The Wizard of Oz: A Political Allegory of Populism

Essay by EJAC09High School, 10th gradeA, September 2007

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The wonderful wizard of Oz: a beloved children's book to some, a political allegory of populism to others. The author of the book, L Frank Baum, was a very political figure, and it is heavily believed today, that many motifs and symbols correspond directly with life and the populism in the late eighteen hundreds.

The first notable symbol of populism, is in the title; The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Right before Baum had written this, McKinley had just beaten William Jennings Bryan in the election of 1896. Baum, who had voted for the populist candidate Jennings Bryan, was outraged when Republican McKinley prevailed. Although the Wonderful Wizard of Oz has a positive connotation, when you watch the movie, it turns out that the Wizard of Oz isn't such a great being. He is revealed as a fraud, and nothing better than Dorothy and her comrades. This shows Baum's opinion towards McKinley, who was perceived as being such a great guy during the elections, but turned out to be nothing better than any civilian.

Each individual character represents a group or individual in the 1890s. The Lion for example, is portrayed as a brave, fierce beast, with a loud roar. However it soon becomes evident that he is none such things. The lion instead is cowardly, just as Bryan got crushed in the election, despite his fierce and powerful speeches. The scarecrow, which in the story showed a man with a dire need for help, represented the Midwestern farmer who was constantly requiring attention from the government. This is shown in a few scenes, where the scarecrow continuously needs to be stuffed with straw, or have a fire put out. However, he showed that the farmer needed sympathy in a supportive way, by making a scarecrow that just needed...