Oz: The Brilliant Reflection of a Dream
Analysis of Return to Oz from a Jungian Perspective
Dorothy Gale has a problem.
In times of extreme stress or physical injury, her mind reacts by thrusting
her into the land of her subconscious, the land of dreams. This land has
a name, and it is called Oz.
Dorothy's condition manifested itself when she hit
her head during a tornado. While in Oz, Dorothy's
mind was able to heal itself. Through the logic
and symbolism of dreams, Dorothy, in the end,
used her will to escape from her coma, and return
to the waking world.
But this journey had a strange effect on Dorothy. Dorothy has not resolved
her perception of what was, to her, a real experience ,
with the rest of her reality. Further, she has not made peace with her
desire to return there. This causes physical symptoms for Dorothy; primarily,
she is unable to sleep well (and she is, presumedly, unable to dream).
Her Aunt is, of course, troubled by this, and with good intentions, brings
her to a doctor for the only known treatment for this type of problem,
a treatment new to medicine: electro-shock therapy .
This is the worst thing that could happen to Dorothy, as it is another
brain injury, and again Dorothy finds herself in the land of Oz .
She is in the land of her subconscious, where she must make the right
decisions in order to heal her mind and return to reality.
She finds Oz destroyed because the shock has partially destroyed her
ability to create it. If she makes the wrong decisions, Oz will remain
destroyed; even cease to exist entirely. (Alternatively, it is destroyed
because she has faced the possibility of its destruction; see Footnote
In our dreams, pieces of the real world find
their way in, and appear in the context of
the world of our own making. Everything from
the squeak of wheels on a stretcher to the
frightening nurse are reflected in Dorothy's dream,
but in the context of a story in which she can
both logically and emotionally deal with them.
By structuring her recent memories into a symbolic
sequence of events, her mind is able to more
effectively process these events. In this context,
she is faced with a new choice: take the easy way,
and abandon her memories, or face her fears
and find a way to leave Oz while retaining
her slight "insanity." The risk she faces, if she does
not take the easy way, is that she may sink
even deeper into the coma, and lose consciousness altogether.
She is aware of this risk only on the subconscious level;
in the dream, this risk is represented as becoming
an ornament of the Gnome king.
But her friends (representing, perhaps, her imagination,
or even her soul) are too precious to her, and she takes
the riskier path.
In the end, she is able to find a way to retain
Oz in her mind while returning to reality...
The land of our dreams may seem to be a better, happier place, with friends
that we love who love us back. This land has a justice and logic that
we cannot find in the real world; the mean (or scary) are punished, while
we, ourselves, are elevated. But we know we cannot stay there. If Dorothy
chose to stay in Oz as its Queen , it would eventually
become darker, and more twisted, and more empty. This is because the world
of fantasy can not meet our true spiritual needs; this can only be done
by living, facing our fears, our loneliness, and the seeming inequities
of life, and finding a way to overcome them by connecting to the world
and the people in it.
Dorothy knows this (again, only subconsciously), but finds a way to return
to life while not losing her imagination. For she knows also that her
greatest tool in facing the spiritual challenges of life is her imagination
. In fact, it is more than imagination: to her Oz
is real, and she is able to manifest its reality in her waking world.
She has at her disposal a richly developed set of symbolic tools (characters
and stories), and is now able to enter the world of her subconscious at
© 2001 Liberty Miller
 The Oz books were originally published
beginning in 1900. Electoshock therepy is historically
referenced as being introduced in 1938 but "Magneto-Electric"
cures were being
used as early as 1831.
 It is not clear when she enters her fantasy (does it
begin when the switch is flipped, or when she loses consciousness while
in the river?); the writer leaves it somewhat open to interpretation (deliberately?).
In one interpretation of the story, when the switch is
flicked, her fantasy begins. In her fantasy, she has a counter-part, who
comes to help her escape. In reality, the building she is in is struck
by lightning, and she somehow wanders out into the night, not seen in
Or, the doctor carries her out and leaves her by the river
as he runs back in to save his equiptment. Or someone else carries her
out, but misplaces her in the confusion.
In the other interpretation, she is only dealing with the
stresses of extreme fear. In this interpretation, the blonde girl is real.
Dorthy loses consciousness in the river (either from exhaustion, or from
partial drowning). It is quite possible the blonde girl (perhaps the daughter
of the doctor) drowns.
 The choice presented to Dorothy to become Queen of
Oz is especially pointed. Upon making her wish ("I wish there was
some way I could be in both places at once."), her idealized version
of herself (Dorothy's dream avatar) manifests as Ozma. Symbolically, Dorothy
must actively bring Ozma into being, by helping her through the mirror.
It is Ozma who allows Dorothy to be in both places at once, and who also
allows Dorothy to return to Oz whenever Dorthy wishes.
 In Jungian theory the unconscious is far too vast to
ever be made fully conscious. Poking about in it is not without danger,
yet ignoring it is also a mistake. Ignoring the unconscious can lead to a brittle fixedness
which, at best, impedes growth, and, at worst, can 'break' when under the pressure
of the 'threat' of change.
 In Jungian "Active Imagination", the process
is to "Let an image arise in mind, and follow it through." In this process "dialogue with
imaginal figures is common."
What distinguishes active imagination from simple fantasy
is the full participation of the ego, imaginatio vera (true imagination)
versus imaginatio fantastica (fantasy imagination). An initial difficulty
in practicing active imagination is thinking something like Oh,
Im just making this up (imaginatio fantastica). The ego consciousness
which participates in active imagination is the full waking ego, not a
fictive or dream ego. Of course, children find this easier to do than
adults; as we mature, we develop the necessary skill of distinguishing
fantasy from reality.
About the books:
In the books, there is no question that Oz is real. The
story angle of presenting Oz as only in Dorthy's imagination was introduced
in the movie "The Wizard of Oz". This angle was greatly developed
for "Return to Oz" by Walter Murch and Gill Dennis. In the books,
Dorthy eventually comes to live in Oz with her Aunt and Uncle. For the
books, it is the reader who must learn to leave the fantasy world, while
retaining its symbolic lessons for the real world. The reader, too, can
return to Oz whenever he or she wishes; all that is needed is to pick
up one of the books.
about the book
Story Book (for the movie)
The Internet Movie Database