Welcome back to The Reading of Oz! This is a series of posts in which I read L. Frank Baum’s classic fantasy novel and analyze it through the lens of literary mechanics. Today, we are going to continue looking at the idea of characterization, and how that impacts what we learn about characters in the story.
Chapter Four Summary: The Road through the Forest
It is at this point in The Wizard of Oz that Dorothy has made a friend and is now making her way to the Emerald City to speak with the wizard of Oz. They continue following the road but are finding it hard to navigate because the road itself is shabby. The “walking grew so difficult that the Scarecrow often stumbled over the yellow brick, which were here very uneven” (Baum). Because this development creates complications, Dorothy and the Scarecrow stop and set up camp near a little brook where she then prepares dinner.
We get some more moments of characterization, as we learn a little more about the Scarecrow. He tells Dorothy that he never hungers because his mouth is not real, and he has no way to digest the food. Additionally, we start to see some of Dorothy’s values arise when she tells him that she hopes to return to Kansas regardless of how “gray” the homes are, because “we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home” (Baum).
One of the characteristics we will come to find out is that Dorothy is a loyal person, and this loyalty will see her through to the end of the story, whether that be through her loyalty to Kansas or her loyalty to her friends.
In this chapter, we learn more about the Scarecrow and how he came to be. After two munchkins put him together (and literally paint on his senses) he is used as a prop to scare away the crows from eating all the corn in the Munchkins’ farm field, but this does not work because, apparently, he is not all that imposing.
A crow lands on the Scarecrow’s shoulder and tells him that “’Any crow of sense could see that you are only stuffed with straw.’ Then he hopped down at my feet and ate all the corn he wanted.”
Such an insult reveals to us why the Scarecrow feels like a fool. He is entirely incapable of doing what he was created to do, which is super insulting to his life’s purpose.
“I felt sad at this,” he states in the book, “for it showed I was not such a good Scarecrow after all …”
Keep in mind, all of these chapters are short and get right to the point, which, in the case of this book, is super effective.