The Wizard of Oz Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

The Wizard of Oz Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

The Ruby Slippers

The Ruby Slippers are charged with a social-economic symbolism that is dependent upon what takes place in Kansas to provide proper context. Miss Gulch specifically threatens to take the farm away from the family unless Dorothy agrees to hand over Toto for what can only be assumed will end with his being put to sleep. This threat situates the value of the farm as equitable with the value of the garden she claims Toto invaded. Clearly, only someone enjoying greater wealth than those around her could possibly arrive at this conclusion with flies in the face in the face of the spirit of social collaboration marking the years of the Great Depression. When Glinda transfers ownership of the slippers to Dorothy as a result of the nine-tenths laws of possession, it is a direct repudiation of Miss Gulch’ elitist and plutocratic theories of economics. Gulch threatens to take what is not hers in Kansas, but her counterpart in Oz has watch while what is rightly hers is given to Dorothy who would seem not to have any such claims to such rights.

The Rainbow

The rainbow is a symbol of magic in the real world that implicitly extends a promise that there are other amazing things out there in the world to discover. The magic of the rainbow is actually science, of course, but the very concept of colors briefly stretching across the sky is science at its most magical. If such a thing as an enormous band of colors suddenly stretching to the horizon and then just as suddenly disappearing isn’t magical enough on some level to fire the imagination of what other wonders may be found on the other side, what possibly could be?

The Munchkins

It is clear that the Wicked Witches of Oz shared much the same socio-political view toward her superiority over others that Miss Gulch demonstrates back in Kansas. The Munchkins waste no time devising celebrations to commemorate the gruesome death of her sister and shrink in terror when the evil from the West interrupts the partying. The songs, fashion, and style of the Munchkins also strongly indicate that they choose to live under a political system that places a much greater premium on equality that that shared by the green sister. Thus, the Munchkins are symbols of working class America rather than the wealthy elite or the seamier side of its low-income underclass

The Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion

Dorothy’s three companions all set out for the Emerald City in hopes that the Wizard can grant them what they either honestly believe they lack or have come to believe as result of so many others telling them so. Either way, the symbolic point is that none of them actually need what they want the Wizard to give them because actually had it all along. Call it low self-esteem or the effect of the class system denying opportunity to individuals because of inherited prejudices about the collective. Whatever the root cause, they are ultimately all symbols of the underestimation of the common man and his endless capacity to surprise those who do estimating.


Toto is not just an actual dog, he is a metaphor for the dogs of humanity who are constantly overlooked and underappreciated by everyone in the world except those few who love them. Toto divulges the depths of wickedness in the cold heart of Miss Gulch. Toto exposes on his first day or two in town what none of none of the other inhabitants in all of Oz have been able to do for as long as the Wizard has ruled: that he’s just a sad little charlatan hiding behind a curtain. Toto is the spirit of the free press which occasionally has fend off arguments that it is a threat to freedom rather than an essential player Toto is the whistleblower who reports fraud. Toto is the POW who makes his way back across enemy lines to deliver information crucial for defeating the enemy. Toto is the guy in the laboratory who accidentally knocks over a beaker filled with chemicals and discovers the cure for cancer. Toto is Tom Joad when a cop is beating up a guy.

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