Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: A Classic

The second of today’s guest entries from Rebekah Fitzsimmons’s “Golden Age of Children’s Literature” course comes from Sarah Roddenberry, who discusses one classic’s impressive longevity.

By Sarah Roddenberry

Lewis Carroll’s, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, is most definitely a classic novel of children’s literature. Some may even argue that it is the epitome of the Golden Age. Not only did it receive huge popularity shortly after its publication over 100 years ago, the book has remained successful and continues to be read by children of today. So the question that arises is – why. Why has Alice experienced so much fame and recognition?

For one, this novel is so different than other children’s books of the era. Carroll’s style of nonsense is very innovative and ingenious. He combines reality, fantasy, and nonsense in a manner that brings the reader into a whole new world. Wonderland, although extremely bizarre and random, somehow makes sense. There are rules and explanations to all the weirdness which readers are amused and entertained by.

Another factor that has made Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland a classic is the fact that it is adored by both children and adults alike. The style and tone of the text is very reminiscent of a child’s imagination. For children, they are mesmerized and enthralled by the mysteries of Wonderland and the magical creatures. As a little girl, I was personally captivated by the Cheshire cat. In fact, I distinctly remember playing Alice with my stuffed animal cat, Fluffy. This personal memory takes me to my next point that adults love the novel, too. For grown-ups, rereading Alice brings back sentimental memories and feeling of nostalgia. They are transported back to their childhoods and to a world full of creativity, dreams, and imagination. As a results of this popularity by both children and adults, Alice has continued to survive through many generations of readers and remain a classic.

Another reason why Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is classified as a classic is the unique manner in which Carroll plays with the text along with the illustrations. Never before, have we seen the actual physical words of a novel intertwine with pictures or incorporate playful pieces. For example, the poem of the mouse’s tail is actually written in a spiral pattern, like that of a tail. I have to admit, I actually had fun turning my book around and around in order to read the poem. There are also multiple pages with lines of asterisks, almost resembling twinkling stars. These examples are fun, playful ways in which Carroll captivates his audience.

In conclusion, Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland remains a sentimental piece of children’s literature. As a classic, it has remained successful among multiple generations and is adored by both children and adults. Moreover, Carroll introduced readers with a brand new style of writing that had never before existed. He created Wonderland – a land of nonsense, dreams, imagination, and nostalgia.

Just an indication of how popular Alice remains today – here is a blog that is completely devoted to the novel.

Sarah is an undergraduate at the University of Florida.

Categories: Critical Conversations, Undergraduate Guest Posts

Malnutrition and Imaginary Meals in Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan

Today’s guest entry from Rebekah Fitzsimmons’s “Golden Age of Children’s Literature” course comes from Sarah Clow, who connects two children’s texts through their treatment of food.

By Sarah Clow

I stumbled upon an article called “Victorian Hunger and Malnutrition in Alice in Wonderland” that talked about how hunger and malnutrition are represented in Alice in Wonderland, as a commentary on the famines of the Victorian era. According to the article, Lewis Carroll included the tiny pieces of food, about the place, to express that Alice is essentially scrounging for her meals. She is lucky to stumble upon something, but is often left looking about for more food to return her to normal. In the Victorian era, there were enormous food shortages, causing the price of food to be raised to an intolerable level. As a result, meals became hard to come by. Considering Lewis Carroll saw this occurring, and experienced it himself, he felt the need to use it as a theme in Alice in Wonderland, and seek a solution for it.

At one point in the novel, Alice meets the caterpillar, smoking atop a giant mushroom. When leaving, he tells her that one side will make her small, and one side will make her big. Alice then attempts to regain her original size, and upon doing so, realizes the value of the mushroom. From then on, Alice stores the mushroom pieces in her apron, thinking that she can use them as needed. This mushroom is thus Carroll’s solution for Victorian society–to find food in nature.

Alice

In Peter and Wendy, the lost boys complain about having to occasionally make believe their dinners. I personally found this to be one of the most pitiable situations in the book, and I was curious as to why J. M. Barrie might have written such scenes. After reading about the high price of food in the Victorian era, I wondered if perhaps Barrie was also making a commentary about the Edwardian era, through Peter and Wendy, by expressing that, due the food shortages, little boys and girls sometimes had to imagine they had meals. The Edwardian era, however, was described as a golden age between the Victorian era and World War I, hence I am led to believe that the food shortages improved. What I did read was about a Poor Law that was implemented, which gave relief funds to unemployed women, but not to unemployed able-bodied males. As a result, if one was married to an unemployed male, one was cut off from funds, as well. Upon reading this, I wondered about the financial situation of the Davies boys, and if the imaginary meals were an idea thought up by Barrie to quell their growling stomachs, rather than that of society as a whole. Children often play make believe, when it comes to tea parties, but in Peter and Wendy there is an obvious expression that these boys are hungry, despite having nothing.

Source:

Ratner, Dan. “Victorian Hunger and Malnutrition in Alice in Wonderland.” English 73 (1995). The Victorian Web. Brown University. Web. 16 Apr. 2013. <http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/ carroll/ratner1.html>.

Sarah is an undergraduate at the University of Florida.

Categories: Critical Conversations, Undergraduate Guest Posts

Location and Healing in The Secret Garden

Today’s guest entry from Rebekah Fitzsimmons’s “Golden Age of Children’s Literature” course comes from Heather Halak, who looks at how location plays an important role in this children’s classic.

By Heather Halak

Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden is a children’s classic that has charmed both children and adults alike since the date of its publishing in 1909. Throughout the work, Burnett illustrates the link between location and health or well being. Mary Lennox, the novel’s protagonist, travels from the far away land of India where her parents perished due to a cholera outbreak. In the novel’s beginnings, taking place in India, it is noted that Mary is quite an ugly child with her skin having an almost yellow tint and thin hair. It is also noted that she possesses a poor demeanor. She is waited on hand and foot while in India due to distinct class differences between herself and her servants, therefore, she never quite received any discipline. With her parents’ constant absence from her life, in addition to their deaths, she experiences an atmosphere of trauma, neglect, and bitterness in India. Throughout the work, India is associated with a negative state of being.

Swing

During her stay in England, her servant Martha and grounds keeper Ben treat Mary kindly. Through these figures, Mary is disciplined and discovers the transforming abilities of Mother Nature. In her isolation, for she was unaware of any other children at the manor, she learns about plants and gardens, and much like the plants she grows in her secret garden, she grows into a more pleasant individual with a kind heart. She realizes the healing nature of her outdoor activities, and soon encourages her sickly cousin Colin, who is bedridden and bitter, to venture outside just to see the plants growing and the birds singing. In their encounters with Dickon, Martha’s younger brother who is gifted with a closeness to nature, Colin and Mary learn how to be children free from bitterness and full of wonder. Throughout the work, England, especially its moors, are associated with a hearty well being. Though Colin has been living in England all his life, he is deprived of the outdoors and therefore, deprived of a normal and healthy childhood. Through Mary, he is healed and soon stands on his own two feet after being sentenced to a wheelchair for many years.

The Secret Garden is a story of healing, with both the protagonist Mary and her cousin Colin experiencing a great change due to an exposure to fresh air and nature. Throughout the work, location is key to the characters’ health, with India and the indoors being associated with sickness and England as encouraging to one’s health and well being. This dichotomy is clearly seen in Mary Lennox’s 180 degree transformation from yellow, thin and sour to pink, fat, and jolly. In this contrast between locations, Burnett attempts to define and associate India with a poor state of being, illustrating a clear preference for the mother country of England, which leads to questions about race and social hierarchies.

Garden

Heather is an undergraduate at the University of Florida.

Categories: Critical Conversations, Undergraduate Guest Posts

The Secret Garden: Appropriate for Children Today?

The second of today’s guest entries from Rebekah Fitzsimmons’s “Golden Age of Children’s Literature” course comes from Sarah Clow, who also looks at the question of if this classic children’s text is still of value for children today.

By Sarah Clow

The Secret Garden is a novel that focuses on the differences between India and England, expressing that children need to be raised in a good environment in order to become well-behaved children and experience a childhood. It is a book that focuses on the beauty and healing properties of the natural world, but is it appropriate for children to be reading, today?

Door

On one hand, The Secret Garden encourages the reader to step outside, enjoy the fresh air, and explore the beauty of one’s garden. It entices the reader to watch life blossom before one’s eyes, and educates the reader on the basics of gardening. Considering how technology has given children plenty of entertainment and distraction, in doors, I feel that this book would be worth reading to a child, in hopes of helping that child step outside and explore the possibilities of imagination and free play. While the book fails to teach a child how to imagine a new world within one’s head, considering Mary does not possess such faculties, it does show a child that the mere act of skipping rope can be worth pursuing. As a result, perhaps children of today should be reading this, due to the fact that it exposes them to a world that they may not have previously thought was worth venturing into.

On the other hand, The Secret Garden expresses several negative thoughts about the vibrant and beautiful culture and country of India, which increases the potential for racism and closed mindedness about the exotic world. The Secret Garden expresses that India is a sandy country, which is too hot for activities, and is full of ‘blacks’ who are expected to serve Europeans. Considering how diverse the population of America is, today, such messages may be ill-received by families of foreign nationality, and may only lead to more reasons for bullying between Caucasians and other ethnicities. It is possible that, should the child pick up on such propaganda within the book, a Caucasian child might believe that individuals of a darker skin type are meant to treat him or her as a superior, and may treat those children as inferior. Such messages pave the way for segregation and discrimination, so one must wonder if it is worth the risk.
Is it better to read the book, in order to encourage children to explore the great outdoors, or should this book be saved for when children are old enough to understand that the messages in the book about class and race are from an earlier era?

Women

Sarah is an undergraduate at the University of Florida.

Categories: Critical Conversations, Undergraduate Guest Posts

Is The Secret Garden Appropriate for Children Today?

The first of today’s guest entries from Rebekah Fitzsimmons’s “Golden Age of Children’s Literature” course comes from Abigail Davis, who considers a children’s classic through a contemporary lens.

By Abigail Davis

As a child I was never very good at reading the books my parents, or my school, wanted me to. While they plied me with classic children’s literature I would turn up my nose, happy instead to be left to my Magic Tree House books. Glad that I was reading, my parents would generally let me be but my school was sure that my classmates and I could benefit from reading ancient books that were supposedly classics and more suitable for me to read.  But how can you determine if a text is suitable for young audiences? Is it classifying a text based on its use of difficult vocabulary? Or perhaps some themes are better suited to certain ages. In my experience children will read whatever they want, and somehow books that we don’t deem “suitable” for them will always fall into their hands. Often the books we want the younger audience to read fall along the wayside, abandoned for books that children are actually interested in reading.

TreeHouse For instance, when I was a child I was given a copy of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It was a beautiful book and my mom was pleased to tell me that it was a classic, the seemingly golden standard for children’s literature. I avoided that book like the plague. It seemed boring to me; a girl finds a garden, big whoop! After reading the book now I regret not reading it when I was younger. The Secret Garden is full of wonderful imagery, from descriptions of the English moor to the depiction of a surly young girl learning to become a better person. I found myself smiling at references to other children’s literature books I’ve read; such as the new portrayal of a sweeter, less mischievous Peter Pan through the book’s Dickon. It is full of lessons that every child should be exposed to; lessons ranging from the importance of being polite to the people around you to knowing exercising will make you healthier. This is a story of growth, love and acceptance where 3 strange, misfit children become friends and through that friendship become normal, happy and healthy kids. If I had to choose an age for which this book would be most appropriate, based on the content matter and language, I would say any child from eight to 12 would enjoy it. Getting them to read it, however, would be a whole other story.

 Secret Garden

While The Secret Garden does have many great qualities, such as the ones I mentioned above, it is still over a hundred years old and in many ways not geared to be a children’s book. When I finally read the book I did enjoy it but I noticed a few off putting things, not in the least a few heavily racist conversations between Mary and her maid about the native people of India. As this is an older British novel it may be hard for some of the lessons from the book to impact young readers because like many other books from this age it references ideas, materials and jokes that are no longer commonly known. I do think that there is merit in this book though so if you have the option to recommend this book to a child you should.

Children ReadingAbigail is an undergraduate at the University of Florida.

Categories: Critical Conversations, Undergraduate Guest Posts

Character Analysis of the White Knight

Today’s guest entry from Rebekah Fitzsimmons’s “Golden Age of Children’s Literature” course comes from Sandra Mejia, who provides some insight into one of Carrol’s famous characters.

By Sandra Mejia

In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, Alice encounters a White Knight in Chapter Eight, titled “It’s My Own Invention.”  Alice’s character is based on one of Carroll’s favorite child friends, Alice Liddell, so is too far-fetched to say that Carroll inserted himself in this second story about Alice, not as a Dodo this time, but as the White Knight?  There are many clues to this from the White Knight’s description to his actions that can point to this connection between the author and this character of the White Knight.

The White Knight is described as having “shaggy hair” (Carroll 207) and “mild blue eyes” (Carroll 214), and although this is minimal as anyone could have shaggy hair and blue eyes, Carroll did have these characteristics.  Another detail is that the illustrator, Sir John Tenniel, decided to draw the White Knight in his image although that character was meant to be Carroll.  In the Introduction of the edition I read, this detail was mentioned in two places about Carroll writing himself into the story as the White Knight as an attempt at autobiography (Haughton xxiii) and about Tenniel substituting his image for Carroll’s (Haughton lxxix).

As for the White Knight’s behavior, he frequently falls off his horse and onto his head, which I interpret to be a representation of Carroll’s stuttering in real life.  In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, he writes himself and the Liddell family into the book as various animals Alice encounters down the rabbit hole.  Carroll was the Dodo, whose name came from the form of his real last name when he experienced his chronic stammer—“Do-Do-Dodgson” (Haughton xvi).  Thus, it would not be surprising if Carroll made an appearance again in his second volume based on Alice.  Another one of the White Knight’s habits is inventing new, albeit dysfunctional, objects, which is suggestive of Carroll’s own career of writing the first stories of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and his hobby from which these novels came from of telling tales to the Liddell siblings (Haughton xxxi-xxxiv).  Additionally, Carroll was rumored to have been obsessed or very attached to the real Alice Liddell (Haughton xxi-xxii, xxxv, xxxvii), and so it seems appropriate that the White Knight would try to take fictional Alice as “prisoner” (Carroll 205-207).

In Through the Looking-Glass the White Knight guides Alice to queendom.  He cannot follow her across the brook to where she will become queen, and this can be seen as a metaphor for Carroll being unable to follow Alice as she grows up and leaves childhood especially after his breakup with the Liddell family (Haughton xxi-xxii, xxxv, xxxvii).  He wanted to keep Alice as his prisoner in both the story and in reality as Carroll was losing his child friend to the aging process and the rift with her family.  However, the White Knight cannot follow Alice as she matures as his character states twice (Carroll 207, 218).  Carroll creates scenes where Alice doesn’t follow the White Knight’s illogical inventions just as she did in real life when she no longer believed in Carroll’s made-up stories (Bjork & Eriksson 74).  Eventually, Alice in real life grows up and gets married and never interacts with Carroll again, and her becoming a queen and acquiring a “golden crown” (Carroll 219), which is an allegory for maturing and marriage (as a golden crown is to a golden ring, symbolic of matrimony), is an allegorical event for this.

This entire eighth chapter is almost an autobiographical mourning story as Carroll expresses his grief for Alice’s growing up and growing disinterest in what used to be their shared imaginary world.  This chapter allows the author to literally close the Alice chapter in his life so he could move on.  He does express his sadness at this seemingly one-sided relationship since the fictional character Alice does not cry and is not moved by the White Knight’s poem, which disheartens the White Knight (Carroll 218) just as the real Alice no longer took interest in Carroll’s stories disheartening him as well.  Yet, as the White Knight leaves, he tumbles off of his horse again.  Then Alice comments, “However, he gets on pretty easily” (Carroll 218), which could be taken to mean that the author has written Alice to feel sympathetic for him, and it also implies that he will be fine without Alice.

Bjork, Christina, and Inga-Karin Eriksson. The Other Alice: The Story of Alice Liddell and Alice in Wonderland. 1st. ed. Stockholm: Raven and Sjorgren, 1993. Print.

Carrol, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. Ed. Hugh Haughton. Centenary ed. London: Penguin Group, 1998. Print. Penguin Classics.

Haughton, Hugh. Introduction. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.  By Lewis Carrol. Centenary ed. London: Penguin Group, 1998. ix-lxv. Print. Penguin Classics.

Sandra is an undergraduate at the University of Florida.

Categories: Critical Conversations, Undergraduate Guest Posts

W.W. Denslow and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Today’s guest entry from Rebekah Fitzsimmons’s “Golden Age of Children’s Literature” course comes from Bethany Gugliemino, who looks at one of the more famous illustrators of Oz.

By Bethany Gugliemino

William Wallace Denslow was an American illustrator and cartoonist who is today best known for his children’s illustrations, particularly his illustrations for L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Denslow 1

Denslow was born in Philadelphia on May 25, 1856. He studied briefly as a teenager at the National Academy of Design and the Cooper Union Institute, both in New York, but he was largely self-taught as an artist. His earliest works appeared in magazines such as Hearth and Home and the children’s magazine St. Nicholas. In the late 1870s and early 1880s he traveled around the United States working as an artist and newspaper reporter. In 1888 he began working at the Chicago Herald, but he lost the job as a result of his heavy drinking. He then lived in Denver and San Francisco before returning to Chicago for the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, after which he remained in the city. He worked as a poster artist as well as designing books and bookplates, and he became the first professional artist employed by the Chicago-based Roycroft Press.

Denslow was a well-respected artist, but he did not gain widespread popularity until working with Baum on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The pair had first worked together on Baum’s Father Goose: His Book in 1899. Baum and Denslow jointly held the copyrights for the works on which they collaborated, but they argued over royalty shares from the 1902 stage version of The Wizard of Oz, for which Baum wrote the script and Denslow designed the sets and costumes. After this argument, Baum refused to work with Denslow on any further projects.

Denslow 2

Denslow moved to New York in 1899 and continued illustrating books and working on comic strips, including comics that featured characters from his collaborations with Baum (but without Baum’s permission). He also created Billy Bounce, one of the earliest comic strips to feature a protagonist with superpowers. Using the royalties from both the print and stage versions of Oz, Denslow purchased an island off the coast of Bermuda and crowned himself King Denslow I. However, in the early years of the new century, Denslow began drinking heavily and had difficulty finding stable employment, working as a designer for various advertising agencies. He died in New York on March 29, 1915, of pneumonia that he caught after getting drunk while celebrating the sale of a full-color cover to Life magazine.

Denslow 3

Denslow’s Oz illustrations consist of 24 full color plates and numerous monochromatic illustrations in which the color mirrors the location of the story, such as the green coloring of the Emerald City illustrations or the blue of those set in Munchkin land. The Oz books have been illustrated by a variety of artists since Denslow. The first to follow Denslow was John R. Neill, who illustrated the remaining books by Baum in the series. Subsequent illustrators have remained closer to Neill’s illustrations than to Denslow’s, up until the work of Donald Abbott, whose illustrations from the 1990s have revived interest in Denslow’s classic illustrations.

 

Sources:

http://www.pbs.org/wned/elbert-hubbard/w-w-denslow.php

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Wallace_Denslow

http://bibliodyssey.blogspot.com/2007/08/original-oz.html (all illustrations taken from this site)

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz can be viewed in full here http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=rbc3&fileName=rbc0001_2006gen32405page.db

Several of Denslow’s other works can be viewed in the Baldwin’s digital collection.

Bethany is an undergraduate at the University of Florida.

Categories: Critical Conversations, Undergraduate Guest Posts

The Little Mermaid’s Quest for Immortality

Today’s guest entry from Rebekah Fitzsimmons’s “Golden Age of Children’s Literature” course comes from Kenna Galloway, who tells us about the meaning behind the Little Mermaid’s actions.

By Kenna Galloway

In Hans Christian Anderson’s story The Little Mermaid, we are given a poignant portrayal of a young girl’s superficial search for love and freedom, juxtaposed with an intrinsic quest for an immortal soul. It is this quest, Anderson suggests, which is an internal need and hope for our heroine. On the surface, the story is an aching narrative of silent despair and unrequited love. The little mermaid sacrifices her family and the only home she has ever known, to obtain only the friendship of the prince and have to mutely watch him sign her death warrant as he marries someone else.

The little mermaid (it is taking serious restraint for me not to call her Ariel) is a character of conflicting traits. Largely, the girl beneath the sea is completely different than the girl above the sea. The implications of her actions down below tell us certain things about her character: For years she pines for her fifteenth birthday so that she can see the world above- passionate; she puts herself in substantial danger by saving the prince from the shipwreck- brave; she leaves her entire family and her home for an unknown land where her very existence hangs in the balance- daring, and perhaps a little foolish; she thinks nothing of how her departure will affect her family- not wrong by any means, but definitely a selfish characteristic . The picture that these details conjure in our heads, a modern heroine’s illustration to be sure, are proved time and time again to be wrong once she reaches the land. The little mermaid makes no gestures to win over the prince. She is devoted to him, but any traces of her passions are gone. She seems content to watch him look at her as simply a friend, and to marry someone else. Logic seems to suggest she would find another means to communicate with him yet no measures are taken. She is as thoughtful as she always was, yet now she is selfless and a figure of quiet suffering and pain. In the end, she sacrifices her own life and saves her prince who ignorantly ruined her life. The passionate daring child of the sea is gone, replaced by a young woman who has experienced great heartbreak.

This journey of character, and the very end of the Anderson’s story, suggests greatly that the little mermaid’s life has been a quest for an immortal soul.. The trials she experiences as a human—her tongue being cut out by the sea witch, the pain and mutilation of her tail into legs, that each steps she takes will feel as if she is walking on knife points—these experiences are the quintessential example of obstacles set before a hero on a quest. And it is these obstacles that prompt the question For what? The answer to this is not the humanly reward of love or earthly happiness, but instead the heavenly hope of an afterlife. She is given three hundred years to become pure, with the eventual pay off, if she works hard enough, being the obtainment of a soul. If she is virtuous, she can achieve a fate greater than becoming sea foam, thoughtlessly floating on the waves. This, I believe, is what Anderson is attempting to relay to children. That the little mermaid was a soulless creature who cast aside passion and selfishness to live a life of piety and quiet self-sacrifice so that she may gain entrance to the kingdom of heaven. And most importantly—she did not obtain this opportunity by snaring a husband, but instead by self-sacrifice and silent devotion to virtue. Attempting to find a happy motivation in this story is impossible and I am at a loss as to why Anderson would inflict the idea of such quiet suffering on children. But it is clear through his writing that the little mermaid’s journey from the sea to the land, and ultimately to the sky and heaven, is one of great depth and religious meaning.

Kenna is a graduate student at the University of Florida.

Categories: Critical Conversations, Undergraduate Guest Posts

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The Silver Shoes

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.

Dorothy

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.

Categories: Critical Conversations, Undergraduate Guest Posts

There’s No Place Like Home–Even If Home Certainly Isn’t Made of Emeralds

Today’s guest entry from Rebekah Fitzsimmons’s “Golden Age of Children’s Literature” course comes from Kevin Griffin, who looks at a familiar adventure in a strange land.

By Kevin Griffin

L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz presents the story of a young orphaned girl named Dorothy Gale who lives a seemingly mundane life on a farm in the dry plains of Kansas.  Although her exact age is unclear, it seems obvious throughout the story that she is still quite young and fairly immature—a result of her age, not to be mistaken with a more derogatory connotation.  She is a product of her environment, which is presented to the reader as not being highly desirable.  As a result of being orphaned, she is raised by Uncle Henry and Aunt Em, who are assumed to be an actual aunt and uncle but could simply be a foster family taking care of the child.  Needless to say, aside from her prized pet dog, Toto, there do not seem to be many sources of excitement in her life, which could arguably make anyone wish for an interesting adventure or escape.

The more popularized film adaptation of this story enlisted Judy Garland to portray the role of Dorothy.  I feel that she brings the role of a hopeless young girl blissfully wishing for an escape from reality more to light, namely in her singing “Over the Rainbow,” a song describing escaping to a place where “bluebirds fly” and dreams that you “dare to dream, really do come true.”  In reading L. Frank Baum’s original  story, we find that the young girl meets other characters who are also seeking a change in their current lives, that, like Dorothy’s, may not be providing everything that they’ve imagined.  Dorothy seeks an escape from her current living situation while the Cowardly Lion seeks courage, the Tin Man seeks a heart, and as a result, love, and the Scarecrow seeks brains and, consequently, intelligence.  The three travel together until they find the Wizard, who can make all of their wishes come true as long as they withhold their end of the bargain in getting rid of the Wicked Witch of the West.  They put themselves in immense danger in trying to do so, until eventually Dorothy, in a tantrum resulting from the theft of a prized silver shoe that was gifted to her prior in the book, exterminates the witch using a bucket of water conveniently placed near her.  This appears to be when the reader understands that the excitement and adventure that Dorothy may have been hoping for could have been a bit too exciting or, rather, dangerous.

Dorothy

Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale in the 1939 film adaptation of “The Wizard of Oz”

The interesting thing about this story is that while the other three characters seem to receive what they originally wished for, Dorothy’s final wish at the conclusion of her journey is to simply leave the Land of Oz and go back to her home in Kansas.  Could the adventure filled with anthromorphic animals, unknown creatures, witches, wizards, magic, flying monkeys, and wishes have been too much for a young girl to handle?  Could Dorothy have received much more than she bargained for in venturing from the plains of Kansas to the Emerald City in the Land of Oz?  As a reader, I believe the answer to these questions is, “Yes.”  Dorothy Gale is a young girl who seeks a change in the life she is living, but later realizes that perhaps an uninteresting life in the comfort of Uncle Henry and Aunt Em’s home is more desirable than the peril of adventure.  She receives a glimpse of the Land of Oz, perhaps through mere imagination or a dream rather than an actual journey, and seeks to visit again, but eventually wishes to be back in Kansas.  To me, this seemed like an appropriate end to the story of a child, as while most of us sought some sort of adventure in life and our imaginations definitely aided this process, oftentimes no matter the circumstances, there really is no place like home.

Kevin is an undergraduate at the University of Florida.

Categories: Critical Conversations, Undergraduate Guest Posts

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