The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and the Election of 1896

Some historians believe that the Wonderful Wizard of Oz was a commentary on the Election of 1896. I happen to agree with that statement and I wanted to give some reasoning and historical context as to why this is the case.

Historical Context

In order to understand why the Wizard of Oz is a commentary on the presidential election of 1896, you must first understand the politics and some of the pressing issues of the time.

The election of 1896 was between Republican nominee William McKinley and Democratic nominee William Jennings Bryan. William Jennings Bryan was a big proponent of the silver standard and ending the gold standard for currency (this will be relevant later so hold on to that thought) and McKinley was viewed by many non-industrialist areas and people as a puppet of the robber barons of the time. During this time period, the mine owners and industrialists were all-powerful and controlled much of the power of the time.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

There are a few connections to make between the politics of 1896 and the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Emerald City represented Washington DC. Emerald City was ruled by a propped up Wizard of Oz who had no real power. Similarly, many people viewed President McKinley as just that. Planted into the government by industrialist and robber baron interests to do their bidding in terms of workers rights and the economy.

The only way you could get to Emerald City was on the Yellow-brick road. The yellow-brick road could easily be seen as reference to the gold standard of money, meaning that the only way to get to Washington was to be well-off and have money.

The Wicked Witches represented the industrialists and the mine owners who attempted to shut down and form of protest or strike and attempt to get more rights for workers. As Dorothy tries to get to Emerald City on the yellow-brick road, or a worker trying to obtain more money or rights, they Wicked Witches attempt to stop them by ending their journey.

The last connection I want to make is Dorothy’s shoes. In the book, she had silver slippers which would represent the silver standard wanted by William Jennings Bryan and a large number of Americans at the time. As Dorothy was the “all-American girl from Kansas” who was supposed to represent the average American wanting the silver standard.


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