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Freud’s Oz: Freudian Views In The Wizard Of Oz Essay, Research Paper
Freud’s Oz: Freudian Views in The Wizard of Oz
The film The Wizard of Oz is definitely about the concept of returning
home. This is made clear throughout the film. Dorothy’s entire time in Oz is
spent trying to get back home to Kansas. Then when she gets back home she tells
Aunt Em that “all I kept saying to everybody was ?I want to go home.’” This
fits perfectly with the time, 1939, that The Wizard of Oz was produced. One
reason was that due to the depression, many people were forced away from their
homes and into cities. Another reason was that America was on the verge of
entering into another war, WWII, and the threat of having to send troops away
from home was very real. And, as stated by Paul Nathanson in Over the Rainbow
(156), “going home is fundamentally linked, for many Americans, with growing
up.” With this in mind, it seems a good way of evaluating The Wizard of Oz is
by Dorothy’s process of growing up, her maturation. Also, since Dorothy’s
adventure to Oz is clearly in the form of a dream, it seems a good way of
analyzing Dorothy’s maturation is by looking at this dream compared with real
ones, and using modern dream analogy from the Freudian perspective.
The act that spurs the entire action of the movie, according to Freudian
Daniel Dervin ( Over The Rainbow 163 ), is Dorothy witnessing the “primal scene”.
The “primal scene” refers to a child witnessing sexual intercourse between
mother and father; an moment that is both terrifying and confusing to the child.
According to Dervin, this event sends Dorothy towards her final stage of
childhood development ( Freud believed in three stages of childhood development
) the phallic phase. Terrified of the idea of being destroyed by father’s
phallus, Dorothy projects ( another of Freud’s ides was that of projection,
turning a feeling into something other than itself ) her fear into the form of
the tornado. In deed Dervin even suggests that this tornado “may well be a
remarkably apt representation of the paternal phallus in its swollen, twisting,
penetrating, state which is part of the primal scene.” The question then
becomes, where did this primal scene take place? In the movie Dorothy has her
own room, but in the book she shares a one-room house with Aunt Em and Uncle
Henry. Understanding this background, Freudians believe that viewers
subconsciously understand the cinematic setting as an appropriate one for the
Dorothy is then taken away by the tornado, a form of her anxiety over
the primal scene, to Oz. When Dorothy arrives in Oz she is able to symbolically
replay the primal scene by means of smaller conflicts that Dorothy can more
easily overcome. Dorothy does deal with her feelings towards Aunt Em in her
dream about Oz. In Kansas it is shown that Aunt Em is unable to provide Dorothy
with enough love and attention. This is evidenced by her dismissal of Dorothy’s
pleas for help with Toto. Since in Kansas any negative feelings towards Aunt Em
are not allowed, Dorothy represses them. Now that Dorothy is in her dream world
she can express those hostile feelings. Dorothy does this through splitting
Aunt Em into two separate people. One representing all of the good qualities in
Aunt Em, and one representing all of the bad ones. The stern, businesslike Aunt
Em is made into the Wicked Witch of the West. The loving and caring side of
Aunt Em is placed onto Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. The Wicked Witch of
the West, the bad side of Aunt Em, is killed by Dorothy, but it is accidental.
The fact that it is accidental saves Dorothy from any feelings of guilt.
Dorothy also needs to deal with her feelings towards her father ( or
father figure ) in a less dramatic manner. This is done by making her father
into the Wizard. According to Dervin ( Over The Rainbow 165 ), there is a
connection between the Wizard and the storm in Kansas. The Emerald City could
be used as an example of this because of the verticality of the bars that make
up the city drawing distinct comparisons with the verticality of the tornado.
In addition, when Dorothy meets the Wizard for the first time, his image is
accompanied by flashes of lightning and shouts of thunder. The storm is
obviously connected to the tornado, which is also connected to the phallus, and
in turn father himself. When Dorothy first speaks with the Wizard he is very
intimidating, but Dorothy builds up enough courage to confront him and ask about
her four wishes. The Wizard responds by ordering Dorothy to retrieve the
witch’s broomstick, or in symbolic terms the phallus, and return to its rightful
It is at the point of killing the Wicked Witch of the West that Dorothy
enters into the phallic stage. Freud describes the phallic stage as a period
when the “sexual impulses and object relations of a child’s early years become
reanimated, and amongst them the emotional ties of its Oedipus Complex”( An
Autobiographical Study 23). Dorothy now switches her focus from the mother to
father. By killing the witch and giving the broomstick to the Wizard, Dorothy
is enstilled with a new sense of power and increased sexual curiosity. Dervin
goes into this point in Over the Rainbow by saying,
“When Dorothy lays her broomstick at the base of the Wizard’s ominous image, it
is a clear measure of her newly acquired sexual knowledge. Putting the phallus
where it properly belongs, however, not only disarms the wicked phallic mother
but also sets in motion a process that will demythologize the all-powerful
Wizard, for he now stands for a merely human organ.”(167)
Shortly after, Toto pulls away the curtain that shields the Wizard and he is
shown to be only an illusion of power. Dorothy looking behind the curtain is
symbolic of her looking in on the primal scene again, but this time she finds it
to be very reassuring. Dorothy discovers that the Wizard is not a super human
force that should be feared. She finds him to be quite normal and unthreatening.
Earlier Dorothy projected her terror towards the phallus onto a tornado, she
now does not feel the need to use projection.
Most Freudian followers believe that the final action that enabled
Dorothy to work through her trauma was working with the Wizard to help the three
companions. Since Dorothy participates with the Wizard in “humanizing” them she
is symbolically bearing his children. Together they make full humans out of
puppets, and this helps Dorothy relive the primal scene. She is then granted
with defining the sexual roles by returning her father’s phallus, and giving up
her own phallic wishes. She also then establishes her femininity by seeing her
powers of reproduction.
The Wizard also offers to take Dorothy back to Kansas himself. Earlier
being linked to the weather, it is no coincidence that he is going to take her
by means of a hot air balloon. After the Wizard accidentally leaves without her,
Dorothy has to find another way back home. Dorothy realizes that in order to
return home all she has to do is awaken from her slumber, which she can do now
because she has worked through all of the problems in her development. When
Dorothy does awaken there is no longer a viscous storm outside caused by the
primal scene, but rather a sunny day. There are all her friends, filled with a
tremendous amount of emotion, huddled around the bed. The image is one of a
maternity setting with everyone surrounding the new mother. And maybe Dorothy
did give birth in that room. Not to a newborn baby, but to a new chapter of
That leaves only one main part of The Wizard of Oz left unaccounted for,
the ruby slippers. Paul Nathanson tells us that in fairy tales red is
associated with blood, but when it is a girl, red is associated with menstrual
blood and the onset of puberty ( Over The Rainbow 174). This corresponds
beautifully to the idea that Dorothy was entering the phallic stage and was
indeed experiencing changes. Slippers themselves have even been linked to
sexuality. The classic Disney film Cinderella revolves around this concept of
sexuality and slippers. The slippers are a symbol of Cinderella’s sexual
readiness. When her sisters try on the slipper, their feet do not fit because
they are still dealing with the problems of puberty. That is why their feet
bleed when they try on the slipper.
These ruby slippers support the Freudian theory even further. One
aspect is that Dorothy does not seek out the ruby slippers, but rather finds
them on her feet. Glinda puts them there magically without Dorothy’s consent.
Another thing is that menstruation cannot be stopped, and this means that
Dorothy will have to learn to live with menstruation forever. Glinda tells
Dorothy, “There they are and there they’ll stay.” In Dorothy’s case, as well as
with probably almost all girls, these changes in her body are scary and she
looks at them as a kind of curse. All the ruby slippers have gotten Dorothy at
the beginning is persecution from an evil witch. By the end of the dream though,
Dorothy has worked through the mystery of the ruby slippers and is ready to go
home. In order to go home, she needs but to click the slippers together three
times while reciting, “There is no place like home.” Interestingly enough the
last image of Oz is of the ruby slippers, and the only way back home is for
Dorothy to ritually acknowledge them.
Though to many a strict Freudian view is bizarre, it is something that
stills needs to be looked at. In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy goes to Oz to work
out anxiety brought on by witnessing the primal scene between her two parental
figures. She also is experiencing many changes within herself that she needs to
deal with. Dorothy’s return to Kansas is marked by a new sense of sexuality and
femininity, as well as a better understanding of herself. Dorothy returned home
ready to participate fully in the adult community
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