Binary Oz

                                         Good/Privileged Terms                Evil/Unprivileged Terms

                                        Glinda, Witch of the North            Wicked Witch of the East

                Munchkins                    Monkey Demons

                                                        Scarecrow                    Fire

                                                        Tin Man                        Water

                                                        Lion                              Loud Noises and Explosions

                                                        Toto                              Miss Almira Gulch

                                                        Snow                            Poppies

                                                        Loyalty                         Obedience

                                                        Courage                        Fear

                                                        Intelligence                    Cunning

                                                        Love                              Hate

(He's a helpful but weak old man.)    The Wizard                     The Wizard  ("I am the great and powerful Oz!" but he's a fraud.)

      (Her ticket home!)                      Ruby Slippers                Ruby Slippers (She killed for them so the witch hates her)

        Notice that some of the pairings are surprising, like the opposition of snow and poppies, suggesting that we might associate the Good and its implementing virtues with the North (where Glinda's from, after all!), and Evil's manifestations with basic elements (Fire, Water), negative emotions (Fear, Hate), and the Orient (where a Wicked Witch was from).  The Munchkin-Monkey Demon opposition also suggests that the forces of Evil are Oriental and omnipresent, whereas the Good is rotund, squeaky-voiced, silly, in short, childlike, ultimately identified with Dorothy, herself, since this all turns out to be her unconscious fantasy.  The passage from Kansas to Oz via tornado takes Dorothy from a world in which everything appears known, but obeys rules she cannot understand, to a world in which everything is unknown, but can be understood by applying simplified moral codes ("Do good." "Help friends."  "Seek wisdom."  "Shame hypocrisy.").  Life in Kansas was, for Dorothy, a "dream of reality" in which the adult rules governing life were invisible to her, but Oz gives her authority (via the killing of the Wicked Witch of the West and possession of the Ruby Slippers) to determine her own ethical behavior and to judge the behavior of others.  In effect, Oz is Dorothy's imaginary glimpse of the rules for how the adult world works, but she only can operate there because she has, in some sense, killed for that power.

        If Oz reveals the structuring rules of a child's "Kansas," then maturation is growth into an oriental nightmare in which all virtues are transformed into their opposites and all heroes meet their opposing elements in doom.  The only way to escape is by transference of the Ruby Slippers from the Feet of Evil to the Feet of Good, but only when the Slippers' significance is recognized can their power be used.  Then, the Return from Oz to Kansas, via Ruby Slippers which have moved from the Wicked Witch's feet to Dorothy's, can forestall the Orientalizing transformation by reminding us that childhood wasn't such a nice place after all.  It's where tornados happen and Almira Gultch rides the roads looking for "your little dog, Toto, too!"  Kansas only seems like a comforting "home"  in comparison with Oz's dream-of-adulthood, in which (unless you have a handy bucket of water--salvific faith?) you'll lose everything you love to the inexorable power of Evil.  Or am I wrong?   (Structuralist analyses often can be flipped on their heads by an astute critic.)

        In this analysis, I'm hampered by my relative lack of familiarity with the movie, having seen it only on holidays for a lark.   However, click here for a more studious exploration of binary oppositions in Hawthorne's "My Kinsman, Major Molineux."