Sunday, December 11, 2005

Ain't no Tin Woodman in Kansas

Dan at Gone Mild asked:
What in the hell is the tin man? I mean, lions and scarecrows are part of the world, but I'm unaware of mechanized woodmen roaming Kansas or anywhere else ...
Well, Dan, here's one person's answer.

It helps to keep in mind that the original The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was highly satirical criticism of the socio-political climate of America circa 1900. So, many of the characters were metaphorical representations of the groups and social classes of which L. Frank Baum was critical.

The following deconstruction is from Henry M. Littlefield.
In the book, the Wicked Witch of the East had kept the little Munchkin people "in bondage for many years, making them slave for her night and day." (pp. 22-23). Just what this slavery entailed is not immediately clear, but Baum later gives us a specific example. The Tin Woodman, whom Dorothy meets on her way to the Emerald City, had been put under a spell by the Witch of the East. Once an independent and hard working human being, the Woodman found that each time he swung his axe it chopped off a different part of his body. Knowing no other trade he "worked harder than ever," for luckily in Oz tinsmiths can repair such things. Soon the Woodman was all tin (p. 59). In this way Eastern witchcraft dehumanized a simple laborer so that the faster and better he worked the more quickly he became a kind of machine. Here is a Populist view of evil Eastern influences on honest labor which could hardly be more pointed.
So there you have it. The Tin Woodman was a metaphorical amalgamation of the working class who had been conditioned to work for "the man" (which in Oz was the Wicked Witch of the East) until he became more machine than man.

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1 comment:

  1. Mad props to you! Thanks for the info!


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