The timeless story of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum has been known to symbolize many things, among them the economical and social struggles of the 1890s. It can, as well, represent the journey to attain our goals as authors. In Dorothy’s case, she wants to get home. Her adventure through the land of Oz presents her with both risks and opportunities. They are the same ones most people face.
Obviously, the poppy fields can symbolize the perils of drug/opioid use, but
if we keep to Dorothy’s perspective, even her newfound friends can represent the challenges we face when pursuing a goal.
Take the Cowardly Lion. He procrastinates, uses excuses to run away, and is crippled by fear. If Dorothy were to follow his path (before he gets his Badge of Courage) she would never attain her goal of getting home.
What about the Scarecrow? He is the brains of the operation (he just doesn’t know it). Assuming he represents intelligence, you may ask why that would be a bad thing? Well, how often do you over-rationalize? Over-think your story? Besides fear playing a part in hampering our journey, we might use our intellect to our disadvantage. We may learn that “9 out of 10 people fail in this field.” Is a fact like that going to serve you? It’s going to discourage you. True, intelligence is a good thing. It’s important to study for a test. Without doing so, you’ll fail. Training for a job gives you the tools you need to perform successfully. Still, you want to make sure you see the forest through the trees. If you get caught up in the day-to-day minutia, you’ll lose sight of your goal. It’s good to absorb information. Get training. Watch the pros. Read books on the subject, but at some point, absorb the info and stamp your brand on it. Too much intellect will rationalize away your dream.
Ah, the Tin Man. He represents the heart. How could that be termed as a challenge for Dorothy? To follow your heart is a noble thing. To be sensitive to others, caring, and loving is positive. However, if you form unhealthy attachments, to your past, say, or to someone who is not good for you, your heart, then, hampers your journey.
The most obvious risk for Dorothy, however, is to cross paths with the Wicked Witch of the West. The witch wants to steal the power of the ruby slippers (or silver shoes, if you’re following the book). Why does the witch want them so badly? They hold immense power.
What is that power? It’s the realization that Dorothy had the power to reach her goal all along. How powerful is that? It lay right at her feet, on her feet to be exact.
Dorothy had to first cycle through a lot of experiences to be able to accept the news the Good Witch of the North (call her Glinda, as in the movie version) delivers. Perhaps, if Glinda had said from the beginning, “You have always had the power to go home,” Dorothy wouldn’t have believed her. Glinda has the ability to give the super-charged slippers to the wearer, but she can’t make the wearer use them.
And so, it is with us. Someone can wave a news bulletin of confidence in front of your face, and if you’re not ready to accept it, you simply won’t see it. The good news is, life offers us these experiences in which to learn. At some point, you will cage your fear, educate yourself while still believing in dreams, and let go of unhealthy attachments that weigh you down. To make use of the magic, Dorothy needed to click her heels. For writers, we have to write, and remind ourselves every so often that we wear the ruby slippers.
Laurie Stevens is the author of the Gabriel McRay thriller series. The books have won twelve awards, among them Kirkus Reviews Best of 2011 and a Random House Editors’ Book of the Month. International Thriller Writers claims she’s “cracked the code” in regards to writing psychological suspense. Laurie co-edited the 2019 Sisters in Crime anthology Fatally Haunted, and her short stories have appeared in many anthologies and magazines. Laurie lives near the setting of her books, the Santa Monica Mountains, with her husband, two snakes, and a cat.
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