I think everyone sees the The Wizard of Oz at some point during their childhood. It’s one of those classic staples that everyone can quote and makes comments over every time they see a yellow brick road or a scarecrow. I was the same way. The Wizard of Oz was one of my favorite stories growing up. And out of all of the “perfect” females a young girl could look up to, Dorothy was not the worst. Yeah, she was kinda helpless and always got lost, but at least she stood up for herself at the end against the Wicked Witch of the West. Everything changed for me in 2007 when I saw the musical Wicked. It was so amazing that I had to read the book that inspired the musical. And now that I have I will never look at the Wizard of Oz the same way.
Written by Gregory Maguire, Wicked follows the life and times of Elphaba, a young women born green at birth and gifted with extraordinary powers. The story chronicles her life in three main parts: youth, teens at school, and as an adult. The most important story highlighted in Elphaba’s past is her relationship with Galinda, or the future Glinda the Good Witch of Oz. The two become best friends at boarding school as roommates and classmates as they take special classes together for magic. Eventually, they go off to the Emerald City together to meet the Wizard of Oz. This is the moment, this trip to Emerald City and meeting the Wizard, that will separate Glinda and Elphaba forever and solidify their roles as Glinda the Good Witch and Elphaba as the Wicked Witch of the West.
I’m sorry for the rather short and undetailed summary of the plot of this book, but I do not want to ruin a lot of the plot for anyone who may have not seen the play or read the book. There are reasons as to why Elphaba decides to defy the Wizard and become her own person away from him. Because Elphaba is powerful, more powerful than the Wizard of Oz himself, he scorns her and shames her as “wicked”, even though all she has ever tried to do is be fair and help others. It is an interesting story that truly discusses the concepts of good versus evil and how sometimes all that we see and hear is not always the truth.
One of the main reasons I love Wicked the book is because of the amount of detail. There is so much background and substance to Elphaba and Glinda that is not explored at all in the original Wizard of Oz. These characters are fabulously fleshed out and expanded upon, so you see them as real people with feelings and emotions instead of just a bubbly airhead or evil. This type of detail cannot be seen merely by understanding only one side of the story.
My other main reason for loving this book is because of the very prevalent human themes it discusses. Plainly, Elphaba is judged and ridiculed and victimized her entire life, especially at the end when the Wizard declares her evil, for being different physically and emotionally from others. Her skin was green and she dared to speak out against a system she found to be unfair and unjust towards others who are different. Sound familiar? This case is still all too present in our modern day. People continue to be shunned and hurt simply for having a different skin color. While I don’t want to go into too much debate over this issue, I do believe that Wicked is a book that addresses the disparity of judging people based on their skin color in our modern society in a unique way that can hopefully teach people not to judge others and be more accepting.
I love this book. I love the musical. I have seen it three times already. The story is beautiful, the characters are mesmerizing, and the whole thing always make me cry at the injustice of Elphaba’s situation and the tragedy of her life. I highly recommend reading the book, even if you have seen the musical, because it adds another layer of detail that cannot be fully explored in the musical. I give this book a 4.5/5 stars.
If you have read Wicked before or have seen the musical, let me know in the comments below!