Freud's Oz: Freudian Views in The Wizard of Oz


The film The Wizard of Oz is definitely about the concept of returning
home. This is made clear throughout the film. Dorothy's entire time in Oz is
spent trying to get back home to Kansas. Then when she gets back home she tells
Aunt Em that "all I kept saying to everybody was ‘I want to go home.'" This
fits perfectly with the time, 1939, that The Wizard of Oz was produced. One
reason was that due to the depression, many people were forced away from their
homes and into cities. Another reason was that America was on the verge of
entering into another war, WWII, and the threat of having to send troops away
from home was very real. And, as stated by Paul Nathanson in Over the Rainbow
(156), "going home is fundamentally linked, for many Americans, with growing
up." With this in mind, it seems a good way of evaluating The Wizard of Oz is
by Dorothy's process of growing up, her maturation. Also, since Dorothy's
adventure to Oz is clearly in the form of a dream, it seems a good way of
analyzing Dorothy's maturation is by looking at this dream compared with real
ones, and using modern dream analogy from the Freudian perspective.
The act that spurs the entire action of the movie, according to Freudian
Daniel Dervin ( Over The Rainbow 163 ), is Dorothy witnessing the "primal scene".
The "primal scene" refers to a child witnessing sexual intercourse between
mother and father; an moment that is both terrifying and confusing to the child.
According to Dervin, this event sends Dorothy towards her final stage of
childhood development ( Freud believed in three stages of childhood development
) the phallic phase. Terrified of the idea of being destroyed by father's
phallus, Dorothy projects ( another of Freud's ides was that of projection,
turning a feeling into something other than itself ) her fear into the form of
the tornado. In deed Dervin even suggests that this tornado "may well be a
remarkably apt representation of the paternal phallus in its swollen, twisting,
penetrating, state which is part of the primal scene." The question then
becomes, where did this primal scene take place? In the movie Dorothy has her
own room, but in the book she shares a one-room house with Aunt Em and Uncle
Henry. Understanding this background, Freudians believe that viewers
subconsciously understand the cinematic setting as an appropriate one for the
primal scene.
Dorothy is then taken away by the tornado, a form of her anxiety over
the primal scene, to Oz. When Dorothy arrives in Oz she is able to symbolically
replay the primal scene by means of smaller conflicts that Dorothy can more
easily overcome. Dorothy does deal with her feelings towards Aunt Em in her
dream about Oz. In Kansas it is shown that Aunt Em is unable to provide Dorothy
with enough love and attention. This is evidenced by her dismissal of Dorothy's
pleas for help with Toto. Since in Kansas any negative feelings towards Aunt Em
are not allowed, Dorothy represses them. Now that Dorothy is in her dream world
she can express those hostile feelings. Dorothy does this through splitting
Aunt Em into two separate people. One representing all of the good qualities in
Aunt Em, and one representing all of the bad ones. The stern, businesslike Aunt
Em is made into the Wicked Witch of the West. The loving and caring side of
Aunt Em is placed onto Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. The Wicked Witch of
the West, the bad side of Aunt Em, is killed by Dorothy, but it is accidental.
The fact that it is accidental saves Dorothy from any feelings of guilt.
Dorothy also needs to deal with her feelings towards her father ( or
father figure ) in a less dramatic manner. This is done by making her father
into the Wizard. According to Dervin ( Over The Rainbow 165 ), there is a
connection between the Wizard and the storm in Kansas. The Emerald City could
be used as an example of this because of the verticality of the bars that make
up the city drawing distinct comparisons with the verticality of the tornado.
In addition, when Dorothy meets the Wizard for the first time, his image is
accompanied by flashes of lightning and shouts of thunder. The storm is
obviously connected to the tornado, which is also connected to the phallus, and
in turn father himself. When Dorothy first speaks with the Wizard he is very
intimidating,