The Wizard of Oz

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The Wizard of Oz


One of the more familiar classic movies, The Wizard of Oz contains substantial dream content. In the movie, the distinction between the dream and waking world is made by the transition to Technicolor. Not only is the whole of this movie set in the dream world, there is also the “dream within a dream” phenomena that takes place when everyone but the Tin Man falls asleep in the poppy field just outside the Emerald City. The association between poppies and dreams dates back to antiquity. The Greek god of sleep was said to live with his sons in a cave surrounded by poppy flowers. Hypnos (Somnus in Latin) lends his name to the botanical term for the opium poppy, papaverum somniferum. Morpheus was the deity of dreams, and one of Hypnos’s sons is also linked to the poppy plant. Morphine, the painkiller that bears Morpheus’s name, derives from the opium poppy. After the brief slumber in the poppy field, Dorothy and her companions are primed to enter the Emerald City, a utopian society extravagant in its dreamlike qualities.

It is interesting to note the way that many influential dream theories are incorporated, in an artistic or theatrical sense, into the storyline of this movie. Sigmund Freud‘s theories of dreamwork, the process by which the familiar is converted to the unfamiliar and the unacceptable to the acceptable, are visually evident in this film through the use of the same actors playing two roles, one corresponding to the waking reality and one to the dream world. The transformation of characters corresponds with the description of the transformation of the residue from the preceding day in manifest dream content. The universal archetypes advocated by Carl Jung also play a role in the story. The good witch, Belinda, represents the embodiment of the “good mother” archetype. She is the guardian of the munchkins, who can be viewed as paralleling the children appearing in common dreams. At the other end of the spectrum is the wicked witch, who is obviously representative of the “bad mother” archetype.

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