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cover of the book Theory's Empire

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cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

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cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

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cover of the book How Novels Think

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cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

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cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

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cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

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The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

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Monday, March 02, 2009

What Have We Learned?

Posted by Adam Roberts on 03/02/09 at 06:50 AM

Dorothy’s answer presents itself as in effect summing-up the whole didactic thrust of The Wizard of Oz:

The Tin Man: What have you learned, Dorothy?
Dorothy: Well, I - I think that it - it wasn’t enough to just want to see Uncle Henry and Auntie Em - and it’s that - if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with!

There’s nothing so sententious in the original novel:

“The Silver Shoes,” said the Good Witch, “have wonderful powers. And one of the most curious things about them is that they can carry you to any place in the world in three steps, and each step will be made in the wink of an eye. All you have to do is to knock the heels together three times and command the shoes to carry you wherever you wish to go.”

“If that is so,” said the child joyfully, “I will ask them to carry me back to Kansas at once.”

She threw her arms around the Lion’s neck and kissed him, patting his big head tenderly. Then she kissed the Tin Woodman, who was weeping in a way most dangerous to his joints. But she hugged the soft, stuffed body of the Scarecrow in her arms instead of kissing his painted face, and found she was crying herself at this sorrowful parting from her loving comrades.

Glinda the Good stepped down from her ruby throne to give the little girl a good-bye kiss, and Dorothy thanked her for all the kindness she had shown to her friends and herself.

Dorothy now took Toto up solemnly in her arms, and having said one last good-bye she clapped the heels of her shoes together three times, saying:

“Take me home to Aunt Em!”

Instantly she was whirling through the air, so swiftly that all she could see or feel was the wind whistling past her ears.

The Silver Shoes took but three steps, and then she stopped so suddenly that she rolled over upon the grass several times before she knew where she was.

At length, however, she sat up and looked about her.

“Good gracious!” she cried.

Silver shoes, ruby throne; hmm.  The film has better visuals, I’d say.  But what’s puzzling about Dorothy’s words on the screen is how garbled they appear.  They seem to be saying ‘if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, it’s nowhere!’ But actually they are saying something very different: look for your heart’s desire at home, and if you don’t find it there you never lost it.  Does this mean you never had it to lose?  Which is to say, perhaps Dorothy means: ‘so you’re miserable or restless at home, are you?  Don’t bother looking for happiness there, or anywhere, because happiness has always been, and always will be, alien to you.’ Or perhaps she means: ‘Unhappy?  Don’t bother looking for your lost happiness, because its not lost: what you call unhappiness is actually your heart’s desire.’ Either interpretation strikes, it seems to me, a very strange note.


Free Silver!!

By Dave Maier on 03/02/09 at 12:00 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Well, that’s film, as a medium—great for spectacle, bad at actually saying anything.

This kind of thing was the critical error, I thought, in Gregory Maguire’s book Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.  Yes, it’s a good idea to do Oz as authoritarian, colonial state, complete with dictator, secret services, disappearances, racial repression, propaganda that insists that it is the best country in the world, revisionist history, destructive resource extraction, casual genocide of natives, and all the rest.  But by basing his satire on the movie rather than the books, Maguire lost critical elements of subtext that were there already and started out with something that had already been simplified, to the detriment of his own book.

For instance, Maguire’s book has an (ineffective) revolutionary movement, but completely loses General Jinjur, the leader of the mock-feminist Army of Revolt that has taken over Oz by the second Oz book.  Baum was already playing with ideas of despotism and revolt and social change.  The replacement of the radical Jinjur by the egalitarian feminist Ozma serves as a sort of parody, already, of how radical movements are incorporated into liberal social change.

By on 03/02/09 at 12:15 PM | Permanent link to this comment

No, she quite clearly seems to be saying, “If you lose something, it’s got to be close by.  So if you suddenly find your heart longing for something, it’s probably for something near you.  And if you can’t find it near you, you never actually lost it because it’s there all along and you’ve merely ignored it or neglected it or took it for granted.”

It’s usually best to actually watch the film and contextualize the dialogue.  Though it’s nice to pull a line out of context and find its 13 types of ambiguity.

As it stands, those lines are so lovely and true it’s ridiculous.  That they are written to sound like something someone might actually say when trying to articulate a lesson they’ve learned through experience is just icing on the cake.

By on 03/02/09 at 03:25 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Could someone please overread *The Phantom Tollbooth* next please?  Maybe a little Schmitt and Agamben thrown in for flava?



By on 03/02/09 at 03:27 PM | Permanent link to this comment

And your little dog, too!

By Adam Roberts on 03/03/09 at 05:24 AM | Permanent link to this comment

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