"No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home."
This quote, which contains the phrase "There is no place like home", made famous by the film adaptation of the novel, exemplifies Dorothy's state of mind, a major theme of the text, and the simple, rural values that Baum espoused. It might seem strange that Dorothy wants to return to the bleak and lifeless Kansas prairie - especially in light of the wonders of Oz - but she does indeed understand that this fairyland is not her home and she has obligations to her aunt and uncle. She is not swayed by the land of Oz to the extent that she wants to reside there; she understands her roots and her identity lie back in Kansas. The quote also represents a major theme, which is that people have an allegiance to their homeland and should strive to do right by it. This is one of Baum's personal values. As an American, and one who so profited by his country through the opportunities it provided for him, Baum reinforces the understanding that being true to where you came from is a virtue.
"Brains are the only thing worth having in this world, no matter whether one is a crow or a man."
The Scarecrow believes himself lacking brains and thus strives to attain them from the Wizard. He touts the significance of intelligence and argues with the Tin Woodman that they are more important than a heart. As with the Woodman and the Lion, it is immediately apparent to the reader that the Scarecrow does indeed possess what he believes he lacks. He frequently finds the solution to particularly vexing situations and helps himself and his friends get out of danger. This is first made obvious when he figures out how the travelers can get across the great ditch in the middle of the forest. The Scarecrow's quick thinking continues all the way to the end of the novel. His wisdom allows him to be made ruler of the Emerald City after the Wizard departs in the balloon intended for himself and Dorothy. Even at the end, the Scarecrow does not understand that he already has brains, so the Wizard enacts a bit of subterfuge by placing a "brain" made of bran, pins and needles inside his head. Only then does the Scarecrow believe himself smart.
"When I was in love I was the happiest man on earth; but no one can love who has not a heart..."
The Tin Woodman, like his friend the Scarecrow, believes himself lacking a major component of what makes a person human - a heart. He tells a sad tale of how he was once human and loved a girl, but the Witch's evil actions led to him losing his human body and becoming a man made of tin. The Woodman desires to procure a heart and go back to loving his girl, and has resolved to ask the Wizard to help him. Of course, immediately after he explains his plan it becomes clear to the reader that he does indeed have a heart. He steps on a beetle and cries profusely, but thinks he is doing so to compensate for not having a heart. The Wizard is forced to kindly trick him as well, placing a little silk heart within his tin breast. After attaining this heart, the Tin Woodman does not return right away to his sweetheart but brings his compassion to bear on the position of leader of the Winkies. Also significant in this quote is Baum's espousal of the value and virtue of love; this is a ubiquitous theme in fairy tales and children's books.
"...brains do not make one happy, and happiness is the best thing in the world."
Although very few people would deem The Wonderful Wizard of Oz a complicated or profound book, it does have deeper themes and poses piquant questions to discerning readers. This exchange between the Tin Woodman and Scarecrow actually proffers an interesting debate: which is better, brains or a heart? Does having brains make one unhappy? Is it better to live life according to the emotions rather than the intellect? Does ignorance really equal bliss? Dorothy, a stand-in for the reader, does not have an answer to her friends' discussion. Both face obstacles and suffer at the hands of the Wicked Witch of the West. Both provide assistance and comfort to their friends. Both eventually end up with similar positions, with the Scarecrow leading the Emerald City and the Tin Woodman presiding over the Winkies, the Witch's former slaves. Baum seems to be making a case for both brains and love. As a children's book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is helping to instill such traits in impressionable readers.
"Only a mouse!" cried the little animal, indignantly; "why, I am a Queen - the Queen of all the field-mice!"
As in many fairytales and children's books, it is sometimes not the size of a person (or animal) that matters. Dorothy, as the protagonist of the novel, is young, small, and female. She does not have any royal or magical traits and does not seem to evince any sense of heightened intelligence or capability. She is thus an everywoman and a blank canvas for children to project themselves upon, as well as a reminder that normal and unremarkable children can be heroes. It is she who kills both evil witches and brings about better lives for her friends. The Queen of the Field-Mice is another indication that power and virtue lie in even the smallest of creatures. The Scarecrow and Tin Woodman are initially surprised that the tiny creature they saved from the wildcat is a queen, but they are quickly convinced of her power. The Queen demonstrates her worth later in the text by helping to save the Cowardly Lion from death by the heady smell of the poppies.
"I never killed anything, willingly," she sobbed; "and even if I wanted to, how could I kill the Wicked Witch? If you, who are Great and Terrible, cannot kill her yourself, how do you expect me to do it?"
Dorothy is undoubtedly responsible for killing both the Wicked Witch of the East and the Wicked Witch of the West. The former is killed by the cyclone dropping the farmhouse on her and the latter is killed by a bucket of water that melts her. Dorothy is dismayed that she is held responsible, even though she rid Oz of two evil sorceresses. True, she did not mean to kill either of them - both deaths were accidental. However, the Munchkins inform her that the deeds were accomplished regardless of Dorothy's intention; the end result is the same. This is a sobering lesson regarding the unintended consequences of one's actions. Of course, as this is a children's book, it is not entirely useful to probe deeper regarding the issue of the deaths of the witches; they are unambiguously evil and have no redeeming qualities, and their deaths free the Munchkins and the Winkies from slavery, so within the world of Oz the deaths were victories.
"We dare not harm this little girl," he said to them, "for she is protected by the Power of Good, and that is greater than the Power of Evil."
Like most other fairytales and children's books, there is a clear delineation between right and wrong and good and evil in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Baum even sets up the dichotomy in the simplest way by having two Good witches and two Wicked witches. It could not be any clearer. The Good witches are completely pure and benevolent and the Wicked witches are evil and greedy. There is no ambiguity present. Good and evil oppose each other in the land of Oz, with the Witch of the North explaining that she was glad Dorothy's house landed on the Witch of the East because she herself was not powerful enough to combat her enemy. The Wizard is also very aware of the real and formidable power of the Wicked witches, and prevails upon Dorothy to rid himself of the remaining one. Baum's simple binary is also present in the mark Dorothy receives on her forehead, which signifies that she too is Good and cannot be harmed by Evil.
For they saw, standing in just the spot the screen had hidden, a little, old man, with a bald head and wrinkled face, who seemed to be as much surprised as they were.
In this moment Dorothy and her companions discover that the Wizard they once believed was a great head, beautiful woman, terrible creature, and burning ball of fire is no more than a small old man from Omaha, Nebraska, who took advantage of the gullibility of the Munchkin people to propel himself into a position of power. He is, as the Scarecrow deems him, a "humbug" and a charlatan. While not evil or malicious, he still tricked people into believing he was something he was not. He is afraid of those with true powers, such as the Witches, and has to compel Dorothy and her friends to do the thing he could not. This is startling to the travelers; while they are not entirely angry, they are certainly dismayed to find out the truth. Thankfully the Wizard turns out to have a virtuous heart and a desire to help, and he, using a little bit more trickery, helps the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Lion embrace the things they always desired - brains, a heart, and courage, respectively. The Wizard proves unable to help Dorothy but provides her with the opportunity to help herself.
"Oh no, my dear; I'm really a very good man; but I'm a very bad Wizard, I must admit."
The Wizard explains why he instructed Dorothy and her friends to kill the Wicked Witch of the West - he was full of fear and knew he could not do it himself since he lacked real power. This prompts Dorothy to tell him that he is a bad man, to which he replies that he is only a bad Wizard. His fraudulence is seen by one critic as a commentary on the state of American men at the time of Baum's writing - phony and ineffectual. The Wizard also acts as a sort of father figure to Dorothy, but he will eventually be replaced by the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Lion, who guide her through the most difficult part of her journey home and provide he with intelligence, love, and bravery to see her through to the end. The Wizard does prove to be a good man in that, even after he is exposed, he uses his trickery to convince the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and Lion to believe they have brains, heart and courage.
Then the beasts bowed down to the Lion as their King, and he promised to come back and rule over them as soon as Dorothy was safely on her way to Kansas.
The Lion is afraid that he does not possess courage and decides he needs to ask the Wizard for it. Like his friends, he does indeed possess this trait already but is unaware. Also like his friends, he takes on a new and significant role after his momentous visit to Oz, where the Wizard cannily "gifts" him his long-desired courage. One of his first acts as a newly courageous creature is to help out the council of animals by killing the terrible monster that has ruled their forest. They agree to make the Lion their leader, which he comes to back to fulfill as soon as he sees Dorothy off to Kansas. Lions have traditionally been viewed in myth and legend as powerful animals that have leadership privileges over others animals. Their image has been used by human rulers to convey might and gravity. The Lion here is no different; he proves himself noble, generous, and, yes, courageous.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
There is the traditional narrative quest motif in this story. There is the classic search for information. Dorothy needs to get home, and various items that happen to be human traits. The themes are more complex than the standard fairy tale....