Wow! What a wild ride this book is. I agree with what my sister has said: Gregory Maguire is a genius for coming up with this concept. Unlike the results with books written around Gone with the Wind, you can revisit a popular world and expand upon it in a meaningful way. I did get a little lost at times in the politics of Maguire’s Oz, but I completely enjoyed this book. Even though I knew from the beginning that she was going to die at the hands of Dorothy, I was constantly in anticipation of what was coming next.
Some of my favorite courses in college and grad school dealt with the discussion of narrators. Can you trust them in general? Can you trust the current one in particular? What are the narrator’s motivations? What, if anything, does this narrator have to gain from telling this story? When you stop to consider the narrator, the way in which you interpret the story can completely change. At the same time, I find that I often accept narrators at face value. Truthfully, most novels aren’t crafted in such a way to even make this an issue. Most authors are telling a story and the narrator is their voice. There are, however, authors that are as interested if not more interested in providing readers with a puzzle beyond the story at hand. Sometime that puzzle distracts the reader purposefully from the truth. This novel reminded me of the power of the narrator.
From a very early age I watched The Wizard of Oz on television once a year. The night it aired felt like a holiday (for those of you who do not understand what I’m talking about, remember that there was a time without VCRs, DVDs, Blockbuster, and NetFlix). In all my life it has never occurred to me to question Dorothy’s tale. She was pure and good. The Witch was pure evil. After all, it was just a dream, right? Hmm… After reading Wicked, I’m looking at the movie with a little more skepticism. It’s hard to forget that there are two sides to every story. I will have to read L. Frank Baum’s original novels. I am interested to see how my opinions are shaped further.
In addition to shedding some light on a beloved story, this book had me contemplating on the true nature of evil. Is evil something that can be pinned down and quantified? Is it, like beauty, entirely in the eyes of the beholder? Is evil judged solely upon its nature, intentions, and actions? Or are those things subordinate to the way they are interpreted by others? These are not new questions. The concepts of right and wrong, good and evil, and God and Satan are the backbone of mythology and religion. Would there be myths and faiths if humans weren’t continually trying to understand or explain why bad things happen? Where would the art of storytelling be were it not for such things?
Before I my thoughts on the power of narration and the nature of evil scares anyone off, Wicked is only as “heady” as you allow it to be. Mostly it is just a lot of fun to walk in the steps of Elphaba as she grows from a little girl tortured by her green skin, to a student who is ultimately befriended by Galinda/Glinda, the society girl, and finally to become the powerful Wicked Witch of the West.
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