Populism: A political philosophy supporting the rights and power of the people in their struggle against the privileged elite.
The depression of the 1890s was the worst in U.S. history up to that time. Farm prices sunk to new lows. Unemployment caused havoc, desperation and union militancy among the urban working class.
L. Frank Baum, author of
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz , written in 1900, was a supporter of the Populist and supported presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan
The 1896 election, between Republican William McKinley and Populist - Democrat William Jennings Bryan, Congressman from Nebraska, revolved around the issue of gold vs. silver.
Populists saw silver as the answer to America’s problems, offering free and unlimited coinage of silver. The republican party disagreed and wanted to remain with the gold standard.
The Land of Oz
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was written as an allegory to the situation that was happening in the Midwest. Every main character can be traced to either a particular person or group of people. Even the word “Oz” is used to represent the measurement of gold.
Dorothy: Represents everyman. She is an innocent Midwest girl who is able to see what is really going on in Oz.
Represent the common people, controlled by the Wicked Witch of the East (who represented the Eastern Industrialists and Bankers.
Represents the wise but naïve western farmer, taken advantage of by the industrialists and bankers.
Represents the dehumanized industrial worker. He is turned into a machine back the industrialists because of his hard work ethic and not having another craft to succeed in. He eventually becomes unable to love.
Represents William Jennings Bryan, having a loud roar but was unable to back it up (bite).
Wicked Witch of the West:
Represents the Western industrial influence and is ultimately destroyed by water (representing pure nature, a removal of machines).
"Your Silver Shoes will carry you over the desert.....If you had known their power you could have gone back to your Aunt Em the very first day you came to this country.". Glinda explains, "All you have to do is knock the heels together three times and command the shoes to carry you wherever you wish to go." (p.257).
"The Silver Shoes had fallen off in her flight through the air, and were lost forever in the desert" (p.259).
The drive for the gold standard to be replaced with silver was lost when Bryan lost the election and the Populist party lost its motivation or drive.
Although the silver had been lost, the important message is a return to the Midwest farmer/family. It is where true happiness remains. Back in Oz, the Scarecrow now runs the Emerald City, the Tinman rules in the west, and the Lion rules over smaller animals in the forest. Power has been returned to the people.