We are moving along quickly through The Wizard of Oz, so If you missed a previous post, feel free to use the links above to catch up on each chapter summary and analysis. Today, we are looking at chapter five and will be focusing more on how authors employ good characterization!
Dorothy and the Scarecrow continue venturing toward the Emerald City through a great forest and discover a man made entirely out of tin rusted into a standing position. Dorothy retrieves an oil can and begins oiling the tinman’s joints.
It’s here that we learn of his sad tale:
The Tin Woodman was in love with a munchkin girl and was engaged to marry her but did not have a home, so decided that he would make a home and enough money to care for her. However, the munchkin girl lived with a lazy, old woman who did not want her to leave because, well, she was lazy, and wanted the munchkin around to do her bidding.
As the Tin Woodman tells Dorothy:
“So, the old woman went to the Wicked Witch of the East, and promised her two sheep and a cow if she would prevent the marriage. Thereupon the wicked witch enchanted my axe, and when I was chopping away at my best one day, the axe slipped all at once an cut off my leg.”
From here, the Tin Woodman is dealt blow after blow from the enchanted axe every time he returns back to chopping from the Tinsman, who fashions him new appendages each time he loses one (fortunately). Finally, though, to really do him in, the Wicked Witch of the East causes the axe to slice his abdomen in two, which destroys his heart.
Again, the Tin Woodman says to Dorothy:
“But, alas!I had now no heart, so that I lost all my love for the Munchkin girl and did not care whether I married her or not. I suppose she is still living with that old woman, waiting for me to come after her.”
They all decide to venture off together to find the Wizard of Oz, because the Tin Woodman could benefit from a heart so that he could love again, and the Scarecrow wanted a brain as to not be a fool. Dorothy, meanwhile, in a moment of selfishness, thinks that it doesn’t matter whether either of her adventuring friends ever actually get what they want as long as she gets what she wants: a return ticket to Kansas.
This is a much darker story than the one given to us in the book. That is, the Tin Woodman does not reveal how he became the Tin Woodman in the movie, because, well, I imagine it would have been a little gory for the child audience for which the movie was made. There is also a lot about slavery in this story, and many of the characters are ostensibly imprisoned in their own lives. For example, the Munchkins are literally imprisoned by the Wicked Witch to do her biding, Dorothy is imprisoned in her dull life in Kansas, the Scarecrow is imprisoned on a stake in a corn field, and the Tin Woodman is imprisoned in his rust. Slavery is not an easy theme and neither is imprisonment, but both of those ideas are in The Wizard of Oz.
Regardless, between both this chapter and the previous chapter, we get solid character development with both the Scarecrow (who is established at this point) and the Tin Woodman (who is a new character). The characters of the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman are kind, and I also get the sense that they are courageous because they have decided to journey with Dorothy to the Emerald City (which would be a scary prospect for anybody). We also learn about Dorothy’s selfish side, which has hitherto not revealed itself. I have no doubt that this characteristic will show itself again in the story (like Chekov’s gun) but let us hope Dorothy can look past her self-interest in the future to help her new acquaintances.