Tag: dreamvision

Annotating Over The Rainbow

Dorothy sings “Over the Rainbow” immediately after trying to get Aunty Em’s attention, but being rebuffed and told (approximately) “I am too busy. Go find a place where you can’t get into trouble and stay there.” It is explicit that Dorothy is responding to Aunty Em’s instructions, both literally and emotionally.

I need to organize my thoughts about how this iconic song fits into the overall movie. Unsurprisingly, it is integral both in establishing themes and in foreshadowing events. “Over the Rainbow” is the outline of the movie.

Somewhere, over the rainbow, way up high  In the novel, the description of Kansas and the farm explicitly focuses on how little color is there, insisting that the only color to be seen, even on Aunty Em and Uncle Henry, is gray. The Kansas sections of the film are shot in sepia and white. Although it is tempting to say Kansas is gray to contrast how brightly colored Oz will be, but I believe it is more profitable to say that Oz is brightly colored to highlight how gray Kansas is.

We know there are storms there, though, which means there are rainbows, and Dorothy will have seen them. Probably this is the only source of color in her life.

“Over the rainbow” and “Way up high” inaugurate a bird-related motif that recurs through the song and slyly through the movie.

There’s a land that I heard of, once in a lullaby For starters, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is totally a lullaby.

We sing a lullaby for a two-part reason:

  1. to help a child fall asleep, and
  2. to encourage pleasant dreams by providing pleasant thoughts while they fall asleep

The lullaby reference here gets the audience thinking about sleeping, about dreaming pleasant dreams, about Dorothy sleeping and dreaming pleasant dreams, and it tells us what images Dorothy has on her mind if she later should fall asleep and dream. Which she does.

Somewhere, over the rainbow, skies are blue.  Blue skies are not gray. This is obvious, but important – she is dreaming of NOT-Kansas. Furthermore, blue skies function as metonymy indicating fine weather, so NOT a tornado. Fine weather functions metaphorically to indicate No Trouble. “It’s all blue skies from here” as the saying goes.
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.  Here Dorothy reinforces the idea of dreaming, and makes sure you know – no matter what they say about dreams being trivial and false – that dreams can be true.

Dreams her are also of course being used both as the sleeping phenomenon and as the aspiration. The future probably looks pretty limited to Dorothy on the farm – and in a movie made during the Great Depression, it’s likely that a child (if not Dorothy then a child in the movie’s original audience) would have been used to the idea of dreams not coming true.

Someday I’ll wish upon a star, and wake up where the clouds are far behind me.  There’s a hint of ritual here. To get your wishes (to make your dreams come true) you must follow the correct procedure by wishing on a star.

She will wake up – another reference to sleep and dreaming.

Clouds mean trouble, just as blue skies mean ease.

Clouds are also necessary if you want to see a rainbow. This line makes the rainbow a road to be followed – you follow the rainbow all the way through the clouds/trouble, and you get somewhere wonderful.

Where troubles melt like lemon drops, away above the chimney tops…  Dorothy’s trouble’s will literally melt when she hits the witch with that bucket of water.

Lemon drops are brightly colored, by way of contrast to Kansas. The flowers in Munchkinland look like they are made of candy.

“Above the chimney tops” is where birds go. This continues the motif of birds, which indicates flight, and freedom/possibility.

That’s where you’ll find me.  This somewhat ominously hints that Dorothy will be missing. I believe the very next scene has her running away and meeting Professor Marvel.
Somewhere, over the rainbow, bluebirds fly. Not just any birds. Bluebirds. They are blue. They are not gray. Also, they’re flying.

Dorothy’s dress is blue, too. In the novel, blue is the favorite color in Munchkinland.

If birds fly over the rainbow, why, then, oh, why can’t I? Here Dorothy connects the birds and their flight directly to herself. By way of “flee” fly can mean “run away”.
If happy little bluebirds fly, beyond the rainbow in the sky,  The important new element this line adds is “happy,” which suggests that in her current circumstances Dorothy is not happy, so her dream to be a bird and fly over the rainbow to a place without trouble becomes more meaningful.
Why, oh, why can’t I? This time it’s rhetorical. She is about to do exactly that.

Lyrics from MetroLyrics.

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You were there, and you were there…

I’ve been claiming for years that the film The Wizard of Oz is much quicker to acknowledge its dream frame than the novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The end of the novel just depicts Dorothy waking up in the fields and rushing home to discover Uncle Henry rebuilding the farmhouse, while the end of the film features her explicitly stating that she has had a dream, and listing who was – and more importantly who was not present in it.
I think Aunty Em’s absence from Oz is the key to understanding the dream frame, probably in both texts, but certainly in the film.

In both texts, the flying farmhouse contains a bed. In the novel, Dorothy takes a nap on the way to Oz, and in the film, a window hits her on the head and she falls into the bed, enabling the window frame as a screen to show lots of transitional images that set up motifs and themes that will be prominent in Oz. So both texts do set us up for the idea of dreams.

The window as meta-film with its transitional imagery, though, which features images from Kansas morphing into images from Oz – Miss Gulch on her bicycle becoming the Wicked Witch of the West on her broomstick is the most vivid one in my mind – the window inaugurates dream logic in the film in a way that the novel does not.

It recalls the images on the exterior garden wall in the Roman de la Rose and the stained glass images in Chaucer’s Book of the Duchess, though. In Duchess, a series of images of tragic lovers, lovers who died messy, sets up the issue of grieving lost loves, even when the dreamer insists his real problem is insomnia.

For Dorothy, the images outside the window serve as the first flickerings of her dream. She starts out seeing images of wind on the farm, the fence and the chicken coop. She sees Aunty Em in her rocking chair, waving affectionately. Aunty Em is the key to this film. Dorothy sees the workmen rowing a rowboat, also waving. These are visions of home, waving, but it is unclear at this point whether they wave a greeting or a farewell. Dorothy thinks she is worried about Toto and Miss Gulch, but she is really worried about the nature of home.

The rowboat also suggests flooding on the farm, an extreme possible consequence of severe weather, and a sign of Dorothy’s anxiety about the tornado. But the tornado is Dorothy’s version of Chaucer’s insomnia; it’s a distraction from the real theme, and a vehicle (in her case quite literally) that transports us to the real theme.

The image of Miss Gulch riding her bike turning into a witch on her broom marks the transition into Oz. It teaches us as viewers to look for parallels between Kansas characters and the Oz characters played by the same actors. Before the storm, Dorothy’s immediate concern is that Miss Gulch, who becomes the witch, is a menace to Toto. The workman played by the actor who will be the Scarecrow lectures Dorothy about using her brains to deal with Gulch. The workman played by the actor who will be the Cowardly Lion encourages her to be brave. Setting Kansas parallel to Oz makes the dream frame structurally useful.

After Aunty Em, who is busy preparing for the storm, tells Dorothy to find someplace where she can’t get into trouble, Dorothy sings “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” which reinforces the distinction between Kansas, which is black and white, and Oz, which is Technicolor, and which identifies Oz as a place where dreams are real:

Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.

The rainbow itself indicates color that isn’t present in the black-and-white world of Kansas, where skies are gray, not just because of the impending storm, but also because of the filming style. In the novel, Oz is not just in color, it is actually color coded. Each region of Oz has its own main color, and the denizens wear that color. For example, Munchkins wear blue in the novel. In the film, a small group of Munchkins may wear the same color, perhaps to indicate membership, but there is no regional uniform. Munchkinland is a floral blast of color, probably to maximize contrast with Kansas.

“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” sets up a number of features for the movie: Aunty Em’s initial instruction to find a place where Dorothy can’t get into trouble is its impetus; however Dorothy’s interpretation is for a place “Where troubles melt like lemon drops,” a wish fulfillment fantasy. Another day, I will analyze the lyrics in full. For now, understand that this song integrates the dream frame into the conflict of the story, and that conflict is between Em’s interpretation and Dorothy’s interpretation of what it means to find a place where you won’t get in trouble.

It also highlights the conflict between their understandings of Em’s instruction. Aunty Em wants Dorothy to be safe, and she wants to be able to prepare the farm for the storm to enable that safety. “Don’t get into trouble” means “be safe.” The same instruction leaves Dorothy feeling dismissed, and worrying that she is a hindrance, and longing for something constructive to do, ideally about the threat to Toto.

When she runs away with Toto, she hopes her absence will lighten the burden she places on Aunty Em, and she hopes to find a place where she can be safe without sacrificing agency, and where the consequences of her efforts “melt away like lemon drops.”

When she meets Professor Marvel (whose benevolent frauds are parallel to those of the Wizard, played by the same actor), he pretends to see Aunty Em in his crystal ball, in order to refocus Dorothy’s mind on how Em will worry about her, how Dorothy’s absence will place a greater burden on Em than her presence. This will become Dorothy’s mantra in Oz. “Em will be worried about me.” or “Aunty Em must have stopped looking for me by now!” etc.

Aunty Em is absent from the dream precisely for this reason. In order to learn that “there’s no place like home,” Dorothy must first learn what “home” is, and Aunty Em – with her gruff need to protect and care for Dorothy, and her multilayered desire that Dorothy avoid trouble – represents home.

Bang on my chest if you think I’m perfect

It’s funny watching The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and realizing I have never really paid close attention to it at all, at least not with an eye toward its details.

I watched it tonight, specifically intending to pay attention for details and take notes about them, and I didn’t notice the Giant Emu in the background near the cottage when Dorothy and the Scarecrow are oiling the Tin Man for the first time. There is a great big long-necked bird hanging out by the cottage. You can see him between Dorothy and the Tin Man in this image:

Thanks to my friend Jim for pointing it out!

What I did notice was a series of subtle references to the importance of doing things according to a certain protocol or ritual, and a notion that even when you follow ritual correctly, you still have to help yourself to really get what you want.

It starts in Kansas, where Aunty Em apologetically pronounces that “We can’t go against the law. Toto will have to go,” and where the farmhands give Dorothy advice about how to be self-sufficient. I need to go back and get their exact advice before Kalamazoo, but there is a strong sense of “do it yourself – you’re good enough.”

In Munchkinland, Dorothy must follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald city. The yellow brick road starts in the middle of the set, spiraling around another brick road, this one red, which goes in another direction. There are two roads. One leads to salvation. One is left to speculate where the other one leads. Enough to say “somewhere else.” Dorothy’s only hope of safety from the Wicked Witch is to find the Wizard in the Emerald City.

The roads start in a very clear, tight spiral, and it would be easier and faster to start where they diverge, or even further away, where the yellow brick road leaves the town square. But Dorothy and Toto begin at the center of the spiral and walk (ok, they dance) tight circles until the road leaves town. They follow the exact process, the ritual, but it is clear they must undertake this journey themselves – Glinda can’t just solve the problem for Dorothy, even though she will later reveal that she has known all along how Dorothy could get home – Dorothy has to do it. Glinda’s only instruction: “Follow the yellow brick road.” One recalls another powerful individual saying “I am the way and the road.”

In the poppy fields, when Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion fall asleep, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow try to pick them up and carry them out. Only after they fail, do they cry out for help, and only at that point does Glinda intervene. Here, I think of the man with a broken cart, kicking his horse to make it move, and Jesus (or one of the Greek gods, in another version of the story) intervenes to help. When his student asks why reward the cruel man, he says “God helps those who help themselves.”

At the gates to Emerald City, the gatekeeper’s behavior once again emphasizes the importance of following rituals. He refuses to let them in when they ring the bell, because the proper procedure is to knock. When they tell him their mission the dialog runs along these lines:

Gatekeeper: “Nobody can see the great oz! nobody has ever seen the great oz! why, even I have never seen him”

Dorothy: “Well how do you know there is one?”

Gatekeeper: Sputters. “You are wasting my time”

Interestingly, he then requires proof that they were sent by Glinda. Faith is extended to Glinda, not to mortal strangers.

When the humbug Wizard’s balloon takes off without Dorothy, it is because she deliberately leaves its basket. Toto is a higher priority. Dorothy has a responsibility to uphold to her pet. She is certain she will never get home, and her cohort reassure her that they love her and will be thrilled to have her stay with them. Glinda then appears and reveals that Dorothy had the ability to go home all along – on her own power. She couldn’t reveal it earlier, because Dorothy had to BELIEVE IT HERSELF.

Notice that ultimately it isn’t the Wizard who helps any of them. He guides them, in the case of the cohort, toward self-realization, toward understanding that they had the missing whatever all along. He doesn’t help Dorothy much at all, sadly, although he does try. But, see, she has to help herself.

There’s lots going on in this movie, but one of its motifs is definitely the interplay between faith and self-reliance.

Edmund and the Snow Queen

This one’s not about The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; it’s a deposit for later, when I will be writing about The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Yesterday, while I baked the apple pie, I listened to “The Snow Queen” on audiobook, and was astonished by the parallels between Kay’s interactions with the Snow Queen in Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale and Edmund’s with the White Witch in Narnia.

At the broadest level, the parallel between Snow Queen and White Witch are obvious – both are magical, both sharply associated with snowfall and winter. In both texts, she wraps the freezing boy in her furs and takes him home.

The parallels between Kay and Edmund are similar – each leaves a little girl who has reason to trust him, without explanation, to run off; and each then allies with a dangerous winter lady. Spoiler alert: both boys also come to repent their trangressions.

It’s pretty clear that this episode in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe alludes to “The Snow Queen.” At minimum, Lewis is making that reference. If we view the novel as Lucy’s dream, then the allusion is even stronger: of course the dream of a little girl steeped in fairy tales would be influenced by her bedtime stories.

This allusion enables Lewis to quietly invoke (I need to decide whether the invocation is meant for emphasis or contrast) Anderson’s themes.

“The Snow Queen” is very much a metaphor for growing up. Kay and Gerda play together and spin tales about roses and play games, in their childhood. Under the influence of a fragment of the terrible mirror, Kay gets cynical and mean, begins leaving Gerda behind for the company of boys, a depiction of older boyhood. He leaves the boys behind in pursuit of a woman, a doomed relationship, parallel to the adolescent pursuit of sex without concern for real emotional connection.

Gerda leaves behind her childhood rose garden wearing red shoes that Kay has never seen – a metaphor for her emerging sexuality. She embarks on a long journey, meeting various people, some of whom are kind, some dangerous, and some who ought to be dangerous but behave kindly, the adventures of a life. Possibly twice (at least once – need to check this) observes that “it is autumn, and I have wasted my time.” When she finds him, after the heat of Gerda’s emotions melts the shards of the wicked mirror from Kay’s eyes and heart, rendering him newly sentimental, they SHARE that observation, and when they return home, they notice that they are now grown up.

The metaphor is interspersed throughout with Christian themes, including a recurring hymn that both children learned in childhood, about returning to childhood to find Jesus, which could help explain the significance of the Pevensey childrens’ return to childhood in England after living a full life, including adulthood as kings and queens, in Narnia. If this has been Lucy’s dream, waking to find herself newly a child would be a return to find Jesus, a pursuit that can surprise no one in a novel by CS Lewis.

HG Wells – The Time Machine

I listen to audiobooks in the car, and on the subway, etc, and I should REALLY use that time to listen to texts relevant to this book project; however, I typically choose something light and fun without regard to responsibility (This is how I read the Dresden Files), or I choose something that I have always meant to read but somehow never got around to (This is how I read Jane Austen). The last week or so, I chose The Time Machine, because if I have ever actually read it, it was long long ago, and I don’t remember.

Anyhow, imagine my surprise, toward the end, when the Time Traveler, after relating his outlandish tale of Morlocks, announces that (paraphrasing) “You surely think it all a lie. Perhaps you think it a dream I had in the laboratory. Perhaps it WAS.”

Now, I am thinking about The Time Machine in comparison to William Morris’ News from Nowhere, another vision of the far future, in which the explicitly-dreaming narrator visits a socialist Utopia, recognizes that it is better than his contemporary London, and also recognizes that he is too much a product of his own time to endure living in the perfect future.

Where Morris’ vision is informed primarily by political thinking and optimism, Wells’ future is more influenced by Darwinian forces of necessity – his narrator approaches every new phenomenon by asking himself what biological or social need might have led to its evolution. This leads to a much less optimistic vision of the future, of course.

I’ll have to do some biographical reading on Wells, and reread The Time Machine in paper format so I can underline things and take some notes, etc. This will help me reach the 75,000 words McFarland wants, for sure.

What Lewis Said

In the middle of the 1930s, the same year, I think, that Tolkien taught us to read Beowulf, CS Lewis published The Allegory of Love, in which he established what would later come to be called “The heresy of courtly love” and in which he more lastingly explained how to read allegory, and in particular how to read the Roman de la Rose, among other things a dream vision.

His argument is that when we see allegory in a medieval text, it indicates that the text is psychological, looking inward. As this applies to the Roman, each allegorical figure is either an aspect of the narrator’s personality, or an aspect of the narrator’s goal, in this case to win the love of his beloved, and consequently an aspect of his beloved’s situation, mood, or willingness to be won. By implementing allegorical methods, the author effectively shines his subject matter through a prism, separating lover and beloved into their component parts.

If my goal were to interpret the medieval Roman, it would be fruitful to look to Macrobeus’ commentary on Scipio’s dream or to other philosophers and theologians of the period to assess the significance of dreams in the 12th century. If you’re interested in that analysis, I’ve actually laid it out already, in my dissertation, and I’d be tickled if you read it.

It’s probably worth looking to Freud and his followers to get a sense of the significance of dreams for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, so let’s consider the idea that the novel hints at a dream frame in an effort to shine Dorothy’s wish fulfilment fantasy through a prism, separating out her desire for or anxiety about finding her proper place into its components: the companions, and even Toto, function as aspects of Dorothy herself. The various antagonists and obstacles and locations function similarly as aspects of that knowledge. As outward as traveling to a new world may appear, Dorothy’s adventure, interpreted this way, is internally focused, a psychological exploration of the landscape of childhood as it emerges into independent adulthood.

In previous entries, or possibly in a Facebook status, I’ve speculated about the main companions as indicating Dorothy’s own anxieties: am I a coward because I experience fear? am I heartless? am I stupid? It remains to talk about Dorothy herself and about Toto. I am tempted by a Freudian triad, with Dorothy as ego, Toto as id, and the companions as superego.