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Book Review: Wicked by Gregory Maguire

wicked

We are all familiar with the classic tale of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. We know about Dorothy Gale’s adventures with the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion as they travel to Emerald City to have their wishes granted by the powerful Wizard. We all know how Dorothy defeated the Wicked Witch of the East by landing their house on top of her and how she defeated the Wicked Witch of the West by dousing her with a bucket of water. We know about Galinda the Good Witch, who likes to travel inside bubbles, but we know very little about Elphaba, the green-skinned adversary of Dorothy.

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West is the story of Galinda and Elphaba and of Oz long before Dorothy came along. It narrates the strong and unlikely friendship of Galinda and Elphaba, who met at school, and explains the events that led up to Elphaba’s wickedness.

Galinda and Elphaba meet at Shiz University, where they are accidentally put together in a room. In the beginning, things are rocky between the two, with Galinda having to retain a social reputation and Elphaba fighting for the cause of their professor Doctor Dillamond, a self-aware goat. Animals are being discriminated against under the rule of the Wizard.

After several weeks, Doctor Dillamond is murdered; and to memorialize him, Galinda adopts the name Glinda, his mispronunciation of her name. She and Elphaba go to Emerald City to plead the case of the animals, to no avail. Elphaba makes Glinda return to Shiz while she stays behind to deal with the problem at hand. Years later, both Elphaba and her sister Nessarose are portrayed as wicked witches to the citizens of Oz when in fact, it was the Wizard that they should all be fighting against.

Wicked explores the nature of the struggle between good and evil, showing that not everything is black and white. In Frank L. Baum’s original work, Elphaba is evil and unforgiving, and Glinda is portrayed as good and merciful. In Wicked, these are reversed, showing the vain and standoffish side of Glinda and the caring and fiercely loyal profile of Elphaba. In its core, Wicked shows that all humans are capable of both good and evil.

 

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