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Gee Wiz, Dorothy! : Envisioning 'Oz' as a Journey to the Self as the Classic Is Re-Released

November 06, 1998|CYNTHIA RICHMOND | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The most popular dream in modern history will be available to moviegoers across the country today with MGM's digitally remastered re-release of "The Wizard of Oz," which debuted in 1939. Rich in symbolism, hidden meanings and archetypal characters, Dorothy's dream reflects the age-old fight between good and evil and the meaning of life.

In "The Wizard of Oz," Dorothy, ignored by busy family and friends and plagued with worry about a neighbor who would see her dog destroyed, believes no one understands her. Told by her Auntie Em to go somewhere and stay out of trouble, she wonders where that could be. Hit by flying debris as a tornado stirs things up, she suffers a bump on the head and falls into a deep and troubled sleep.

Her dream is a magical journey to find and understand her true self. The mental turmoil she experiences, represented by the tornado, brings visions of the grouchy, would-be-dog-killing neighbor, who becomes an evil witch. This play of good and evil is balanced by the beautiful Good Witch of the North, who sports the sparkling wings of an angel.

Other archetypes include the Scarecrow, who represents intellect or mind; the Tin Man, who represents heart and compassion; and the Lion, courage and spirit. The Wizard represents magic and mystery but reveals himself to be deceptive. The message: Magic only works if you believe in it and each of us can be our own wizard or guru.

Dorothy's journey down the road to find her way home, symbolizes the path back to her true self. The road then takes her through danger as she faces her fears--"Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!"; separation from her loved ones; and the fear of death. Evil seeks to put her to sleep in a field of poison poppies, representing lack of spiritual awareness, which slows her progress on her life journey.

Dorothy later overcomes evil by lovingly defending her friends. When at last the Wicked Witch of the West is killed, it takes only a small bucket of water and an act of kindness. Water, here symbolic for cleansing, is used to douse the flames that would destroy the Scarecrow (friend and intellect). Darkness, lack of awareness, is cleansed away. Each of her friends--representing her body, mind and spirit--learn, with the validation of the Wizard as authority figure, that they already possess what they seek.

Dorothy represents the innocence in each of us as we struggle to find our own truths and place in the world.

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