Binary Oz: A Quick Jump from Stacked Binaries to Structuring Rules to Thesis
Good/Privileged Terms Evil/Unprivileged Terms
Glinda, Witch of the North Wicked Witch of the East
Munchkins Monkey Demons
Tin Man Water
Lion Loud Noises and Explosions
Toto Miss Almira Gulch
(He's a helpful but weak old man.) The Wizard The Wizard (But he's a fraud and Dorothy hates that.)
(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 ugly (notice the human guards, too), 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. What structuring rules would explain these oppositions?
The passage from Kansas to Oz takes Dorothy from a world in which everything appears known, but obeys adult rules Dorothy cannot understand, to a world colored like a child's dream, in which everything is initially unknown, but all can be understood by applying simplified moral codes ("Do good." "Help friends." "Seek wisdom." "Shame hypocrites."). 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. That would be the basis of a paper's thesis arguing for a Structuralist reading of the movie. Already I hear you saying, "What a world! What a world!"
If Oz reveals the structuring rules of a child's "Kansas," then maturation is an Oriental nightmare from which we must escape by accepting terrible responsibilities. The first stage in Dorothy's/our escape requires transferring the Ruby Slippers from the Feet of Evil to the Feet of Good, but we have to take responsibility for causing death to do that. We must kill belief in the Wizard, indeed, belief in magic, itself, by the end of the movie. The Slippers (blood red?) are ambiguous in their power, since others would destroy Dorothy/us to obtain them, so they're our mortality, size 5 1/2. Only when the Slippers' deadly significance is recognized can their power be used, and all they really seem to be able to do is to return us to life in "Kansas" (and in simplified black-and-white!). After the Return from Oz to Kansas, we can we regain disenchanted childhood under ordinary adult rules, but only if we accept that "Kansas," the black-and-white world of 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 child's-dream-of-adulthood, in which (unless you have a handy bucket of water--salvific faith?) you will 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."