The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Summary and Analysis of Chapters XX-XXIV


The Tin Woodman created a ladder and one by one they ascended the china wall and sat on top. All were in awe of what they saw below: a tiny china town decked out in bright colors. Strangest of all were the little people that lived there; there were milkmaids and princesses and princes, all dressed brightly and no taller than Dorothy's knee.

They lowered themselves down into the china town. They trod carefully but nevertheless spooked a china cow that kicked over its stool and pail - and the milkmaid who was milking it. The milkmaid was furious, for her cow's leg was broken off and she yelled that she would have to have it glued back on again. Dorothy was upset at this and told her companions to be as careful as possible.

A little princess saw them coming and tried to run away. Dorothy followed after her but the little china girl screamed for them to not follow her because if she ran away she might fall and break herself. Then, she would have to be repaired and would likely be ugly. She pointed to Mr. Joker, a clown who had been broken innumerable times and was not as pretty. Mr. Joker made fun of Dorothy, calling her prim, and the princess scolded him for his disrespect. Dorothy suggested she take the china princess home with her. The china princess told Dorothy and her friends that they were happy in their china land because when they were taken out into the other world they stiffened up and could not move. Dorothy did not want to make her unhappy so the companions left as quickly as possible.

On the other side of the wall was a disagreeable country. It was wild and gloomy. They came upon an opening in the wood that was filled with hundreds of beasts of all different types. The Cowardly Lion realized they were having an animal meeting. The animals saw him and invited him into the circle. The Lion asked what the trouble was, and they explained that there was a huge monster in the forest that resembled a massive spider. It was terrorizing the animals and there were no other lions left alive to help destroy it. The Lion asked if they would let him rule over them if he killed the beast, and they readily agreed.

The Lion walked through the trees to where the monster was sleeping. It was truly terrifying, but the Lion saw its thin neck and sprung upon it, snapping his head from its body. The animals were immensely pleased when he returned victorious. The Lion promised to return after he had helped Dorothy get home.

The travelers left the forest and came to a steep hill. They heard voices that forbade them from coming any further. These voices belonged to the Hammer-Heads, a strange people with stout bodies, no arms and heads that were flat on top. Their necks could extend, so they used their heads to forcefully bump The Scarecrow down the hill when he continued forward. The same happened to the Lion, and they despaired at what to do. The Tin Woodman remembered the Winged Monkeys and Dorothy called upon them for her third and final command. They arrived and carried the companions away from the strange folk.

The country of the Quadlings was "rich and happy" and they found food and shelter at a farmhouse. Dorothy asked how far away Glinda's castle was, and they learned it was fairly close. They thus continued along their way until they reached the beautiful castle and asked to see Glinda.

After given time to wash up, Dorothy and her friends were admitted before the young and beautiful Witch of the South. Dorothy told the kindly Witch her story, and Glinda replied that she could help her but that she needed the Golden Cap in exchange. Dorothy was pleased to agree and handed it to her. Glinda took the cap and said she would use the three commands thusly: the Monkeys would take the Scarecrow back to the Emerald City to rule, the Tin Woodman would be taken to the land of the Winkies to rule, and the Lion would be taken back to the forest to rule over the beasts. She would then give the Cap to the King of the Winged Monkeys so his people would be free.

Finally, she told Dorothy that the way to get back to Kansas was simply to knock the heels of her silver shoes together three times and she would be taken wherever she wanted to go in three steps. Dorothy was overjoyed, but she had tearful farewells with her dear friends. She picked up Toto, clapped her heels three times, and said "Take me home to Aunt Em!"

She whirled in the air and found herself rolling on the grass of the Kansas prairie. Before her was the new farmhouse her Uncle Henry had built. He was milking the cows and Toto ran joyously to him. Dorothy realized the shoes had fallen off on the journey and were lost forever in the desert.

Aunt Em came out of the house to water the cabbages and instead saw Dorothy. She exclaimed with joy and grasped the girl tightly, asking her where she had been. Dorothy replied that she had come from the Land of Oz but that she was glad to be home again.


After a few more adventures Dorothy is finally able to achieve her greatest wish of returning home to Kansas to her Aunt and Uncle. Unlike the movie, Dorothy was not dreaming - she had truly gone to Oz; although Baum did not know it at the time of publication, the open-endedness of this novel would allow him to write many more to satiate the literary desires of American children. In these last chapters Baum demonstrates both his inventiveness and his familiarity with fairy tales and myths. The Hammer-Heads were a pure creative invention of his; they were to be viewed as a mocking synonym for stupid people, similar to the phrase "blockhead". Denslow's illustration gives them a practically no forehead, contributing to their stupid appearance. In her annotations to the Oxford World's Classics edition of the novel, Susan Wolstenholme calls this whole episode "an extended pun" because "the adventurers finally proceed literally over their heads." It is indicative of Baum's delight in literalizing a figure of speech. The silver shoes' ability to let their wearer travel great distances, however, is derived from that classic idea found in legends and myths; the "seven league shoes" are a good example, as well as the winged shoes of Mercury.

One of the most famous and oft-cited works of criticism on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is Henry Littlefield's "The Wizard of Oz: Parable on Populism" which discusses how the work incorporated Baum's experience and interest in the Populist movement. He begins by noting Baum's life in South Dakota and how the romantic idea of the frontier had faded into a grim reality of what life was like on the dry plains. The period in which he lived there saw the rise of the Populist Party, and when he moved to Chicago he was surrounded by reform elements. Baum marched for William Jennings Bryan in the campaign of 1896. Bryan's famous "Cross of Gold" speech, which argued in favor of bimetalism - a monetary standard that includes both gold and silver - in order to aid struggling workers and farmers. Baum also witnessed first hand the effects of the depression. Although Baum was not a political activist, Littlefield and other scholars see him as being concerned with writing stories that addressed the issues of the day.

Littlefield sees the original Oz book as possessing unexpected depth because it was a children's story with a "symbolic allegory implicit within its story line and characterizations." He "delineated a Midwesterner's vibrant and ironic portrait of this country as it entered the twentieth century." Baum introduces the bleak Kansas prairie, Old Testament-like in its severity. Nature may be cruel but it also has some benefits, particularly in that it kills the Wicked Witch of the East. This depiction of the Witch's treatment of the Munchkins is "a Populist view of the evil Eastern influences on honest labor which could hardly be more pointed." The Tin Woodman's situation resembles that of Eastern workers after the depression – motionless, useless, devoid of emotion.

The pervasive optimism and innocence of the novel make it classically Midwestern and American, according to Littlefield. Dorothy is a "Miss Everyman" full of good and charity. She only wants to return home. More complex, however, are her silver shoes, which Littlefield sees as symbolizing the silver issue of the 1890s. The Lion represents William Jennings Bryan himself; he could make no impact on tin and is not actually cowardly. In regards to silver, "Baum delivers Dorothy from the world of adventure and fantasy to the real world of heartbreak and desolation through the power of Silver. It represents a real force in a land of illusion..."

The Emerald City represents the national Capital and the Wizard is any president from Grant to McKinley. He comes from Omaha and "symbolizes the American criterion for leadership – he is able to be everything to everybody." Later in the novel when Dorothy encounters the Wicked Witch of the West, it is clear that Baum is using the silver issue again to make clear that goodness can help people protect themselves against evil, but ignorance of their capabilities cannot preclude such evil from imposing itself on them. Littlefield also notes that water, such a precious resource, is what kills the Witch. Overall, the novel has given readers "a gentle and friendly Midwestern critique of the Populist rationale" and demonstrates that the farmers and laborers, represented by the characters of the Scarecrow, Lion, and Tin Woodman, are guided by delusion and seek answers but actually carry within themselves the solutions to their own problems if they could actually be objective.

No matter the interpretation of the text, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz concludes with each character getting what they most desired, having gained each position and attribute through pluck, skill and determination, elucidating Baum's inarguable themes of self-reliance and simple virtue.