Quick- what’s the major conflict in “The Wizard of Oz”?
It’s not to meet the wizard.
“The Wizard of Oz” is an interesting piece of plotting because the major conflict of the story is possible to resolve within its first few pages.
Dorothy wants to go home, back to Kansas from the Land of Oz.
Within her first few minutes of arriving in Oz she is given the power to do so, but doesn’t realize this power until the end of the story.
The entire plot of “The Wizard of Oz” is one giant red herring.
Yet, when we talk about Oz or Dorothy, our most powerful image, our most firm grasp of what the tale is about is that long yellow brick road leading to a wizard both horrible and powerful.
Like so much else in the story.
Normally we have a hard time forgiving this kind of high-level red herring.
It is not often as a reader that we are pleased to be stalled so heavily in the pursuit of the story’s goal.
But this ignores a fundamental truth of both fantasy and ourselves.
The truth is, neither we nor Dorothy are there to return to Kansas.
Kansas is an inevitable destination, but it is not the path we are truly seeking.
We search for connection, for adventure, for the things that we miss within ourselves.
Kansas, grey and miserable and unforgiving, is a side note to the magic of walking.
Of traveling a path of gold to an unforeseeable future.
Sometimes the journey is the destination
This is a week about the role of illusions, plot, and puzzles in stories. Today’s entry brought to you by The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The Kansas described in the entry is purely metaphorical and not at all representative of existing Kansases.
If you want to see my own take on fantastical journeys, my fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor, is available here.