The Wizard of Oz as a Parable on Populism, Part 1

Several years ago I had an extended piece on this website about the various interpretations of The Wizard of Oz and I’ll be revisiting those topics throughout the year (and beyond). Not only is this year is the 75th anniversary of the release of the MGM classic film The Wizard of Oz (1939), but also the 50th anniversary of Henry Littlefield’s article suggesting that The Wizard of Oz was a “Parable on Populism,” a rural political movement in the late-19th century. in the Spring, 1964, issue of American Quarterly, Littlefield, a high school history teacher in upstate New York, asserted that L. Frank Baum had written The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) as a political allegory in which the characters represented various aspects of the 1896 election, when the Populist movement mounted a serious challenge to the two major parties in American politics. Over the years Littlefield’s interpretation of The Wizard of Oz has drawn considerable comment, much of which has centered on whether or not L. Frank Baum intentionally wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as some sort of political commentary, and this meme has now taken on a life of its own.
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