Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (Revisited)

"When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum's classic tale, we heard only her side of the story. But what about her arch-nemesis, the mysterious Witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked? And what is the true nature of evil?

Gregory Maguire crates a fantasy world so rich and vivid that we will never look at Oz the same way again.
"Wicked" is about a land where animals talk and strive to be treated like first-class citizens, Munchkinlanders seeks the comfort of middle-class stability, and the Tin Man becomes a victim of domestic violence. And then there is the little green-skinned girl named Elphaba, who will grow up to become the infamous Wicked Witch of the West, a smart, prickly, and misunderstood creature who challenges all our preconceived notions about the nature of good and evil."

Not having anything to read at work this week, I started reading "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West." This is the second time I've read this novel by Gregory Maguire in a little less than a year. The original post on my first reading can be found here. I'm not really interested in rehashing what I thought of the book, but I would be interested in getting feedback from others who have read the story.

Warning. Spoilers abound below.

Some points for discussion:

  • Obviously we know where Elphaba acquires her green skin color, from the "miracle elixir" given to her mother by the Wizard. What was never revealed or was clear to me was Elphaba's aversion or allergy to water which ultimately caused her accidental death by Dorothy Gale. Thoughts or theories?
  • What is the significance of the Clock of the Time Dragon? Did it predict or did it shape events in the novel? In the beginning of the story the Clock characterized Frex as "a publicly pious man, with lamb's wool beard and dark curly locks, who preached simplicity, poverty, and generosity while keeping a hidden coffer of gold and emeralds - in the double-hinged bosom of a weak-chinned daughter of blue blood society." (Page 17) As I see it this portrayal of Frex is only half correct, removing the bit about him hording treasures. What does this say of the Clock and it's further revelations, especially toward the end of the novel?
  • Were Crope and Tibbett gay? "And Crope brought Fiyero along and introduced him, which frosted Tibbett for a week or so until the evening that Fiyero said, in his shy formal way, 'of course - I have been married for some time. We marry young in the Vinkus.'" (Page 147)
  • What the hell was going on in the Philosophy Club? (Page 164) The group is involved in some sort of group sexual encounter which ultimately scars Tibbett in some manner in what I could later only deduce was some sort of sexually transmitted disease.
  • What of Elphaba? Her death seems very certain at the end of the story but what of her significance? Was her life a series of failures? Was she truly wicked near the end or an unfortunate participant of bad luck?

I enjoyed my second reading of "Wicked" much more than the first time, though I view it as a tragic and unhappy tale. I was released from the impression that the book would be exactly like the musical, which I saw before reading the source material. An interesting retelling of the "Wizard of Oz" story that I would highly recommend as well as the two other books in the series, "Son of a Witch" and "A Lion Among Men."

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