Sarah Canary Q3 – I read a story like that once, only instead of a chinaman, it was a cowardly lion,


Sarah Canary is often said to be a re-telling, of sorts, of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz? Do you agree, in full or in part? Which characters and situations do the two books have in common?


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    Oh! I'd totally missed the Wizard of Oz reference! I guess it's not a story that I know very well at all.

    However, on the plus side, the quote you started with is another recurrent theme, with BJ frequently drawing parallels between the story being told and some other story which superficially differs, but (at least in his view) shares some deep features.

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    I could make an analogy like one of BJ's. I suppose we could say Sarah Canary is Dorothy, BJ is Scarecrow, Chin is the Cowardly Lion, and Adelaide is the Tin Man.

    Of course it's not remotely as literal as a retelling - more a loose parellel.

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    If it's a Wizard of Oz analogy, who is the wizard, and who would be the wicked witch?

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    I don't think this is a re-working of the Wizard of Oz, but I definitely see inspiration. If I were to attempt to equate the characters, I'd say Chin is the Cowardly Lion - he admires Burke's courage, later admits to lacking any of his own, continuously hides behind B.J., then finally finds some courage at the end when he saves Adelaide from the tiger.

    B.J. seems a very likely candidate for the Straw Man, and is even described at one point as having the stuffing torn out of him in a fight.

    Harold is a candidate for the Tin Man, in that he's heartless through most of the book, but has a heart at the end. He's also indestructible. Could Harold also be the wizard? Manipulative, and he leaves at the end, stranding the other characters.

    Who is Adelaid? Also possibly the tin man, though I like Harold better for that role. Could she be Dorothy? She doesn't long to go home. Is she Toto, developing an attachment to Sarah Canary (who seems most likely as Dorothy) and always pulling the curtain aside to reveal what's behind. Dogged in her determination, too.

    Who are the Wicked Witch and the Wizard? Good question - maybe nobody.

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    I would absolutely 100% place Harold as the Wicked Witch. And the dress as Dorothy's Ruby Slippers (didn't the witch covet those, or am I misremembering?).

    And the man in charge of the asylum seems rather Wizard of Oz like.

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    Well spotted re: the dress and the ruby slippers.

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    It just occurred to me that if this is, as we all suspect, a reference to the Wizard of Oz, then it is a rare example of anachronism. The Wizard was first published in 1900 (to be followed by another 13 sequels of which I had never heard) and so cannot in the strict sense be known by the novel's characters in the early 1870s.

    The other literary references we have explored - Coleridge's Asra poems in the early 1800s, and White's Natural History of Selborne in 1789 - could plausibly be known by educated Americans of the 1870s.

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    Perhaps the true events in this story actually inspired Baum? There’s the recursion you were looking for in the last book.

    I don’t even know where to start with the Dickinson excerpts.
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    Aha! Recursion ! Love it!!

    I don't mind the Emily Dickinson ones - firstly they are chapter heads rather than in-narrative passages, and secondly her work could (slightly implausibly given her lack of in-lifetime publication) have been known in the 1870s.

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