man of flesh. And the last to join is the Cowardly Lion who wants the wizard to grant him courage so that he may stop feeling afraid. Ironically, all the characters possess the qualities that they believe they lack.

Upon reaching the famed city, Oz meets each one of the companions and makes of them the same condition, that he would be willing to grant them their wishes if the Wicked Witch of the West was killed and proof brought before him. Although Dorothy and her companions have no plan of killing the witch, they still set out west.

The witch sees them enter her land from a long ways away and sends many beasts to stop their advance and to strike them dead. All her plans fail until she uses the Golden Cap to summon the Winged Monkeys who capture the Lion and Dorothy and dispose of the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow. The witch is afraid of Dorothy because of the magical shoes that she wears and because the witch cannot harm Dorothy because she is protected by the power of the Good Witch of the North.

The witch uses Dorothy’s innocence to enslave her and plots to steal her shoes, but she only manages to capture one of the shoes. The theft enrages Dorothy, and she hurls a bucket of water at the witch and this makes the witch melt. Dorothy liberates the Winkies that had been ruled by the Wicked Witch and with their help, she frees and restores all her friends. Before they set back out for the Emerald City, Dorothy takes away the Golden Cap that had belonged to the Wicked Witch. They make use of the Golden Cap to travel to the city. In the meeting with Oz, they come to find out that Oz is not a powerful wizard but an old ventriloquist and balloonist from Omaha. He explains to them that he ended up in Oz when he lost control of his balloon. He attempts to help them in having their wants fulfiled.

Oz and Dorothy build a balloon together but Dorothy fails to get on it just at the last instant, and so Oz leaves with the balloon. They all travel south with Dorothy to the country of the Quadlings, where the Good Witch of the South, Glinda, rules. Their journey is full of peril, but in the end, Glinda helps Dorothy use the silver shoes in exchange for the Golden Cap. Dorothy travels back to her home in Kansas where she is warmly received by her Aunt Em.

  • Author(s)

    Lyman Frank Baum
  • Publication date

    1900

  • Language

    English

  • Classification

    Children's literature, Fantasy Fiction

  • Pages

    272

Keywords

Literature, Fantasy

Publisher

George M. Hill Company