In this time of trouble with the stock market, jobs, and war. I have been looking and trying to learn from our country’s past. I have been looking closely at the 1920’s and 1930’s because I believe that this is the closest example of what we are going through now. Well anyway I ran across the the Wizard of Oz.
It just amazes me how creative people are. We often use stories to give warnings and cautions. Like C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia to tell about Christ and his relationship with man, J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings to tell about war and the personal price we pay (even for just wars).
That is the case with Franklin Baum’s classic, The Wizard of Oz. Baum lived at the time of the Populist movement for the free coinage of silver and wrote a book about what was going on around him. The Populist Party was a small insignificant party around the late 1800’s to early 1900’s that was made up of mostly farmers.
The U.S.’s currency was backed by gold at the time which made it worth more and made it harder for farmers to pay back their debts. William Jennings Bryan, a Democratic nominee for the presidential election took their platform up and ended up killing the party by using that for his campaign. Being from Nebraska, he wanted to help out his fellow statesmen, and by proposing to back the currency with silver, that would devalue the money so that it would be easier for them to pay back all of their debts.
Frank Baum saw all of this and ended up writing his story based on the events taking place. Dorothy was based on a well known female Populist leader. The scarecrow was based on the farmers who were considered too kind for their own good by producing more food than was necessary. The tin man without the heart represented the bankers and merchants in the east who were lending money to the farmers and who were against helping the farmers even though they needed their food. The cowardly lion was considered to be William Jennings Bryan who was considered a pacifist because he was against entering World War I in later years and resigned from his government post because of it. The yellow brick road symbolized the gold standard and the silver shoes (changed to ruby to show up better on the movie screen) were the silver movement.
President McKinley was the Wicked Witch of the West and Grover Cleveland was the Wizard. And the Emerald City represented the “greenbacks” or dollars that were backed by the gold. The monkeys were the Philippines (country) or Filipinos (the people). President McKinley wouldn’t recognize the Philippines as being independent and used them for his own personal gain, a place to restock ships and to land. The monkeys were the witch’s servants.
Some people don’t think that the Wizard of Oz is symbol of this. But it is fun to just think about.