The connection between The Wizard of Oz and the contemporary political landscape was not even raised until , when a summer school teacher named Henry Littlefield, while trying to teach the Presidential election and the turn-of-the-century Populist movement to bored history students, stumbled upon the idea of using the characters and events of The Wizard of Oz as metaphors to teach the concepts. Fake, hidden behind a curtain. Morgan and David B. That would be a big mistake. Littlefield June 12, — March 30, was an American educator , author and historian most notable for his claim that L.

Spring, , pp. He was tremendously successful in this, producing not only the first real American fairy tale, but one that showed American society and culture in all its wonderful diversity and contradictions, a story so rich it can be, like the book’s title character, anything we want it to be–including, if we wish, a parable on Populism. In an ingenuous act of imaginative scholarship, Henry M. By the s, Littlefield’s interpretation had become the standard line on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Genovese described The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as “the story of the sad collapse of Populism and the issues upon which the movement was based.

So Was the Wizard of Oz an Allegory for Populism?

For years after Baum’s death inthe best biography of him was a twenty-five-page sketch written by Martin Gardner for a new edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in However, Baum merely wanted to tell a good story, and not to add any hidden meaning. A Parable for Populism. Gardner wrote just two sentences on Baum’s politics: In the movie, Kansas is sepia-toned, washed out. In the book, the Wizard appears to be a giant head to Dorothy, to the scarecrow, a gossamer fairy, to the Tin Man as a beast and to the Cowardly Lion as a ball of littleffield as politicians try to be all things littlefjeld all people.


From Irving to Le Guin Bloomington, Hence in the Utne Reader praised a newspaper article for “expos[ing] Oz as a parable on Populism,” a movement that had been critical of “Eastern banks and railroads, which [Populists] charged with oppressing farmers and industrial workers. US tariffs on foreign manufactured goods. MacFall, the biography uenry not go beyond Gardner in discussing Baum’s politics.

The Munchkins represent the eastern industrial laborers under the control of rich leaders of industry, beaten down and qizard. Frank Baum himself had used.

Henry Littlefield

In the book, the city is bland white, and all who enter must put on Emerald colored glasses. They hoped this would enable them to sell their crops at higher prices in the winter, spring and summer. These thesiz were fairly unimpressive and did the bidding of the rich.

You can help Wikipedia by expanding it. Retrieved from ” https: Populists and other free-silver proponents advocated unlimited coinage of the white metal in order to inflate the money supply, thus making it easier for cash-strapped farmers and small businessmen to borrow money and pay off debts.

henry littlefield wizard of oz thesis

I also believe that it was meant as a parable with a “moral” to teach. The phrase “according to one scholar” never appeared.

henry littlefield wizard of oz thesis

The essay was retained in later editions of the textbook; the third edition was published in Auth with social network: He wrote an essay to this effect for his high-school students in Mount Vernon, New Wizarddand published it [1] in the American Quarterly in His editorials for the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer expressed support for Republican candidates and criticized the nascent Populist movement.


The most extensive treatment of the Littlefield thesis is an article by Hugh Rockoff in the Journal of Political Economy.

Leach, “The Clown from Syracuse: It is also interesting to note that Baum’s biographers are opposed to the notion that Baum had any political intent in writing The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. When describing characters and settings that readers have never encountered before, writers and especially writers litlefield fantasy might naturally use familiar imagery to help the reader along.

Given this, Littlefield’s thesis still seems plausible.

Baum, in fact, is suggesting the opposite: By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. First, he produced an overwhelming number of correspondences, and others have added to the list.

Genovese described The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as “the story of the sad collapse of Populism and the issues upon which the movement was based. Her house lands on and kills the Wicked Witch of the East, who represents the evil bankers and the wealthy Eastern establishment.

So Was the Wizard of Oz an Allegory for Populism? | History News Network

So perhaps Baum was a closet Democrat in Aberdeen, forced to hide his true political feelings. But that appears not to be the case.

It must be admitted that the Pioneer had been a Republican paper before Baum bought it, and perhaps he had to maintain its partisan identification in order to maintain its wizsrd.