Dorothy Gale An Independent Young Girl English Literature Essay

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Dorothy Gale is a young girl who is trying to find her way back to Kansas to be with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. In the novel by L. Frank Baum entitled The Wizard of Oz, the main character Dorothy Gale is portrayed differently than in the films' adaptation by Victor Fleming. In the films' adaptation, Dorothy needs the help of her male friends to help her throughout the film she is not able to do many things without Scarecrow, The Tinman and The Cowardly Lion. Quite the reverse is true in the novel, for she is the one empowering her friends to carry on their journey to Oz to make their requests known. Dorothy Gale, the character L. Frank Baum creates a girl who is able to fend for herself; things are also left up to Dorothy's judgement throughout their time in Oz. In contrast, the film portrays Dorothy in a way that fits well with how young girls were seen in 1939; they were to be helped by men who knew better. Dorothy is seen as a damsel in distress through out the adaptation. So as a result, the meaning of the novel interferes with the meaning of the film.

First of all, in the novel Dorothy is portrayed as an independent girl who is able to save herself as well as her friends from the wrath of the Wicked Witch of the West. This is seen when Dorothy confronts the witch "You are a wicked creature! cried Dorothy"(Baum 128) As well the Wicked Witch seems somewhat afraid of Dorothy because of the kiss from the Good Witch and the slippers which belonged to her sister. While fighting with the witch she kicks over a bucket of water because she is angry which causes the witch to melt away. Dorothy then cleans up the mess for she is the perfect and helpful little girl. Dorothy then overjoyed that the Wicked Witch is dead runs out of the castle to save her friends:

The Cowardly Lion was much pleased to hear that the Wicked Witch has been melted by a bucket of water, and Dorothy as once unlocked the gate of his prison and set him free...If our friends, the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman, were only with us, said the Lion I should be quite happy. Don't you suppose we could rescue them? (Baum 131-132).

With the help of the Winkies, the Tin Woodman was bent back into shape and the Scarecrow was stuffed with new straw, they were as good as new. Dorothy is portrayed as a heroine who can take care of herself and help her friends as well.

In contrast, the film adaptation by Victor Fleming depicts the escape from the Wicked Witch of the West in a different way. When only Dorothy is captured, she is very scared as she says repeatedly into the crystal ball. Since her other friends were spared and not taken to the Witch's castle Toto comes to alert the others that Dorothy is in trouble. They climb the mountain to get to the Witch's castle and steal the guard's uniforms so they can be admitted into the castle. With the help of her friends Dorothy tries to escape but the Witch catches her. Dorothy then defeats the Witch with her friends there for support, which proves that she is unable to be brave without having men around in case trouble arises. It reflects the time when the film was released; a time when women were not equal to men, a time when women were to stay at home where they belong.

Another indication that Dorothy lacks independence in the film adaptation is at the beginning when she falls into the pig pen and a man has to come along and pull her out. It shows that in the Victor Fleming's portrayal of Dorothy, she is a lady who needs men to help her from getting hurt and prevent her from getting into trouble. Even at the beginning of the film, Dorothy is shown as less of a heroine, she is a typical little girl, one who has to have a male rescuer. Dorothy must learn to accept the status quo, to accept her life as how it already is. Dorothy must transform into the perfect housewife, learn her place which is in the home in bed as the ending suggests. Dorothy is powerless, she is unable to have power because of her gender and economic class, even her aunt has Mrs. Gulch telling Dorothy that she has to take Toto away.

The independence of Dorothy as portrayed in Baum's novel is the Golden Cap, Dorothy is the one to take control of it and make the requests happen. At first, Dorothy is unsure of what the Golden Cap does since she took it from the Wicked Witch's castle, but is later told by the queen of the mice that it calls the Winged Monkeys to help you. With the Golden Cap Dorothy has power, a change from her home in Kansas where she must learn her place. The first request used was taking them back to Oz since they were headed in the wrong direction. The second request is used much later when Dorothy is unable to travel back to Kansas in the balloon with the Wizard. So the Scarecrow suggests they call the Winged Monkeys to carry her back to Kansas. The idea does not work out as the Monkeys are not allowed to leave the Land of Oz. Disappointed Dorothy is advised to see Glinda to help her return to Kansas for she will have the answer. After the travel across many lands they arrive in the land of the Hammerheads where they are told they cannot climb the hill that takes them into the land of the Quadlings. Hammerheads are described as "quite short and stout and had a big head, which was flat at the top and supported by a thick neck of wrinkles. But had no arms at all" (Baum 206). After many attempts the friends were frustrated and sore. They decide to use the Winged Monkeys for the final time for "[i]t is useless to fight people with shooting heads" (Baum 208).

In contrast, in the films' adaptation, reference of the Golden Cap is not present. The film reminds us that she had three men with her which are able to protect her from any harm. Whereas, in the novel she has the kiss of the Good Witch of the North which protects her. This assumes that the men she is surrounded by are not obliged to protect her from harm but she can easily be on her own. The Golden Cap also adds to her independence. The films' adaptation depicts Dorothy in a way that gives the power to everyone else but her. The Lion, Tinman and Scarecrow may feel that they lack things but they really don't. Without realizing it they learn to find courage, a heart, and brains while on the journey in Oz.

Lastly, the endings between the novel and film differ which once again highlights the lack of independence Fleming's portrayal of Dorothy. In the novel's ending, after all that Dorothy has been through she finally reaches the castle of Glinda the Good Witch of the South, who asks what she can do for her. She replies still realizing what she is going home to:

My greatest wish now, she added is to get back to Kansas, for Aunt Em will surely think something dreadful has happened to me, and that will make her put on a mourning; and unless the crops are better this year than they were last I am sure Uncle Henry cannot afford it(Baum 212).

Dorothy accepts that Kansas is where she belongs. Dorothy belongs at home where she is able to help out with the crops and the housework. The independence she had in Oz helped her see her place and have a stronger sense of self. Dorothy goes back to Kansas for the right reasons, to be independent which represents America in that time period. Quite the opposite happens in the film's ending. Once the Wizard takes off without Dorothy in the balloon, Dorothy pouts for a minute and Glinda the Good Witch comes down and helps her. This plot difference highlights that Dorothy is unable to help herself or find another plan to get her back to Kansas. Glinda coming down from the sky to save Dorothy, fulfilling her wish and striping her of her independence. Glinda then instructs her to recite the famous words, "there is no place like home," and tap her shoes together three times to get back to Kansas. The film ends with us thinking that Dorothy had the power all along but she was unaware of it and Glinda couldn't tell her because she had to go to a man for help first. This reflects the belief that in the 30's, men knew everything and had all the power, which is why Glinda couldn't just tell her what to do when she first arrived. Dorothy wakes up in bed with the presence of men surrounding her. Her time in Oz was all a dream and like Dorothy in the novel, she learns her place in the home, the only difference is the film suggests that the place she should be is in the bed.

So in conclusion, the adaptation of the novel to film portrays Dorothy in different ways. While the novel Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum illustrates Dorothy as being independent and strong, a young girl who can take care of herself. The film on the other hand by Victor Fleming portrays Dorothy as powerless and not able to fend for herself. Fleming depicts Dorothy as more of a damsel in distress who needs the help of her male friends she meets in Oz to save her, and help her find her way back to Kansas. The meaning of the novel interferes with the meaning of film for their depiction of the protagonist Dorothy Gale are opposites.

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