Some Christian believers who may only look at the surface of this movie have suggested that it is occult-leaning and should be avoided. But I see rather a picture of the search of man for reality. There are many fictional stories which reveal the hidden heart of man and his situation. And they are always the most popular of our culture – in addition to Oz, there is The Sound of Music, Beauty and the Beast, and Porgy and Bess all stories of man’s inner struggles.
It is also a broad statement of the hopes that under gird the American Dream. Many people fail to notice that ultimately this is a dream.
Third, it is the reflected political vision of the “tired and poor” of Europe tossed up on the shores of the USA. Several Jews played a major part in the creation of this movie and its music, esp. Somewhere over the Rainbow. Even after a decade of war, flapper-excess, the great depression and the blossoming of the mob thanks to Prohibition these upheavals could not stem the tide from Europe which drove thousands of Jews and many others to America after World War 1.
America is still the land of promises where bluebirds fly. Jews working on the movie expressed their hopes for America where a lost girl, and three other flawed creatures could join forces to locate the person who will realize their personal dreams. The Wizard of Oz continues to be one of the top box-office draws of all time because it expresses the individual dream of all people for a happy productive life.
I prefer to see it as Man’s eternal search to answer the basic questions – who am I, where am I going, and what is truth. In this interpretation Dorothy becomes Every Man. Dissatisfied with life, feeling put upon authorities and contested by evil forces (the witchy-woman who wants to dispose of poor little Toto, the dog) she tries to run away when the tornado scoops her up.
Dorothy was a real orphan. Her dreams meant escaping her unhappy life; many people do feel fatherless and unwanted. Psychologists say some people actually believe they are not the real children of their parents. Denial of who and what we are can continue into adult life. Dorothy ends up in a totally improbable world where she accidentally kills an evil witch, is applauded by scores of very small people, treated as an honored guest and sent on her way to find the Utopian Personage known as The Wizard.
And we all want that, to be appreciated, to be sent to someone who can solve all our problems with one sweep of the hand. Christians sing, “Earth is not my home, I’m only passing through.” This is true – we are all temporary, and we all want a life of happiness and fulfillment. On the Yellow Brick road to truth, which is the Kingdom of Oz, Dorothy must deal with the three parts of a human being – the will, the intellect and the emotions, which in theology is known as the soul.
The Tin Man needs a heart, the Scarecrow needs a brain and the Lion needs a spirit consistent with his true nature, i.e. lionhearted. The Emerald City is both a symbol of American money, the greenbacks, but also of heaven for Christian believers, the New Jerusalem built of emeralds.
Christians will notice that Jesus is compared to the King of the Beasts, the ruler of man’s total nature. Salvation to a believer is the union of those three disparate parts of his nature under the leadership of God. God in this movie is pictured as a Wizard, which we find out later actually is not a god-figure as his clay feet are exposed. Dorothy and her friends (her three part divided soul) have been looking for the wrong thing.
Poor Oz. He knows he’s only human and playing god so when Dorothy chews him out for being a hypocritical control freak he quickly repents and promises to make things right. He tells the four of them they already have their answers.
And that of course is life. The Utopian fix-all God is not available and all the smoke and mirrors of secular life cannot hide it in the end. Yellow is the symbol for holiness, is the road they must take to get to a heavenly home and a true God.
Along the way Dorothy and her friends must deal with a devilish attack as do all humans and they escape with help, some of it otherworldly as when the poppies put them to sleep. Yes, we have angels in attendance.
In fact, Jesus is that kryptonite which handles the enemy’s kingdom for us, as we come to realize that we cannot be as perfect as we would want and that everything we sought for ourselves was really inside all along; The lion had courage, the tin man was a softy, and the scarecrow solved problems. Not one of us is anywhere near as bad off as we think or as powerful as we had hoped. Nor are we as lost as we had assumed. There is a God. Those red shoes, symbol of the blood of Jesus, will take her back home.
And when Dorothy ends up in her own bed, she is surrounded by the same people and the same problems but with a new attitude of gratitude about herself and her family. Salvation for a believer is not an event but a process of coming to reality about life, its limitations and of course, its final goal.
Dorothy makes it – and so can we.
This is a Chapter in my forthcoming book, Dream Interpretation and Bible Symbolsm Volume 1