Littlefield, Henry M. The Wizard of Oz: Parable on Populism. American Quarterly, Vol. 16, No. 1 (Spring, 1964), pp. 47-58 The Johns Hopkins University Press
In this journal article, Henry Littlefield reflects on why The Wizard of Oz is so popular. He mentions that nobody really knows why. The book never received any critical acclaim or examination. Littlefield argues that in order to understand the Wizard, you must understand the original author, L. Frank Baum. He was raised in Syracuse and later moved to South Dakota with his wife. He was in South Dakota during the formation of the Populist Party. Although to most it is just a warm fairytale Littlefield sees more. He sees Oz as a magic oasis with struggles of good vs. evil. He sees Dorothy as the “Miss Everyman”, one of us. He argues the Scarecrow is representative of a commonview thought of the people of Kansas, brainless. The Lion symbolizes, William Jennings Bryan, the populist presidential candidate of the time, who is not able to make an impression on the populist people he is running to represent. The Wizard, he claims, represents the presidency’s of Mckinley, Cleveland, and Harrison. They are a fraud and hide behind this big machine charade.
While Baum denies any sort of allegory and claims only to have written a fun book for children to enjoy, I think whether or not these characters are really symbolic of what Littlefield argues is immaterial. It is the idea, the sense, that the story is relatable and could potentially represent these things. Similarly, the when the film was produced in 1939 during the Great Depression, the allegory could essentially be the same, with a slightly different taste. Even fast forwarding to today, we could make the argument that the Wizard is “Wall Street” while Dorothy represents “Main Street”. In everyday human existence, there is some struggle of good vs. evil. Similarly there is always a “Wizard” out there who hides his true nature. For those who choose to read into it, the film could mean anything and everything. However, for those who don’t, the story can be a lighthearted entertaining fairytale with a happy ending. As Littlefield says, Baum “never allowed the consistency of the allegory to take precedence over the theme of youthful entertainment”.