Carsen on the values that each group had

Carsen ThompsonAPUSHDecember 19, 2017Oldenburg AcademyOz     While at the surface “The Wizard of Oz” may appear to merely exist as a fairy tale, various speculations about the story’s true depth have been made based on the time period in which it was written and various context clues.  “Populism” is a political ideology in which its followers consider only themselves and other Populists to be “the people.”  It was quite prevalent around 1900 (the year that L. Frank Baum wrote the novel) and around the year 1964 many began to believe that Baum left quite obvious hints of Populism in “The Wizard of Oz.”  While it is clear that Baum’s primary intention was to create an entertaining story for children, within the story, there lies symbolism and analogy.     The supporters of the Populist movement were considered the “plain people,” mostly farmers and factory workers, who were deprived of power because of the unequal distribution of power at the time.  Their goal was to make this distribution more fair by taking power from bankers and business leaders and giving more power to “the people.”  Populists believed that they were morally superior to any other group and that the elite holding the most power was corrupt.  They distinguished between the elite and the people based on the values that each group had more so than how much money each group had.  Populists supported the adoption of silver into the economy in order to limit inflation, and they supported a steady income tax to decrease the power of the concentrated capital.     One example of populism in “The Wizard of Oz” is the contrast between the ruby slippers and the yellow brick road.  While they were portrayed as ruby red in the major motion picture, Baum originally wrote that Dorothy’s slippers were silver.  This was an analogy for the pro-silver movement that the Populists supported; they believed in a “bimetallic system,” which incorporates both silver and gold.  Populists believed that freeing silver money into the economy would re-energize it.  The yellow brick road that the Munchkins persuade Dorothy to follow was an analogy for the existing currency system in the United States, which fixed paper money to a price for gold.  Baum portrays the yellow brick road as dangerous, yet it is encouraged by the Munchkins because it is all they know.     Baum also represented the stereotypical Populist supporters in his novel as the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman.  The wise, naive Scarecrow was an analogy for the farmers who made up the majority of the Populist party.  Conditions were hard for farmers because of the changing economy, and this is shown in the helpless attitude of the Scarecrow.  The Scarecrow’s goal is to find a brain at the end of his journey, an analogy for the general lack of education for farmers.     The Tin Woodman represented the remainder of the Populists, the industrial worker.  He is turned into a machine because his work has dehumanized him.  The depression drastically affected factory workers, which is why the Tin Woodman is so rusty when Dorothy finds him. His goal at the end of the journey is to find the heart that mindless factory working has deprived him of.      Sources

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