Today’s guest entry from Rebekah Fitzsimmons’s “Golden Age of Children’s Literature” course comes from Alexander Broatch, who writes about a very special pair of shoes.
By Alexander Broatch
There are several reoccurring themes in children’s literature especially when it comes to L. Frank Baum’s novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, considering it consists of a child protagonist, talking animals, self-sufficiency, virtue and a the battle between good and evil. In the case of Baum’s novel, the importance of a journey would be the most significant theme. The characters all strive to reach their goals by relying on the companionship of their traveling partners throughout their journey. Dorothy’s initial goal is to return home with her dog Toto. She is given magical, silver shoes that are acknowledged by most of the inhabitants of the Land of Oz. Interestingly enough, the silver shoes she is given in the beginning is the tool that would lead to the simplest solution for her to return to Kansas; however, she had no knowledge of the shoes’ abilities from the start.
Baum most likely used these silver shoes to reassure his readers that Dorothy was safe from danger the whole time and her answer was literally under her nose. Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, even states in the end, “If you had known their power you could have gone back to your Aunt Em the very first day you came to this country” (Baum 51). Undoubtedly, the mystery of the silver shoes’ power did prolong Dorothy’s journey back to Kansas, but through her travels she encounters traveling companions and learns several lessons in life. The silver shoes motif was used to accentuate Dorothy’s importance in Oz. A rich Munchkin by the name of Boq acknowledges Dorothy as a powerful sorceress for defeating a Wicked Witch due to the fact that she was wearing the silver shoes. She is noticed by several characters because of her silver shoes which give her the motivation to continue traveling and, in turn, gave her more insight on how to navigate throughout the Land of Oz.
Dorothy’s silver shoes were used as an important plot device that was with Dorothy from beginning to end which allowed the story to progress. In addition, the shoes were items the Wicked Witch of the West longed for and obsessed over. The shoes were tools for Dorothy’s use only and aside from being magical objects, the silver shoes are appealing to the Wicked Witch which she strives to steal from Dorothy. The Wicked Witch meets with her demise when she steals one shoe from Dorothy which in turn causes Dorothy to splash her with water and watch her melt. This desire for the shoes leads to dire consequences for the unfortunate witch.
It can be inferred that these shoes were given to Dorothy to lead her to a simpler path, but she chooses to help her companions reach their goals first as well as free several residents from their tyrannical rulers. The silver shoes symbolize her role in the story, without the silver shoes she would probably not be acknowledged by the other characters or targeted by the Wicked Witch. By putting on the shoes, Dorothy establishes her place in the Land of Oz and, although they would become the tool to return her home, she is sent on a lengthy journey and assists others along the way. In fact, the theme of Dorothy’s journey was required to help the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Lion reach their own goals. The journey theme was required to make Dorothy grow as a character and to eventually learn of the power of the silver shoes as soon as her role in Oz was complete.
Alexander is an undergraduate at the University of Florida.