Power Transitions in Oz

The North and the South are pretty stable under the good witches. But everywhere else in Oz seems to undergo a change of power within the story.

In the East and the West, Dorothy kills the bad witch who was running things. It’s ambiguous who runs Munchkin Land after the death of the witch of the East, but it seems to be the Munchkins. All the other locations are run by near strangers after their transitions. The witch of the West, for instance, is replaced by the Tin Woodman who is chosen by the Winkies briefly after meeting him.

In the forest to the south, the previous leaders of the beasts are killed by the giant spider. The Lion says that he will kill the spider if the beasts will make him their king in return.

In the Emerald City, Oz the humbug decides he’s bored and that he’ll leave with Dorothy. He puts the Scarecrow in charge because he seems smart enough, then he leaves without Dorothy.

The changes in power here mainly center around death. Only Oz leaves his position of power unharmed.

The new people in power are all men, and at least approved of (if not chosen by) the people of the region. Oz chooses the Scarecrow but the people like him. The Winkies choose the Tin Woodman. The Lion sort of negotiates with the beasts. This makes sense with the Populist idea, but I’m not sure how it would fit in with a feminist reading of the text, especially since we don’t learn how the witches came to power.

Perhaps the main characters becoming the rulers of the places they visited is part of the fairy tale aspect of the story. But it does seem a little odd to me that the people of Oz wouldn’t choose someone they know or who is local. This is also interesting in the context of the comment early in the book that Oz has never been civilized (thus explaining the presence of witches and wizards). I think part of what is typically considered civilization is peaceful power transitions. In Oz the power transitions start with a death.

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