The Politics of Oz

In The Emerald City, when the invasion of the Nome King and the evil spirits is imminent, Ozma and Oz further demonstrate utopian values in a nearly suicidal commitment to nonviolence. Ozma refuses to flee, believing she must share her subjects’ fate, and though the Tin Woodman, the Scarecrow, and the Shaggy Man advise Ozma to fight the Nome King, she rejects violent solutions because “No one has the right to destroy any living creatures, however evil they may be, or to hurt them or make them unhappy” (268).

The Scarecrow peacefully outwits the evil legions, deceiving them into drinking Glinda’s Water of Oblivion that reverts these miserable backstabbers to childhood innocence. Importantly, the Lethe-like Water of Oblivion makes them happier by erasing their greed and hatred: “The frowns and scowls and evil looks were all gone. Even the most monstrous of the creatures there assembled smiled innocently and seemed lighthearted and content merely to be alive” (284). The wicked Nome King himself becomes kind, at least until Tik-Tok of Oz, when he reverts to cruelty as a consequence not of his nature but of his office. Instead of plundering, enslaving, or scolding her now-harmless enemies, Ozma sends every one of the invaders back to their homes unharmed.

This nonviolence is fantastical and has no practical analogue to the real world—maybe, put a pin in that—yet serves as an ultimate statement of values. In the tradition of (stated) Christian ethics, Oz not only responds to violence with love but also redeems the wicked: “[T]o have reformed all those evil characters is more important than to have saved Oz” (289). The Wizard, Jinjur, Ugu, and eventually the Nome King himself, who drinks the Water of Oblivion a second time in The Magic of Oz and lastingly becomes innocent and happy, all receive similar second chances.

In the conventional and probably intended reading, Ozma’s Oz is an agrarian utopia representing progressive values: the end of private property, women’s power, tolerance and acceptance, and even police and prison abolition. But to what extent do the Nome King and the Whimsies, Growleywogs, and Phanfasms really represent greed, exploitation, and mercilessness?