Theric takes on Wicked


Occasionally, here and there, passions boil over regarding Wicked--specifically the book. I've often wanted to comment, but wasn't 100% sure how my memories of the book measured up to my original feelings on reading it. My memories skew positive--and reading The Wizard of Oz around the same time made me realize how vastly superior a product Maguire's book is. He took a crap book and a crap movie and made something worth reading.

But it was by no means all love between me and the book, but my specific complaints were lost to memory. Until now.

I recently unpacked my Utah-era notebooks, and amongst them I have found this [please note that I am transcribing my handwriting without checking spelling of character names, etc]:

a few thoughts after finishing Gregory
Maguire's Wicked, May 12, 2004 ~6pm

First, yes, I feel for Elphaba. But I feel more for Dorothy. Elphaba was lost to her misery and had abandoned happiness. Dorothy still had hopes of atonement , and melting Elphaba must have been unbelievably devastating, something that will haunt her forever. For though equally an accident as Nessarose's demise, the action that led to Elphaba's death was an action, a purposeful action.

Second, I now see The Wizard of Oz as a piece of propaganda. Nothing more, nothing less. I arrived at this view by struggling with the obvious differences between the two books. I wanted Maguire to create history by filling in the holes in Baum's outline of a story--to treat TWofOz as history, gospel, and make his tale w/o altering the original a bit. He did not do this, and I struggled in deciding how to feel about it. Finally I came down on Maguire's side, which required declaring Baum a propagandist. Anything which does not fit in this view, eg, emerald glasses, is signs of latent sedition. Q: Why then the trip to Glinda? A: Get Dorothy home; elevate Glinda. Q. Why? Is Glinda high up or symbolic in the new gov't?

Third, speaking of Glinda, she is very hard to read. She doesn't seem at all revolutionary, but has retained the peasanty pronunciation of her name still, after all the intervening years. There is much to her, but it's all deep, deep inside.

Fourth. I hated one line, and still do. With a passion. It's excision would improve the book noticeable. It is the line that expresses an absurd, false belief that there was too much history between Elphaba & Glinda for a pair of shoes to come between them. That's ludicrous. And, as events show, patently false.

Fifth, did you notice the homoerotic underflow? Between the two silly Shiz boys? Between Glinda and Elphaba? Just wondering if you'd noticed, and what you had thought.

Sixth, there are a few things I want to go back to Baum and check. 1) Boq's appearance. 2) Did the WWoftheEast set the spell on the axe? And I'ld like to know how many details in Wicked come from other Oz books--geography, tiktok men, etc.

Seventh, I don't know that Elphaba's supposedly desperate need for forgiveness was developed at all well. It did not seem to bother her as much as the story required.

Eighth, what was with that beast under the dock? And Yackle? And the dwarf?

Ninth, do you feel Maguire normalized Oz too much? Or that he oversimplified the geography?

Tenth, the clock lies, we know this. So why do I hope, weirdly, that the wizard is her father?--the point of believing it? And does she at all feel that way herself?

Eleventh, and last, what just are the connections between our worlds?


  1. I had all those same thoughts and questions when I read Wicked. Every last one.

    Except the homoeroticism part. I didn't see that at all. Why are you so preoccupied with homosexuality? Dude.

  2. Did you know it's Wicked Witch Day? Just wondering.

  3. I wish I had taken notes after finishing Wicked so that I could remember my thoughts. What I do remember is not being impressed. I felt it was rather ho-hum. I think the idea is intriguing, but I didn't feel it was executed well enough. And I found his portrayal of Elphaba to be a rather pathetic character.

    Now, what I will praise is the adaptation for stage. The musical is essentially a completely different plot. But what I like is that it is basically faithful to the character motivations as Maguire has created them. One significant difference (I feel) between the two is that in the musical, Elphaba is strong and truly goes after her heart's desires, only conceding defeat when she realizes what her priorities are.

    Then again, I could be biased, seeing as how I saw it with the original Broadway cast.

  4. Not kidding.

    And my former home teacher is touring as a flying monkey with two of the original cast members, which doesn't make me as cool as Edgy, because I still haven't seen the production, let alone with all the original cast members, but it still makes me happy when I listen to my CD.

    And I did like the book, but I can't remember why, because I read it during MLK weekend when I was supposed to be writing a persuasive paper about the Legacy Highway, which still isn't built. It's kind of sad that a novel can become the number one broadway musical faster than a highway can be built.

  5. Well, not sad, but interesting.

  6. I didn't see Elphaba's character as pathetic; she's Quixotic, but too self-critical and seems to give up easily (until the end)~~maybe that trait is a bit pathetic. I see her as a champion of social justice, in a world where everyone else is too preoccupied with self-interest to get involved. A revolutionary amongst companions who ever scold: "oh, let's not talk about politics, please!"

    I loved the beautiful, masterfully crafted allegories of the racism, classism, propaganda, and imperialism that exist in our present world.

    Also the dichotemy of one who mourns for human suffering on a broad scale, yet remains indifferent (at times) to the feelings of familiar people.

    Elphaba did have an appreciation for Glinda's budding intellect and companionship in their late college years, so there was some history there. Perhaps that part of her life was so meaningful to her because it represents a time when she was not sick with grief and despair.

  7. .

    Thanks for your comments.