“I never use the words humanist or humanitarian, as it seems to me that to be human is to be capable of the most heinous crimes in nature.” (Maguire 186)
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, by Gregory Maguire is a book with a rather interesting mission: to tell the story of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” in a more complete form, but with a different main character. The title gives this character away, so at least this aspect does not cover itself up with a shield of mystery, like so many other parts of the novel do.
I was surprised to find that this particular book was very captivating, despite it being a fantasy, which is a genre I tend to stay away from. The first hundred pages or so are hard to get through, but the rewards that come later make even those initial “sufferings” worth it. Keeping in mind that this is a novel that was born from a children’s book, it is nonetheless amazing to observe how well it preserves the issues of society, as it has been, and as it still is. Many questions are raised, some about religion, political power, and others on a more individual basis, such as how much the history of a person influences their behavior.
The fact that the story is told from different characters’ perspectives (though always in a limited omniscient manner) gives the reader the impression, or perhaps the illusion, of having the entire story, complete and unbiased. In this manner, the children’s novel from which Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West stems is made into an unintended lie, told by an uninformed story-teller. Curious how well this reflects the very experience many of us have when now, a adults, we look back upon out childhood.
But let’s turn it over to some of the lesson one can learn from this novel:
1)People’s gossip can be false.
It is vexing to think of how well each of us knows this, and yet, of amazingly we fail when attempting to infiltrate this knowledge into our actions. People say things, many and often. Some say straight out lies, and some end up saying untruthful things either because that’s how they first heard them, or because they misunderstood. It is hard to get pass our nature, which tends to trust others when finding out information. However, it is extremely important to try and get to the bottom of a story, particularly when the story is of importance to us.
If you’d like to read more on dealing with rumors, click here.
2)People are often pushed into their roles by the experiences they underwent in their lives.
This one’s just a little less known than the first , but just as obvious once you think about it. Sadly, it is easy to forget that many things contribute to creating each one of us, as an individual person. The kind of life we are born into, the type of people we are around, and the things that happen to us, are just three examples of how things outside our reach come to influence us. We are not always in control, and neither are the people around us. Indeed, there are things we can do to change our current situation, which means that we are not helpless. Nevertheless, keep in mind that the balance between the will and the experiences of an individual isn’t always a fair one.
3) Power is dangerous.
A little out of line with the other lessons, and already taught to us by history, but since it happens to be a very important part of the book, it had to be mentioned. Power has the power of changing us in ways that shouldn’t be possible, which is why it needs to be handled with much conscious thought and care.
An important theme in Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, is the idea of evil. Does evil exist, or is it just a myth? More interestingly, once we know the reasons why someone who seemingly fits perfectly into our notion of wickedness became that way, do we still see them as such, or do they become victims of a life with a strange sense of humor?