Freud’s Oz: Freudian Views In The Wizard Of Oz Essay, Research Paper

Freud’s Oz: Freudian Views in The Wizard of Oz

The film The Wizard of Oz is definitely about the concept of returning

home. This is made clear throughout the film. Dorothy’s entire time in Oz is

spent trying to get back home to Kansas. Then when she gets back home she tells

Aunt Em that “all I kept saying to everybody was ?I want to go home.’” This

fits perfectly with the time, 1939, that The Wizard of Oz was produced. One

reason was that due to the depression, many people were forced away from their

homes and into cities. Another reason was that America was on the verge of

entering into another war, WWII, and the threat of having to send troops away

from home was very real. And, as stated by Paul Nathanson in Over the Rainbow

(156), “going home is fundamentally linked, for many Americans, with growing

up.” With this in mind, it seems a good way of evaluating The Wizard of Oz is

by Dorothy’s process of growing up, her maturation. Also, since Dorothy’s

adventure to Oz is clearly in the form of a dream, it seems a good way of

analyzing Dorothy’s maturation is by looking at this dream compared with real

ones, and using modern dream analogy from the Freudian perspective.

The act that spurs the entire action of the movie, according to Freudian

Daniel Dervin ( Over The Rainbow 163 ), is Dorothy witnessing the “primal scene”.

The “primal scene” refers to a child witnessing sexual intercourse between

mother and father; an moment that is both terrifying and confusing to the child.

According to Dervin, this event sends Dorothy towards her final stage of

childhood development ( Freud believed in three stages of childhood development

) the phallic phase. Terrified of the idea of being destroyed by father’s

phallus, Dorothy projects ( another of Freud’s ides was that of projection,

turning a feeling into something other than itself ) her fear into the form of

the tornado. In deed Dervin even suggests that this tornado “may well be a

remarkably apt representation of the paternal phallus in its swollen, twisting,

penetrating, state which is part of the primal scene.” The question then

becomes, where did this primal scene take place? In the movie Dorothy has her

own room, but in the book she shares a one-room house with Aunt Em and Uncle

Henry. Understanding this background, Freudians believe that viewers

subconsciously understand the cinematic setting as an appropriate one for the

primal scene.

Dorothy is then taken away by the tornado, a form of her anxiety over

the primal scene, to Oz. When Dorothy arrives in Oz she is able to symbolically

replay the primal scene by means of smaller conflicts that Dorothy can more

easily overcome. Dorothy does deal with her feelings towards Aunt Em in her

dream about Oz. In Kansas it is shown that Aunt Em is unable to provide Dorothy

with enough love and attention. This is evidenced by her dismissal of Dorothy’s

pleas for help with Toto. Since in Kansas any negative feelings towards Aunt Em

are not allowed, Dorothy represses them. Now that Dorothy is in her dream world

she can express those hostile feelings. Dorothy does this through splitting

Aunt Em into two separate people. One representing all of the good qualities in

Aunt Em, and one representing all of the bad ones. The stern, businesslike Aunt

Em is made into the Wicked Witch of the West. The loving and caring side of

Aunt Em is placed onto Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. The Wicked Witch of

the West, the bad side of Aunt Em, is killed by Dorothy, but it is accidental.

The fact that it is accidental saves Dorothy from any feelings of guilt.

Dorothy also needs to deal with her feelings towards her father ( or

father figure ) in a less dramatic manner. This is done by making her father

into the Wizard. According to Dervin ( Over The Rainbow 165 ), there is a

connection between the Wizard and the storm in Kansas. The Emerald City could

be used as an example of this because of the verticality of the bars that make

up the city drawing distinct comparisons with the verticality of the tornado.

In addition, when Dorothy meets the Wizard for the first time, his image is

accompanied by flashes of lightning and shouts of thunder. The storm is

obviously connected to the tornado, which is also connected to the phallus, and

in turn father himself. When Dorothy first speaks with the Wizard he is very

intimidating, but Dorothy builds up enough courage to confront him and ask about

her four wishes. The Wizard responds by ordering Dorothy to retrieve the

witch’s broomstick, or in symbolic terms the phallus, and return to its rightful


It is at the point of killing the Wicked Witch of the West that Dorothy

enters into the phallic stage. Freud describes the phallic stage as a period

when the “sexual impulses and object relations of a child’s early years become

reanimated, and amongst them the emotional ties of its Oedipus Complex”( An

Autobiographical Study 23). Dorothy now switches her focus from the mother to

father. By killing the witch and giving the broomstick to the Wizard, Dorothy

is enstilled with a new sense of power and increased sexual curiosity. Dervin

goes into this point in Over the Rainbow by saying,

“When Dorothy lays her broomstick at the base of the Wizard’s ominous image, it

is a clear measure of her newly acquired sexual knowledge. Putting the phallus

where it properly belongs, however, not only disarms the wicked phallic mother

but also sets in motion a process that will demythologize the all-powerful

Wizard, for he now stands for a merely human organ.”(167)

Shortly after, Toto pulls away the curtain that shields the Wizard and he is

shown to be only an illusion of power. Dorothy looking behind the curtain is

symbolic of her looking in on the primal scene again, but this time she finds it

to be very reassuring. Dorothy discovers that the Wizard is not a super human

force that should be feared. She finds him to be quite normal and unthreatening.

Earlier Dorothy projected her terror towards the phallus onto a tornado, she

now does not feel the need to use projection.

Most Freudian followers believe that the final action that enabled

Dorothy to work through her trauma was working with the Wizard to help the three

companions. Since Dorothy participates with the Wizard in “humanizing” them she

is symbolically bearing his children. Together they make full humans out of

puppets, and this helps Dorothy relive the primal scene. She is then granted

with defining the sexual roles by returning her father’s phallus, and giving up

her own phallic wishes. She also then establishes her femininity by seeing her

powers of reproduction.

The Wizard also offers to take Dorothy back to Kansas himself. Earlier

being linked to the weather, it is no coincidence that he is going to take her

by means of a hot air balloon. After the Wizard accidentally leaves without her,

Dorothy has to find another way back home. Dorothy realizes that in order to

return home all she has to do is awaken from her slumber, which she can do now

because she has worked through all of the problems in her development. When

Dorothy does awaken there is no longer a viscous storm outside caused by the

primal scene, but rather a sunny day. There are all her friends, filled with a

tremendous amount of emotion, huddled around the bed. The image is one of a

maternity setting with everyone surrounding the new mother. And maybe Dorothy

did give birth in that room. Not to a newborn baby, but to a new chapter of


That leaves only one main part of The Wizard of Oz left unaccounted for,

the ruby slippers. Paul Nathanson tells us that in fairy tales red is

associated with blood, but when it is a girl, red is associated with menstrual

blood and the onset of puberty ( Over The Rainbow 174). This corresponds

beautifully to the idea that Dorothy was entering the phallic stage and was

indeed experiencing changes. Slippers themselves have even been linked to

sexuality. The classic Disney film Cinderella revolves around this concept of

sexuality and slippers. The slippers are a symbol of Cinderella’s sexual

readiness. When her sisters try on the slipper, their feet do not fit because

they are still dealing with the problems of puberty. That is why their feet

bleed when they try on the slipper.

These ruby slippers support the Freudian theory even further. One

aspect is that Dorothy does not seek out the ruby slippers, but rather finds

them on her feet. Glinda puts them there magically without Dorothy’s consent.

Another thing is that menstruation cannot be stopped, and this means that

Dorothy will have to learn to live with menstruation forever. Glinda tells

Dorothy, “There they are and there they’ll stay.” In Dorothy’s case, as well as

with probably almost all girls, these changes in her body are scary and she

looks at them as a kind of curse. All the ruby slippers have gotten Dorothy at

the beginning is persecution from an evil witch. By the end of the dream though,

Dorothy has worked through the mystery of the ruby slippers and is ready to go

home. In order to go home, she needs but to click the slippers together three

times while reciting, “There is no place like home.” Interestingly enough the

last image of Oz is of the ruby slippers, and the only way back home is for

Dorothy to ritually acknowledge them.

Though to many a strict Freudian view is bizarre, it is something that

stills needs to be looked at. In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy goes to Oz to work

out anxiety brought on by witnessing the primal scene between her two parental

figures. She also is experiencing many changes within herself that she needs to

deal with. Dorothy’s return to Kansas is marked by a new sense of sexuality and

femininity, as well as a better understanding of herself. Dorothy returned home

ready to participate fully in the adult community

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