If you’ve seen the movie, The Wizard of Oz, then you’d know the premise of the story. Our protagonist, Dorothy, is taken to a magical land where she encounters several characters in the effort to somehow get back home with the help of a wizard. Popular belief behind the movie is that Dorothy is simply dreaming of her adventure and the characters all represent different people in her life. Her three companions are the three men from the farm, Hunk, Hickory and Zeke. The wizard is Professor Marvel. And then of course the Wicked Witch of the West is the despicable Almira Gultch.
But… what if that wasn’t true? What if it wasn’t a stressed induced dream due to Dorothy wanting to make sure that her Auntie Em was okay? What if was a dream representing the internal struggle that Dorothy was having on a subconscious level. A struggle between her foundational belief that she is a “small and meek” individual who loves people and a new belief that she cannot possibly love someone who is cruel enough to “destroy” her dog.I propose that Dorothy’s dream is really her brain attempting to humanize Almira Gultch, so that she can empathize and ultimately feel compassion and love towards her. If successful, she will be able to continue to consider herself as a loving person.
Before we get started, it’s important to recognize how we know that Dorothy considers herself as loving. In the beginning of the movie, she is trying to warn her aunt and uncle that Almira is going to try to come after Toto. Even though Toto is obviously incredibly important to her, she eventually stops trying to burden them with the news due to them already being stressed about the farm. In addition, while trying to tell them about Almira, she becomes quickly sidetracked with the concern of the health of the baby chicks. When she was almost trampled by pigs, she dismissed her own anxiety to ensure was Zeke was okay. When defending Toto before he was taken away, she offered to take a punishment instead.
The first time we see Dorothy as anything other than kind, is when she postures in front of Almira and calls her a “wicked old witch”. This snowballs into her running away, which is something that we also wouldn’t expect from her.
With that we now enter Dorothy’s dream. The first strategy of the brain to humanize Almira is that almost every character is a representation of Almira.
The Wicked Witch’s sister represents the Almira Gultch as Dorothy initially believes her to be. Her death is Dorothy’s subconscious making a statement that there is no such thing as an unsympathetic evil person.
The Munchkins is Dorothy’s brain preparing to explore the expansive layers and complexities that make up an individual. Throughout the scene the Munchkins are coming out of seemingly nowhere and at some points seem overwhelmingly numerous. Her brain is coming to terms with the fact that in order for her to not hate Almira, then she can no longer look at her as a one dimensional evil person, but as a multi-dimensional human being. With the Witch of the East dead, the Munchkins can now thrive.
The Scarecrow is how Dorothy views Almira’s intelligence. If only she knew and could understand that Toto wasn’t a violent dog, then she wouldn’t want to hurt him. The Tin-man is how she views Almira’s social life. Due to the “Tin-man’s” life style, he is often isolated. If Almira only had friends who could help out with some “oil” i.e. friendship, then she would be easy to converse and get along with. The Lion (who we recognize most as Almira out of the three due to his impulsiveness to attack and “destroy” Toto) is how Dorothy views Almira’s fear. If only she wasn’t so afraid, she wouldn’t want to hurt Toto, and she wouldn’t have to hate her.
The most important aspect of these three characters is that they can all be “fixed” by some outside source, i.e. the wizard. If they can change, then so can Almira.
The apple trees represent Almira’s garden. In this scene, Dorothy is recognizing her own responsibility in what had happened back in Kansas. Much like the garden, the apples were not hers to intrude on, and even though her intentions were not malicious in taking the apples or letting Toto in the garden, she was still in the wrong. The reconciliation being: if she can be flawed and lovable, then so can Almira.
The witch’s guards and monkeys represent Almira’s political power. Auntie Em makes the statement that Almira “owns half the county” which is why she is able to get away with questionable actions, e.g. getting an order to kill a dog without hearing both sides of the story first. When the Wicked Witch is killed, her minions are no longer “bad”. Since the Wicked Witch obviously represents the part of Almira that Dorothy hates, this scene is meant to help her believe that once she is able to break through the “bad” part of Almira and connect with her then Toto will no longer be in danger with the law.
The Wizard of Oz is pretty on the nose. He is exposed near the end of the dream as just a man behind a curtain. This is ultimately the crescendo where Dorothy is finally able to come terms with the fact that there is more to a person than what meets the eye. There is more to Almira than what she initially believed.
Glinda represents the “good” in Almira. Although she’s only present for a short part of the dream, she does in fact exist. And it is Glinda who ultimately shows Dorothy “the way home”. This leads us to the ruby slippers. They represent “the capacity to be understood and to understand”. Dorothy is told to “hold on tight to them” for her journey, otherwise the Wicked Witch (the “bad” in Almira) will grow more powerful. Dorothy needed them on her journey so that she could learn to understand Almira as something other than a “wicked old witch”.
The reason for Dorothy’s mind to use the faces of Hunk, Hickory, Zeke and Professor Marvel within the dream is simple. By using familiar and positive figures from Dorothy’s real world as representations of Almira, Dorothy was more able to accept and love the different aspects of Almira in real life.