Questions for studying the Wonderful Wizard of Oz

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The following are some of my notes about the Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum. I wrote these up in a notebook as I was preparing the game about Oz, and I’m recording them here in case there’s other homeschooling parents or teachers who might find them useful.

What are the rules of oz?
Why does the scarecrow talk, but not the fence?
Are the witches powerful? In what ways are they? In what ways are they not?
Where does magic come from? Are there different types of magic? Is the scarecrow magic? Can he do magic?
Do the characters really lack what they claim to want?

I also found it interesting why the scarecrow wanted a brain. It was a crow that was smart enough not to be fooled by him who told him that brains are the only thing that matters. One possible creative writing or play-acting challenge could be to invent a scene where someone else meets the crow first and tells him something else is the only thing that matters. How would that change the story? Would the scarecrow be equally impressed with the idea that brains are all that mattered, if the crow’s use of his brains hadn’t foiled the scarecrow doing his job?

Dorothy says that the other beasts must be more cowardly than the lion because they allow him to scare them. The lion says that doesn’t make him braver, and as long as he knows himself to be a coward, he won’t be happy. Dorothy is measuring the “cowardliness” in comparative terms, the lion in more absolute ones. How do you measure things? Does others being ugly make one prettier? Does others having wealth make one poorer? If a snail is slower than a turtle, does that make the turtle fast?

The woodsman takes extra care not to do wrong. Is “never being cruel or unkind to anything” the same as having a heart? He tries to know what is right or wrong, because he doesn’t believe he can feel it.

“Why should I help you?” Oz asks. Dorothy answers: “Because you are strong and I am weak, because you are a great wizard and I am a helpless little girl.” Is this a good reason?

Did you take note of the theme of dryness? The one witch is so dry she crumbles to dust. The other witch dies if she’s not dry. Kansas is dry. The wolves and bees dry out.

What role does knowledge play in the story? I found it interesting that the scarecrow needs to know what a mouth is for before he can use it, but the eyes and ears he could use automatically. The lion says it is knowledge of his cowardliness that matters to him (not whether he is comparatively a coward or not). The scarecrow asks what good a heart would be if one did not know how to use it. The Wizard of Oz tries to keep people from knowing who he is, and the knowledge of the magic shoes allows Dorothy to go home.

The scarecrow says “If your heads were stuffed with straw, like mine, you would probably all live in the beautiful places, and then Kansas would have no people at all. It is fortunate for Kansas that you have brains.” Is it brains that allows us to see beyond the obvious attraction of something and consider other aspects? Do brains ever fool us? Given how the story describes Kansas, are the people really wise to live there?

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