Review | Commentary
Wicked is brilliant. The book outshines the musical, because only in Maguire’s writing can you explore the liveliness and discourse of Oz, the trials and tribulations of all the characters, and the complexity of evil, immorality, and morality.
Maguire’s capability to reconcile a fantasy world and the real world by permeating the mystical with realistic hardships and emotions. Even in the “fantastical realms of Oz” he creates, he brings up discussion about discrimination, racism, ableism, and religion/spirituality. He insinuates that even in a whole different world, our “human” nature as well as the understandings and issues of our society carry on. In other words, no matter where you are, life happens. People are hateful. People get jealous. People feel resentment and hurt.
He takes the childhood perception of Oz and distorts it to something recognizable—Oz becomes a version of our world with almost all the things that us humans have done and felt, both good and bad.
That brings me to the topics, or rather themes, of morality in this book. It is much easier to believe that there is distinctive gap between good and evil, do and don’t do, moral and immoral. If only things were that simple. Our world isn’t like that, and neither is Oz. There are no cut and dry, no distinctively defined morals in this book. There may be at least one, but, in my reading of this, I haven’t found one.
However, in this book, the infamous Wicked Witch of the West is a sympathetic character who has been thrown into and survived very troubling situations. Her birth, her childhood, her upbringing, her schooling, her activism, and her journey in becoming know as The Wicked Witch. These situations seem so bizarre and, yet, her feelings resonate with us.
Elphaba is the most powerful character in the history of fiction. I have no qualms about saying that, and I’m usually indecisive about choosing absolute favorites or “mosts”. Because of her, I analyzed people I had once considered enemies, and saw that they had human nature built into them long before they became my “enemies”, they had feelings that led them to wherever they happen to be now. (Admittedly, this does not apply to people who I just really dislike. I’m only human and I have follies.)
If Elphaba was a man…
I always wondered if the fact Elphaba’s green skin was so abhorrent to people was because she was a girl. Oz seems to be old fashioned. For example, there are no women ‘professors’ (there are few teachers, but that’s beside the point) and most women seem to hold a more Daisy Buchanan-esque status. That is, they are mostly objects for whatever use or pretty faces for the real movers and shakers. “Beautiful little fools” the lot of them are. Perhaps the only break from this mold was Madam Morrible, but even she worked mostly behind the scenes and did not take any government positions above Press Secretary.
Now, if Elphaba had been born a boy, how would her life be different? Would being the eldest boy change the way she was perceived by the world? Unfortunately, I think yes. The society of Oz reminiscent of pre-20th century, so it is heavily patriarchal.Thus, the belief that women are expected to meet certain, superficial requirements before anything else, transcend through from our world to others.
If Elphaba was born a man, her green skin could be excused on the account that one day she’d be the governor of Munchkinland (because, though she was the heir as a girl, I always got the vibe that she’d be expected to give it up to her son if she had one). In fact, her skin could actually be considered exotic (in a good way!), rather than disgusting. It’s an unfortunate truth—if a women does not fit the mold of classic Ozian beauty, she’s a freak. If a man doesn’t (like Fiyero and his diamond tattoos), he can be considered more handsome.
In the case of Nessa – in all other ways she’s described as being “tragically beautiful” with the exception of her arms. So, even though she is physically disabled and has faced some ableism, Nessarose still does not merit the same abuse as her sister because she’s still considered a classical beauty.
That being said… Elphaba would make a very handsome man, despite being the absolute best fictional female character of all time.
※I just want to point out that I am only writing a review for this book, because I haven’t done so before. I read this book last year, so I haven’t failed my reading challenge.