- no.5, pp.211-225, 1998-10-01
L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz has been widely read since its first publication in 1900 and variously interpreted by critics. However, most interpretations have focused on Dorothy's journey to find her way back home, not on the journey of the male characters, ie., the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion. Unlike Dorothy's journey, which was accidentally started by the tornado, the males' journeys seem to have been started for reasons. These "males" think they have to meet the Wizard of Oz to ask him for a brain, a heart, and courage, respectively. The examination of the above motivations will lead us to consider that there are two types of journeys in the story.The two different types often have been confusingly discussed as though there were only a sigle journey. However, from the viewpoint of gender, we should discuss them separately. First, Dorothy's journey is forced on her by the tornado, not initiated through her own will, and her quest is closely related to the notion of female sphere, home. In addition, even while Dorothy is in Kansas in the opening pages, she is portrayed as an innocent child full of mirth, in contrast to her adopted family who are portrayed as exhausted and dried up due to the climate and their hard lives as pioneers. Meanwhile, the male characters think they lack essential elements in their personalities, which makes them less than whole. Their compulsive desire to become whole can be explained by their lots in the story: they eventually become rulers in society. Therefore, Dorothy as an innocent, fearless, joyful and thoughtful girl is dispatched to the imaginary land to help the uneasy males seek and establish their gender identity.As Neil Earle points out, the atmosphere in The Wizard of Oz reflects the prevailing unease in the proto-modern world of the 1890s of America. It was the period when rapid social and technological change was reaching epidemic proportions, and farmers and urban workers suffered from recurring economic depressions due to the unregulated system of capitalism.Seen from the perspective of gender, the ailing male characters embody the uneasiness of masculinity in modern patriarchal America at the turn of the century. The ideal manhood of early pioneers in the woodlands and later on the prairies which had been embodied by "American Adam" in the New World "Eden" was no longer wholesome because the rapid industrialization and urbanization caused a change in the conception of ideal masculinity. This masculinity crisis can be clearly seen in the complaints of the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion.During the same period, America was pursuing an expansionist policy on the international front because the American frontier had closed at home. In other words, the expansion of American territory and its economy heavily depended on the exploitation of ethnic and cultural "others" both inside and outside the country. It was no coincidence that the Colombian Exposition was held in Chicago in 1893. As was shown in the various glittering exhibitions in the urban wonderland called the "White City," this world fair was the landmark of the spreading American dream. Three years before the fair was the gruesome massacre of Native Americans of the Sioux tribe at Wounded Knee. Five years after the fair, America expanded its territory by defeating Spain in the Spanish-American War.Obviously, the manhood of the Wizard of Oz is closely connected with his domination over the Emerald City. In the same way, the "manhood" of the American empire was on display in the sparkling exhibitions of the Columbian Exposition. Taking America's exploitative and expansionist attitude toward "others" into consideration, the dazzling wonderland can be seen as "deceptive and illusionary" like the wizard's magic after all.As a journalist, Baum was naturally alert to both international and domestic affairs. Moreover, he had moved to Chicago just before the world fair. How he felt about American civilization can be easily imagined from the words of the Wizard of Oz when his identity is finally disclosed as a humbug. The Wizard apologetically said, "I am a good man, though I am a bad wizard." Baum as a liberal Easterner still believed, or tried to believe, in the manifest destiny of America, but he must have been beginning to feel uneasy about America's masculine identity.