Analysis of Symbolism in the Film The Wizard of Oz

If you’ve never read or watched The Wizard of Oz or need your memory refreshed, here’s a quick sum-up of the movie:

The film follows 12-year-old farmgirl Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) who lives on a Kansas farm with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, but dreams of a better place “somewhere over the rainbow.” After being struck unconscious during a tornado by a window which has come loose from its frame, Dorothy dreams that she, her dog Toto and the farmhouse are transported to the magical Land of Oz. There, the Good Witch of the North, Glinda (Billie Burke), advises Dorothy to follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City and meet the Wizard of Oz, who can return her to Kansas. During her journey, she meets a Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), a Tin Man (Jack Haley) and a Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr), who join her, hoping to receive what they lack themselves (a brain, a heart and courage, respectively). All of this is done while also trying to avoid the Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton) and her attempt to get her sister’s ruby slippers from Dorothy, who received them from Glinda.

The said above, the entire story of the Wizard of Oz is an allegorical tale of the soul’s path to illumination – the Yellow Brick Road. In Buddhism (an important part of Theosophical teachings) the same concept is referred to as the “Golden Path”.

The story starts with Dorothy Gale living in Kansas, which symbolizes the material world, the physical plane where each one of us starts our spiritual journey. Dorothy feels an urge to “go over the rainbow”, to reach the ethereal realm and follow the path to illumination. She has basically “passed the Nadir” by demonstrating the urge to seek a higher truth.

Dorothy is then brought to Oz by a giant cyclone spiraling upward, representing the cycles of karma, the cycle of errors and lessons learned. It also represents the theosophical belief in reincarnation, the round of physical births and deaths of a soul until it is fit to become divine. It is also interesting to note that the Yellow Brick Road of Oz begins as an outwardly expanding spiral. In occult symbolism, this spiral represents the evolving self, the soul ascending from matter into the spirit world.


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2 thoughts on “Analysis of Symbolism in the Film The Wizard of Oz

  1. Anonymous

    Here is a blatant plug for my American Modernism Class in the Spring: The Theosophical Movement combines ideas from all religions in a search for "spiritualism." It was started in the 1860's but ultimately became extremely influential among early twentieth-century Modernists, especially in New York City! Think artists such as Kandinsky, Mondrian, even Steiglitz and O'Keeffe. The search for spiritualism was very much integrated into these visual artists' work from this time period…it's pretty fascinating stuff!

    -Erika

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