L Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a fairly simple children’s tale, but it’s also a fascinating political allegory about the populist movement in late nineteenth century America. I enjoyed reading it, but in this case, I think the movie is better.
Much has been written elsewhere about Wizard‘s political message, but briefly: Scarecrow is the farmer lacking the brains to use his political power; Tin Woodman is the industrial worker who cut off from the land has lost his heart; Cowardly Lion is William Jennings Bryant, a populist pol who was all roar and no bite; the Yellow Brick Road is the gold standard; Wicked Witch of the East is the big eastern banks that enslave the common man (The Munchkins) until savior Dorothy (backwards thy-o-dor, as in Roosevelt) comes to crush the Eastern robber barons and unite the farmers and factory workers in a magnificent populist revolution; Wicked Witch of the West represents drought and difficult environmental conditions; Flying Monkeys are the American Indians, rendered powerless by Westerners; Oz is Washington DC; and the Wizard is the president, a politician who is all things to all people, but really nothing more than a sham who offers fake solutions to real problems.
Nineteenth century populist politics and debates about the relative merits of the gold vs the silver currency standards aren’t really issues central to Lost, but thematically, The Wizard of Oz is a story of peaceful social change and looking inside one’s self to find the things one needs to live a fulfilling and successful life.
Throughout the story, the Scarecrow clearly has brains; the Tin Woodman, heart; and the Cowardly Lion, courage. They just need to be shown, and ultimately it is the wizard who shows them that they already possess what they thought they lacked. With these tools, they now have the capacity to change the world.
The journey down the Yellow Brick Road ultimately becomes one of self discovery similar to what the characters on Lost experience during their adventures on the island. They too have what they thought they lacked ultimately allowing them the ability to change themselves and find redemption. The Wizard of Oz is about reaching one’s potential, a concept we see time and again on Lost, and also an apparent goal of the Hanso Foundation.
The example that springs to mind first is that of John Locke who finds within himself the strength, the ability to lead, and the conviction that he never knew he had. It’s worth remembering that Henry claimed to be coming for John because he was “one of the good ones.”
The Wizard of Oz does not actually make an appearance on Lost, but it is referenced in the name of Henry Gale. Henry’s name alludes to Dorothy’s Uncle Henry from the Wizard of Oz, and like the wizard – who let’s not forget is really a charlatan – Henry claims to have arrived in a hot air balloon. Or, at least he says he did.
The Wizard of Oz also brings us to the “Lost Continent Theories” in which we are meant to wonder if the survivors are actually on the remains of Lemuria, a Pacific Ocean version of Atlantis. This is implied by the four-toed statue that Sayid sees in the season two finale and by the fact that psychic Edgar Cayce (worth looking into since so many of his ideas correspond to what we see in Lost) “confirmed” the existence of Lemuria (and Atlantis).
Cayce believed that the citizens of Lemuria had psychic abilities and were both technologically and spiritually advanced. He also referred to Lemuria as Oz.
Considering the amount of psychic phenomenon on Lost and the number of Lost books that involve psychic phenomenon including prophetic dreams and spirit projection (Watership Down, Turn of the Screw, Lord of the Flies, A Wrinkle in Time) and the religious themes that appear on the show, it would not surprise me at all if the writers of Lost were using some of Cayce’s ideas as source material for the show.
So are the survivors of Oceanic 815 in another world, an enchanted land like Oz, or the remains of a lost continent? It would explain why Desmond couldn’t sail away. It would explain why everyone seems to have arrived by accident.
Of course, how does the Hanso Foundation know about it? If they can find it to drop supplies from the air, why doesn’t it show up on Google Earth? Is the Dharma Initiative an attempt to exploit a found Lemuria or to recreate it based on some kind of scientific/psychic discovery?
Check out the rest of my Lost book posts at The Lost Book Club.