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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Previous Next
Digital History ID 3129

 

Is the Wizard of Oz just a fairy tale about a girl from Kansas transported to a colorful land of witches and munchkins? Or does the story have a political dimension? Scholars still disagree about whether L. Frank Baum's great children's story was about the collapse of the Populist movement.

Henry Littlefield, a teacher in Pebble Beach, California, was the first person to suggest that the story was about Populism. He argued that:

  • the Scarecrow (who has no brain) represented the farmers;
  • the Tin Man (who had once been a human wood-cutter, but chopped his body parts off and replaced them with metal) represented industrial workers;
  • the Cowardly Lion represented northern reformers;
  • the Emerald City represented Wall Street, greenback colored; and
  • the Wizard represented the Money Power, whose influence rests on manipulation and illusion.

Littlefield interpreted the yellow brick road as representing gold and Dorothy's silver slippers (which were changed in the movie to ruby slippers) as representing the Populist call for backing the dollar with silver. Oz was the abbreviation for ounces, a reference to the Populist call for the government to coin.

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