The Wizard of OZ is really about:
Dorothy - ideal icon of the American people. Salt of the Earth living in the treeless, sun-beaten, paint-stripped prairie – a grim depiction reflects the forlorn condition of Kansas in the late 1880s and early 1890s, when a combination of scorching droughts, severe winters, and an invasion of grasshoppers reduced the prairie to an uninhabitable wasteland.
The Twister – symbolizes the Populist cyclone that swept across Kansas in the early 1890s. Baum was not the first to use the metaphor. Mary E. Lease, a fire-breathing Populist orator, was often referred to as the "Kansas Cyclone," and the free-silver movement was often likened to a political whirlwind that had taken the nation by storm. Although Dorothy does not stand for Lease, Baum did give her the last name "Gale"-a further pun on the cyclone metaphor.
Toto – a further pun, a play on teetotaler. Prohibitionists were among the Populists' most faithful allies, and the Populist hope William Jennings Bryan was himself a "dry." As Dorothy embarks on the Yellow Brick Road, Toto trots "soberly" behind her, just as the Prohibitionists soberly followed the Populists.
Dorothy's original shoes were SILVER (known as The White Metal)
THE GOOD 'WHITE' WITCH of the North (the Upper Midwest Electorate where Populism gained considerable support).
The death of the WICKED WITCH of the East (who originally had stolen the Silver Shoes) was a cause for rejoicing for the "little people". All along, the Munchkins were vaguely aware that their bondage was somehow linked to the silver shoes, but the shoes' precise power was never known. Similarly, although Wall Street and the eastern establishment understood silver's power, common farmers knew little of monetary matters, and bimetalism failed to resonate with eastern workers, who voted against Bryan in droves.
The WICKED WITCH of the WEST represents the cruel forces of nature that plagued farmers in the Midwest and the power brokers of that region. The former menace is mirrored in the Witch's dominion, which recalls the parched plains of western Kansas, and by the ferocious wolves, ravenous crows, and venomous bees that she sends to destroy Dorothy and her friends. Each predator is summoned by blowing on a silver whistle, another example of a malicious use of the white metal. When the Witch's minions are themselves destroyed, she calls on the Winged Monkeys through the magic of a golden cap. The cap had already been used twice, once to enslave the Winkies and again to drive the Wizard out of the West, patent injustices committed through the power of gold. Yet in summoning the Monkeys, the Witch exhausts the cap's charm, and the flying simians (who had been forced to assist in her evil deeds) are liberated. The power of gold proves finite and illusory, and it requires the coexistence of silver (bimetalism) to sustain its power. No wonder the wicked Witch is so keen to possess Dorothy's silver shoes.
The Three Amigos
The Brainless Scarecrow represents the midwestern farmers, whose years of hardship and subjection to ridicule had created a sense of inferiority and self-doubt. Populist leaders were often portrayed as deluded simpletons who failed to understand the true causes of their economic plight - attested to by their apocalyptic rhetoric, conspiracy theories, and radical agenda, which included nationalization of the railroads, a graduated income tax, and the unlimited coinage of silver.
The Tin Woodman, once healthy and productive, he represents the nation's workers, in particular the industrial workers with whom the Populists hoped to make common cause. His rusted condition parallels the prostrated condition of labor during the depression of 1890s; like many workers of that period, the Tin Man is unemployed. Yet, with a few drops of oil, he is able to resume his customary labors-a remedy akin to the "pump-priming" measures that Populists advocated.
The LION is none other than William Jennings Bryan, the Nebraska representative in Congress and later the Democratic presidential candidate in 1896 and 1900. Bryan (which rhymes with "lion," a near homonym of "lying") was known for his "roaring" rhetoric and was occasionally portrayed in the press as a lion, as was the Populist Party itself. His critics thought him "cowardly" for opposing war with Spain in 1898 and the subsequent annexation of the Philippines. Near the end of the story, he slays a spiderlike monster that is terrorizing the animals of the forest. The predatory beast symbolizes the great trusts and corporations that were thought to dominate economic life at the turn of the century. Baum himself used the monopoly-as-octopus metaphor in a number of later works, including a specific reference to the Standard Oil Company. Breaking up the trusts and nationalizing the railroads were key components of the Populist agenda, and Bryan favored trust busting if not outright nationalization. Accordingly, the Lion attacks and kills the great beast by knocking off its head. Freed from the eight-legged monster, the grateful forest dwellers vow fealty to the conquering Lion. Would not the Populists have done likewise if Bryan had defeated McKinley and, presumably, slain the trusts?
Oz, Emerald City, and the Wacky Wizard
The Land of Oz, with its varied landscape and diverse inhabitants, is a microcosm of America, and Emerald City, its center and seat of government, represents Washington, D.C. In an effort to be made whole, Dorothy and her band travel to the capital to see the Wizard, who presumably has the power to grant them their wishes. The journey to Emerald City corresponds to the Populist effort to acquire power in Washington, and the travelers recall the "industrial armies" who marched on the capital during the depression of 1893-97. The most famous of these, "Coxey's Army," was led by a successful businessman who urged the government to fund public-works programs (most notably a "good roads bill") to alleviate unemployment. Coxey, who hoped to meet with President Cleveland, was arrested for trespassing, and his proposals were ignored. Dorothy and company also face hazards on the road to Emerald City and are turned away by the Wizard, who shows little sympathy for their plight.
The Wizard, who "can take on any form he wishes," represents the protean politicians of the era, especially the presidents of the Gilded Age. Given the even division of Democrats and Republicans, and the razor-thin majorities of most presidential elections, candidates rarely took clear stands on the issues. As a result, voters often had difficulty in determining what the candidates stood for. The Wizard fits this description, for "who the real Oz is," Dorothy is informed, "no living person can tell." Indeed, when the foursome enter the throne room, the Wizard appears to each in a different form. Like many politicians, he is unwillingly to help them without a quid pro quo: "I never grant favors without some return."
Politicians are also infamous for failing to keep promises, and the great Oz is no different. When Dorothy's party returns after killing the Witch of the West, the Wizard keeps them waiting, then puts them off. By accident, the all-powerful Wizard is exposed and his true identify revealed. Far from a mighty magician, "Oz, the Terrible" is merely a "humbug," a wizened old man whose "power" is achieved through elaborate acts of deception. The Wizard is simply a manipulative politician who appears to the people in one form, but works behind the scenes to achieve his true ends. Such figures are terrified at being exposed; the Wizard cautions Dorothy to lower her voice lest he be discovered and "ruined."
As it turns out, the Wizard hails from Omaha, where he became a talented ventriloquist and later a circus balloonist. Bryan was from Nebraska, was famous for his "hot-air" oratory, and in the minds of his critics was something like a circus ringmaster. Nebraska was also a bastion of Populism, and Omaha the site of the 1892 Populist National Convention, where the party adopted the "Omaha platform," the movement's leading manifesto. Following the party's convention of the previous year, Judge, a popular magazine, parodied the Populists on its cover, which depicted a hotair balloon made of patches that bear the names of the groups and parties that had rallied to the Populist standard: Knights of Labor, Prohibition Party, Socialists, Farmers Alliance, and so forth. In the balloon's basket are caricatures of Populist leaders, preaching the "Platform of Lunacy."
The Colors of Money
The Land of Oz is colorful, to say the least, and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is replete with references to gold, silver, and green. A number of these references have been noted already, but the story makes several others. The references to gold and silver echo the prominence of monetary politics in the 1890s, especially the bimetallic crusade led by Bryan and the Populists. Moreover, gold and silver are often portrayed as working in combination. The Witch of the West conjures her minions with a silver whistle and a golden cap, and the Tin Man receives a new ax made of gold and silver, as well as a new oil can that contains both metals. Of course, there is Dorothy on her sojourn through Oz, "her silver shoes tinkling merrily on the hard, yellow, roadbed." The word oz itself is the abbreviation for an ounce of gold or silver. There are additional references to gold and silver, but the ones given here amply illustrate Baum's use of the monetary metaphor.
Green, often in combination with gold, is also a recurrent image. Then as now, green was the color of paper money. The Greenback Party, a precursor of the Populists, advocated the expansion of the money supply via the increased circulation of "greenbacks." Toto wears a green collar that fades to white (silver), and later he receives a gold collar, as does the Lion. In Emerald City, everyone is required to wear green glasses with golden bands, so that nearly everything appears in a resplendent green. The Lion's liquid "courage" is poured from a green bottle into a gold-green dish, and the Wizard's balloon is patched with green silk of various shades. As the spectacles create an illusion, the liquid courage is only a placebo, and the balloon is a mere patchwork, so the demand for paper money is exposed as a panacea for the farmers' woes.
Baum aimed not to teach but to entertain, not to lecture but to amuse. Therefore, the Oz tale is best viewed as a symbolic and satirical representation of the Populist movement and the politics of the age, as well as a children's story. Quite simply,Oz operates on two levels, one literal and puerile, the other symbolic and political. Its capacity to fascinate on both levels testifies to its remarkable author's wit and ingenuity.(http://www.usagold.com/gildedopinion/oz.html)