6. Gene Clanton, (Boston, 1991), 149-50. Fred Erisman, "L. Frank Baum and the Progressive Dilemma," 20 (1968): 616-23, made a similar point, but outside the context of Littlefield's analogies.
1. Henry M. Littlefield, "The Wizard of Oz: Parable on Populism," American Quarterly 16 (1964): 47-58 (quotation on 54); L. Frank Baum, (Chicago, 1900).
8. Littlefield, "Parable on Populism," 58. For a brief discussion of how he came to write the essay, see Henry M. Littlefield, "The Wizard of Allegory," 36 (Spring 1992):24-25. The Baum Bugle is published by the International Wizard of Oz Club.
Thirty years ago, Henry M. Littlefield looked at and saw things no one had seen there before. More recently, William R. Leach has shown us another new way of looking at the book, a way that emphasizes a different side of the Gilded Age--the fascination with the city and urban abundance, the rise of a new industrial ethic, and so on. Leach's argument is just as compelling as Littlefield's. "Factual" or not, both are impressive achievements.
10. Robert A. Divine et al., (Glenview, Ill., 1984), 594-95. The essay was retained in later editions of the textbook; the third edition was published in 1991. For other examples of educators and the Littlefield thesis, see Michael Gessel, "Tale of a Parable," 36 (Spring 1992): 19-23.
And because the images are still there, the Littlefield interpretation (especially as modified by Clanton, Rockoff, and others) remains a useful pedagogical device. Baum gave us a delightful and unforgettable way of illustrating a number of Gilded Age issues, from Populism and the silver movement to the Gilded Age presidency, from the problems of labor to the insurrection in the Philippines.
Several factors help explain Littlefield's popularity. First, he produced an overwhelming number of correspondences, and others have added to the list. One would be hard pressed to find any character, setting, or event in that does not have a "Populist parable" analogy.
was no longer an innocent fairy tale. According to Littlefield, Baum, a reform-minded Democrat who supported William Jennings Bryan's pro-silver candidacy, wrote the book as a parable of the Populists, an allegory of their failed efforts to reform the nation in 1896. "Baum never allowed the consistency of the allegory to take precedence over the theme of youthful entertainment," Littlefield hedged at one point; "the allegory always remains in a minor key." Still, he concluded that "the relationships and analogies outlined above . . . are far too consistent to be coincidental."
12. There have been other interpretations of the book--scholars have read it from psychoanalytical, feminist, theological/philosophical, mythological, and Marxist perspectives, among others----but Littlefield's was easily the best known and most widely accepted of the bunch.
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14. One could try to reconcile the differences by suggesting that was not so much about the Populists themselves as it was about the culture that gave rise to the Populists. Midwestern farmers were well aware of the consumer paradise Leach described (through the Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog, for example); perhaps their inablity to partake more fully in that paradise was one of the reasons for the agrarian discontent that led to the Populists. But this oversimplifies Littlefield's argument, which was about silver and gold, William Jennings Bryan and dehumanized factory workers, not just "agrarian discontent." I appreciate Robert C. McMath, Jr.'s and James Cassidy's helpful comments on this point.