Sunday, March 27, 2005

BOOK REVIEW - Wicked by Gregory Maguire

Maguire, Gregory Wicked, The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. New York: Harper Collins, c1995.

Wicked, By Gregory Maguire, is an entirely new twist on the Wicked Witch of the West. Known to all as a mere villain to the lovely and perfect Dorothy, in Wicked she’s a woman who had her own story years before that house fell on her sister.
The Wicked Witch of the West is Elphaba (a name that the author cleverly created from the initials of the author of the Wizard of Oz; L. Frank Baum.), a shy girl afflicted with a horrible skin condition that makes her green, and allergic to water. She’s smart and down to earth, made fun of because of her green skin, but still able to rise above that to be accepted into Shiz University for a “quality” education. She becomes friends with Galinda (fated as she is to become one of the Witches) and the story kicks off with Elphaba’s matter-of-fact observations and Galinda’s flighty, yet truly intelligent fancies.
Yes, we’ve all read the book or seen the Wizard of Oz, but Wicked prods us into realizing that even the Wicked Witch of the West had a childhood, a life; before the events that made her infamous. She’s loved and lost and fought as she grew into her destiny long before Dorothy touches down in Oz.
The layers of childhood fear and anger at the Witch for hindering Dorothy in her escape home fall away as the pages turn and you realize it’s all just a big misunderstanding, that the Witch is merely another persona that has been twisted by propaganda. It’s much like growing up and realizing that everything that your parents did that made you angry wasn’t merely an effort to make you angry, that they had reasons just as valid for you eating those lima beans as you had for tucking them in your napkin.
After all, has there ever been a time in the history of man that a person has been liked by everyone? That more than a small group of people could look at one and draw the same conclusions? I think not. As the great Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi said; “Everything is true; or in this case good…from a certain point of view.”


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