Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • In the summer of 1963,

  • a high school teacher changed the way the world looked at "The Wizard of Oz."

  • His name was Henry Littlefield,

  • and he was teaching an American history class.

  • He'd made it to the late 19th century, a time called The Gilded Age,

  • but he was struggling to keep his class interested

  • in the complex social and economic issues of the time.

  • Then one night, while he was reading

  • "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" to his daughters,

  • he had an idea.

  • In the 1890s, farmers wanted to add silver to the gold standard

  • to put more money in circulation

  • and make it easier for farmers to borrow.

  • In the book, Dorothy walked to the Emerald City on the Yellow Brick Road

  • in her silver shoes.

  • The movie's ruby red slippers started out as silver.

  • Silver and gold on the road to prosperity.

  • L. Frank Baum had published the book in 1900

  • at the height of The Gilded Age,

  • and the analogy didn't seem out of the question.

  • No one else had seen these connections,

  • but that didn't deter Littlefield.

  • He taught his class about The Gilded Age using the book,

  • and soon he and his students were finding more connections.

  • For instance, in the late 1890s,

  • the U.S. had recently recovered from the Civil War

  • and integrated vast new territories,

  • bringing an era of prosperity for some.

  • But while industry and finance in the North and East prospered,

  • farmers across the South and Midwest struggled.

  • This led to the Populist movement,

  • uniting farmers and workers against urban elites.

  • By 1896, the movement had grown into the People's Party,

  • and its support of Democrat Williams Jennings Bryan

  • put him in reach of the presidency.

  • Meanwhile in Oz, claimed Littlefield,

  • Dorothy is a typical American girl

  • whose hard life in Kansas is literally turned upside down

  • by powerful forces outside her control.

  • The munchkins are the common people oppressed by the Witch of the East,

  • banks and monopolies.

  • The Scarecrow is the farmer,

  • considered naive but actually quite resourceful,

  • the Tin Woodman is the industrial worker dehumanized by factory labor,

  • and the Cowardly Lion is William Jennings Bryan

  • who could be an influential figure if only he were brave enough

  • to adopt the Populist's radical program.

  • Together, they travel along a golden yellow road

  • towards a grand city whose ruler's power turns out to be built on illusions.

  • Littlefield published some of these observations in an essay.

  • His claim that this fantasy was actually a subversive critique

  • of American capitalism appealed to many people in 1960s.

  • Other scholars took up the theme,

  • and the proposed analogies and connections multiplied.

  • They suggested that Dorothy's dog Toto

  • represented the teetotalers of the prohibition party.

  • Oz was clearly the abbreviation for ounces,

  • an important unit in the silver debate.

  • The list goes on.

  • By the 1980s, this understanding of the book was accepted so widely

  • that several American history textbooks

  • mentioned it in discussions of late 19th century politics.

  • But is the theory right?

  • L. Frank Baum's introduction claims the book is just an innocent children's story.

  • Could he have been deliberately throwing people off the trail?

  • And is it fair to second guess him so many decades later?

  • There's no definitive answer,

  • which is part of why authorial intent

  • is a complex, tangled, fun question to unravel.

  • And some recent scholars have interpreted "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz"

  • in the opposite way as Littlefield.

  • They claim it's a celebration of the new urban consumer culture.

  • Historian William Leach argued that the dazzling Emerald City of Oz

  • was meant to acclimate people to the shiny, new America.

  • In the end, all we know for sure is that Baum,

  • inspired by European folk legends,

  • had set out to create one for American children.

  • And whether or not he intended any hidden meanings,

  • its continuing relevance suggests he succeeded

  • in creating a fairytale America can call its own.

In the summer of 1963,

Subtitles and vocabulary

Operation of videos Adjust the video here to display the subtitles

B2 US TED-Ed silver wizard dorothy gilded american

Does "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" have a hidden message? - David B. Parker

  • 2743 163
    April Lu posted on 2018/09/27
Video vocabulary