Passage, Pilgrimage, and Power in Oz: Transformative Moments in Dorothy’s Journey
Cessato, William Anthony
Ruf, Frederick J.
L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) and the well-known Metro- Goldwyn-Mayer film adaptation The Wizard of Oz (1939) engage themes and imagery related to passage rites, pilgrimage, and power structures. While these areas have been explored explicitly and implicitly in scholarly literature, a close analysis employing the anthropological observations and theories of Arnold van Gennep (1873-1957), Edith Turner (1921-), and Victor Turner (1920-1983) will contribute to a deeper understanding of inter-textual thematic connections. Specifically, this paper looks at 1) van Gennep’s analysis of rites of passage, 2) Victor Turner and Edith Turner’s observations about religious pilgrimage, and 3) Victor Turner’s presentation of the concept of structure and anti-structure, the last with a special emphasis on status elevation and status reversal rites. A common thread linking the three areas of focus is the concept of liminality – a time of transition and transformation occurring between more, to use the Turners’ word, “stable” life states – that appears in the anthropologists’ works.After a thorough, yet non-exhaustive review of related scholarly literature and a close reading of the text, film, and related anthropological theories, this paper helps show that Dorothy’s experience in Oz exhibits elements of van Gennep’s description of the rites associated with passage: separation, transition, and incorporation. Following, it becomes clear that this passage shares many characteristics of the pilgrimage experience that the Turners bring to light. Finally, through that pilgrimage-like passage, Dorothy and her traveling companions experience situations in which prevailing social structure is challenged and critiqued. This paper discusses how that challenge to authority takes shape in different ways, including plot occurrences that display certain qualities associated with rituals of status elevation and status reversal. Ultimately, this paper aims to contribute to a deeper understanding of the thematic manifestation of passage rites, pilgrimage, and power within the Oz narratives.Future analyses might broaden this discussion to include the thirteen other Oz novels Baum wrote; expand the Oz-based literature review to uncover more complementary and contrasting viewpoints; evaluate other film and literary adaptations of the Oz text to see how they handle similar themes; and utilize different theoretical frameworks of scholarly study related to passage rites, pilgrimage, and power to enrich this Oz discourse.
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