Behind the Curtain of The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz as allegory for currency battle.

“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” has morphed into the English language as “”Move along here. Nothing to see.”  What the bankers don’t want Americans to see is what is done to their money through fractional reserve banking. The Wizard is the man behind the curtain, a green curtain of currency whereby he creates worthless dollars based on gold. Wikipedia includes a note from Ruth Kassinger’s book, Gold: From Greek Myth to Computer Chips, where she argues that “The Wizard symbolizes bankers who support the gold standard and oppose adding silver to it . . . . Only Dorothy’s silver slippers can take her home to Kansas”, meaning that by Dorothy not realizing that she had the silver slippers the whole time, Dorothy, or “the westerners,” never realized they already had a viable currency of the people.”

This interpretation seems sound enough and one that I can agree with.  If The Wizard of Oz is an allegory, then the Wizard and all the others in it are types.  Think Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life.  Elderly, white-haired gentleman who exerts tremendous influence over the events of other people in the story.

The New York Times has made public reference to Ben Bernanke, the former Fed Chair, as “The Wizard.”  So clearly the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz is more certainly than not a reference to the nation’s bankers, like the Federal Reserve Bank. In fact, how can a comparison of the Wizard of Oz not be made to J. P. Morgan?

JP_Morgan
J. P. Morgan, 1903

Hugh Rockoff of Rutgers wrote in 1990 that The Wizard of Oz is “a sophisticated commentary on the political and economic debates of the Populist Era.”  Here is more on the Populist Era.  It was really a movement that called for inflation to help the farmers get out of debt.  This is also the background for To Kill a Mockingbird.

Wikipedia explains that “Quentin Taylor, for example, claimed that many of the events and characters of the book resemble the actual political personalities, events and ideas of the 1890s.[10] Dorothy—naïve, young and simple—represents the American people. She is Everyman, led astray and seeking the way back home.[10] Moreover, following the road of gold leads eventually only to the Emerald City, which may symbolize the fraudulent world of greenback paper money that only pretends to have value.[10] It is ruled by a scheming politician (the Wizard) who uses publicity devices and tricks to fool the people (and even the Good Witches) into believing he is benevolent, wise, and powerful when really he is selfish and cruel. He sends Dorothy into severe danger hoping she will rid him of his enemy the Wicked Witch of the West. He is powerless and, as he admits to Dorothy, “I’m a very bad Wizard.”[12]

Historian Quentin Taylor sees additional metaphors, including:

  • The Scarecrow as a representation of American farmers and their troubles in the late 19th century.
  • The Tin Man representing the industrial workers, especially those of American steel industries.
  • The Cowardly Lion as a metaphor for William Jennings Bryan.

Taylor also claimed a sort of iconography for the cyclone: it was used in the 1890s as a metaphor for a political revolution that would transform the drab country into a land of color and unlimited prosperity. It was also used by editorial cartoonists of the 1890s to represent political upheaval.[10]

Okay, his last bit about the cyclone representing “political revolution” maybe be a bit overblown but political turmoil certainly would work.  And transforming “the drab country,” well that just sounds too contrived, for I do not think that anyone in any part of the country at any time would think of their existence as overall drab.  And certainly would not be a conversion “into a land of color and unlimited prosperity.”  That’s just fantasy land.

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