The Author of Oz: Children's Writer, Practitioner of Consumerism, or Both?

This project examines the paradoxical motivations of Lyman Frank Baum, a late nineteenth and early twentieth century children’s author and advertiser. Analyzing two works Baum published in the year 1900—The Art of Decorating Show Windows and Interiors and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz—I illuminate Baum’s inconsistent literary messaging. In The Art of Decorating Show Windows and Interiors, an instructive window-dressing manual, Baum explicitly encourages marketers to manipulate American consumers by using flashy, misrepresentative window displays to market products. Simultaneously, in his children’s story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Baum demonstrates to America’s youth the dangers of manipulative marketing, most clearly represented by the “Wizard,” the Land of Oz’s cunning “humbug” who tricks Dorothy and her friends into believing he has magical powers that will cure their deficiencies. This journey into the mind of one of the early twentieth century’s popular authors highlights America’s cultural transition from postbellum frugality to industry-driven mass consumerism. This thesis challenges popular canonical interpretations of Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by contextualizing his children’s story with the backdrop of his life as an advertiser in the Gilded Age—a volatile time emblematic of the social, economic, and cultural changes that still impact the United States today.

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Work Title The Author of Oz: Children's Writer, Practitioner of Consumerism, or Both?
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Penn State
Creators
  1. Evan A Davis
Keyword
  1. The Wizard of Oz
  2. Cultural History
  3. Frank Baum
  4. Window Dressing
  5. Consumer Culture
License Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
Work Type Masters Thesis
DOI doi:10.26207/822k-vf32
Deposited July 30, 2020

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