Just FYI, I’m copying below my Goodreads book review of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, to which I gave one of my “highly coveted” five-star ratings.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. Baum’s prose is excellent and the story is well-paced. Most of us have only seen the movie, of course. The film is fairly true to the basic story, but the book contains a number of important additional scenes. For example, it is apparent early on that the scarecrow, lion, and tin woodsman already have the qualities that they seek from the wizard, in abundance. On their trip to Oz, the scarecrow makes all of the intelligent decisions, the lion performs several highly courageous acts, and the tin woodsman repeatedly demonstrates his compassion. The trio only lacks self-confidence, which the wizard eventually helps them to attain.

There is an interesting theory that L. Frank Baum’s first book was an allegory about the gold standard, which was a major political issue back in 1900. In this interpretation, Dorothy represents traditional American values, the Scarecrow is the American farmer, the Tin Man stands for the workers, and the Cowardly Lion is William Jennings Bryan, who was a Democratic presidential candidate and “rightly” preferred silver over gold as a monetary standard. But Bryan (in some people’s views) lacked the courage of his convictions and he lost the election. The Wicked Witch of the West was Republican President William McKinley, a strong supporter of the gold standard, and the Wizard was Mark Hanna, the chairman of the Republican Party. And “Oz,” of course, is an abbreviation for the gold “ounce.”

In the book, Dorothy’s slippers are made of silver, not ruby, implying that silver was the right choice for the economy and could solve its problems. The Yellow Brick Road represents the gold standard, which leads to the Emerald City. The green color of this city stands for paper money, which has no inherent value. The residents of the Emerald City are forced to wear green-colored glasses, which are locked onto their heads to make them believe that the city is beautiful and valuable. In fact, it isn’t; this is just another of the Wizard’s tricks.

Giving strong credence to this theory is the fact that Baum was a political activist in the 1890s and he advocated against using gold as a single monetary standard, due to its scarcity. He promoted using a system of “bimetallism,” where the value of the dollar would be set by tying it to fixed quantities of both gold and silver. This would supposedly make prices more stable and have other economic benefits.