March 12, 2006

Wicked Witch of the West

Posted in film, literature at 1:59 pm by Jerry

I just finished reading Wicked – The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire. Though the novel, intermittently, seemed to have a slightly disjointed, somewhat schizophrenic voice, I applaud any literary exploration of contemporary ethics. Yes, I recommend it. And I can’t wait to see the movie (Wizard of Oz) again.

Tidbits from the introduction and synopsis on the back of the novel reads:

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?

Wicked is about a land where animals talk and strive to be treated like first-class citizens, Munchkinlanders seek the comfort of middle-class stability… And 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.

What most intrigued me was Maguire’s exploration of the nature of animals and his comparison of them with human beings…

Elphie thought: Such silly things, children–and so embarassing–because they keep changing themselves out of shame, out of a need to be loved or something. While animals are born who they are, accept it, and that is that. They live with greater peace than people do. – p.234.

At a party, Elphaba listens to guests speculate what evil is…

“Evil isn’t a thing, it’s not a person, it’s an attribute like beauty…”

“It’s a power, like a wind…”

“It’s an infection…”

“It’s metaphysical, essentially: the corruptibility of creation–”

“Blame it on the Unnamed God, then.”

“But did the Unnamed God create evil intentionally, or was it just a mistake in creation?”

“It’s not of air and eternity, evil isn’t; it’s of earth; it’s physical, a disjointedness between our bodies and our souls. Evil is inanely corporeal, humans causing one another pain, no more no less–”

“Evil is an act, not an appetite. How many haven’t wanted to slash the throat of some boor across the dining room table? Present company excepted of course. Everyone has the appetite. If you give in to it, it, that act is evil. The appetite is normal.” p.370-371.

I’ll save my own speculations about the root of evil for another day (or just express them through a character I’ve written in my own novel). In the meantime, thank-you Gregory Maguire for creating a good read. It was a pleasure.



  1. Tracey said,

    Does this book have anything to do with the Broadway musical Wicked?

  2. becky said,

    The book is what the musical is based on, methinks.

  3. Tim said,

    Even though I still haven’t read the book, Suzy and I heard him speak at a cool indie bookstore on Long Island. He said that he wrote the book in response to the first war in Iraq, and surprisingly the sequel followed another Bush’s war with Iraq! You have reminded me that I need to pull it off the shelf (then Suzy can stop asking me if I have finished it yet).

  4. Todd said,

    I thought the book was overrated. I found it a chore to plug away after the first few hundred pages but then that’s just me. Right now I’m reading Al Franken’s “The Truth (with Jokes)” which I’m enjoying greatly.

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