Monday, December 9, 2013

Book Review: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ: Could be monotonous at times, but still an interesting read

The story follows Dorothy, a young girl who has been transported to the Land of Oz during a cyclone. Together with her dog Toto, she tries to find her way back to Kansas, only to find out that the only chance she has is by consulting the wizard Oz. Now, she must journey to the Emerald City, the city where Oz is, and plead to him. But it turns out that everything is not that simple.

If I could compare this book to another, that would be to Alice in Wonderland. They have the same direct, fairytale-like storytelling, and both have messages between the lines that could easily be discerned because of the wordplays and whatnots. The only difference is that The Wizard of Oz actually has a general plot.

At first, the story seems to be a little monotonous. She travels the land and meets the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Lion -- characters we know too well -- in one chapter to the next. In a sense, the storytelling becomes a little flat because it’s too formulaic.

Aside from that, the small conflicts in their travels seem to be solved too conveniently. A bird appears out of nowhere to save the day. A group of mice appears out of nowhere to save another. But okay, let’s cut the book some slack because it’s a children’s story after all.

What I like about the story is that there is actually a goal in it, so the book has a specific direction to go to, unlike Alice in Wonderland, where Alice just goes around and experience the absurdity before her.

Another thing I like is the ridiculousness of some of its plot elements. We have a city that is predominantly green, winged monkeys bound to a contract, witches that melt on water, and people made of china. This is another reason why I compare it deeply to Alice in Wonderland. The plot elements are magical for the child, but could be very symbolic for the adult. This makes The Wizard of Oz a recommendable read to both children and adult.

Speaking of symbolism, I must say that the characters themselves are very symbolic. The Scarecrow and his wish to have brains, the Tin Man and his wish to have a heart, and the Lion and his wish to have courage, clearly show that. L. Frank Baum exploits these wishes to present truths that are rather subtle.

I also like the idea how Oz himself has pretended to use magic to grant these wishes, when after all, the wishes have already been fulfilled because of the wishers’ experiences and journeys. It isn’t blatantly expressed that ‘What we’re looking for is inside of us after all’. It is just there for the reader to discern for himself.

Overall, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is an entertaining read. Even though the story could have some cop-outs, and it becomes monotonous and formulaic from time to time, it manages to be compelling. The writing voice is also very smooth, which is always a positive. Anyone who is, or has been, a child should read this book. It is just both magical and symbolic, so it could entertain practically any age group.

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