Movie Lesson Plan for:
The Wizard of Oz and the Hero's Journey
— Teaching the Journey and Its Archetypes Through a Children's Classic
Table of Contents
Dorothy's quest to save Toto and return home fits the paradigm of "the Hero’s Journey", also called "the Monomyth," a concept based on the discoveries of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell. The stages and archetypes of the Journey are summarized in TWM's Stages and Archetypes of the Hero’s Journey — Introducing the Monomyth.
TWM has also created a Hero’s Journey Worksheet to help students identify the stages and archetypes in any story in which the protagonist successfully completes an important quest. This Lesson Plan provides notes on responses when the worksheet is applied to Dorothy's journey. The Lesson Plan also contains suggested assignments.
TWM also has two other Learning Guides to The Wizard of Oz, one for primary school classes and the other for secondary school classes. There are important curriculum related and social-emotional lessons from this movie at all stages of the educational process.
This lesson can be used (1) to confirm and extend students' prior knowledge of the Monomyth or (2) as a summative assessment.
Ages: Secondary school ages 12+.
Length: The film is 101 minutes. The amount of class time needed will depend upon the length of class discussions, the number of assignments, and how many of those assignments are given as homework. TWM estimates that the lesson will take at least four 45 to 55 minute class periods.
Rationale: Stories told on screens are the literature of today's youth. Students will have an extra quantum of interest in applying the concept of the Hero's Journey and performing related ELA assignments with respect to a perennially popular film. The Monomyth is worth studying because it is a basic paradigm of human experience that is frequently used in written stories, drama, and film. Viewing stories involving successful quests in different contexts will expand and deepen students' understanding of the role of the Hero's Journey in fiction and in life. By understanding the elements of the Monomyth, students will be better prepared to identify protagonist, antagonist, conflict, theme, and symbol in fictional stories, whether on film or in books.
Learner Outcomes/Objectives: Students will describe the stages and archetypes of the Hero's Journey in a story in which the heroine attains personal growth while on her quest. In addition, by completing one or more of the suggested assignments, students will employ and perfect the writing skills required by the ELA curriculum.
USING THE "WIZARD OF OZ" IN THE ELA CLASSROOM
TWM recommends that before the film is shown, teachers present to the class, the information in TWM's Stages and Archetypes of the Hero's Journey — Introducing the Monomyth
Distribute TWM's Hero’s Journey Worksheet and review the questions with the class before showing the film. This will enable students to refer to the worksheet or make notes while watching. If most students have already seen the movie, TWM suggests permitting limited discussion about how the stages of the Journey and the archetypes become manifest in the film. A full explication of the Hero's Journey paradigm in the movie can wait until after the film has been shown. Upon completing the movie and the post-viewing discussion, students can be asked to respond to the questions in the worksheet, individually or in groups.
One option in lieu of the pre-viewing discussion described above is to have the class, as homework, watch the first Star Wars movie if they are not familiar with it. Then ask students to compare Dorothy's efforts to return home to the story Luke Skywalker in Star Wars. Suggested Response: Similarities include: Both Dorothy and Luke are separated from their home and must undertake a journey. Her journey is to return home, and Luke's journey is to find his father (although he doesn't know it at the time). They both find helpful and protective figures. Skywalker meets Obi-Wan Kenobi. Dorothy meets Glinda, her three friends, and later the Wizard. They both go through many ordeals and eventually gain their reward. Both Dorothy and Luke triumph because of the inner force of their characters which they carried with them from the beginning. Luke had "the Force" which ran strong and deep within him. Dorothy had her strength of character, symbolized by the ruby slippers. However, before either of them could complete their journey, these inner strengths had to be developed and tested.
AFTER WATCHING THE MOVIE
NOTES ON RESPONSES TO WORKSHEET PROMPTS FOR "THE WIZARD OF OZ"
These notes will assist teachers in leading class discussions and evaluating student responses to written assignments. Most prompts in the worksheet have no single correct answer. An acceptable response will be any answer that is supported by facts and reveals that the student is thinking about the story. Much of this analysis is adapted from The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, 3rd Edition, by Christopher Vogler. This book offers a detailed analysis of the use of the Hero's Journey in The Wizard of Oz.
I. Write a short single-paragraph description of the Hero's Journey described in this story. Dorothy’s journey is from her home in Kansas to Oz and back again to Kansas. Most of the film concerns Dorothy's time in the Land of Oz. While on her quest, Dorothy learns that to attain her goals, she must first believe in herself and be able to express her inner strength. This is the realization made by every child who attains maturity, and its presentation in this story is one of the reasons that The Wizard of Oz has retained its popularity from generation to generation.
II. For each stage of the Hero's Journey, describe the action of the film, if any, that manifests the stage. Be specific about the stage and the corresponding action.
SECTION ONE — Introduction to Setting, Characters & Conflict
1. The Ordinary World: — As the movie opens, Dorothy’s world is the Kansas farm on which she lives with her Auntie Em and Uncle Henry. This world is bleak and run down; Auntie Em and Uncle Henry must work hard to keep the farm going. Kansas is shown in the movie using black-and-white film in contrast to the colorful world of Oz. Dorothy's guardians and the farmhands are kind and loving, but Dorothy longs for an exciting, colorful world that she imagines is somewhere over the rainbow. This introduces an element of instability into the Ordinary World of the Kansas farm.
2. The Call to Adventure: — Miss Gulch threatens to have Dorothy's beloved dog Toto euthanized for digging up her garden. Auntie Em and Uncle Henry are powerless to prevent Miss Gulch from taking the dog. Toto escapes and runs home. This is the Call to Adventure because it calls Dorothy to embark on her quest. The tornado, which takes Dorothy to Oz, can also be seen as the Call to Adventure. A third possibility is when Glinda tells Dorothy that to find her way home, she must seek out Oz, the great and powerful. However, the stronger response is that Dorothy is called to adventure by the threat to Toto and his return home.
3. Refusing the Call: — Dorothy tries to return to the farm after Professor Marvel tells her that Auntie Em is seriously ill. Dorothy's love for family causes her to try to end her recently started journey, thus Refusing the Call. However, the emotions in Dorothy that have been stirred up by her desire for life over the rainbow and by the threat to Toto are too powerful to be stopped. These are represented by the tornado. Dorothy returns to an empty house, a common dream symbol for an old personality structure; the tornado knocks Dorothy unconscious and takes her to Oz.
4. Meeting with the Mentor: — Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, serves as the most important Mentor in Dorothy’s adventure. Glinda tells Dorothy that she is a hero for having killed the Wicked Witch of the East with her house and that only the Wizard of Oz can show Dorothy how to get back home. Glinda also tells Dorothy that the yellow brick road will take Dorothy to Oz and warns the young girl to never remove the slippers (ruby in the film, silver in the book) that have magically appeared on Dorothy's feet. At strategic moments throughout the film, Glinda returns to help Dorothy along her way.
5. Crossing the First Threshold: — The First Threshold for Dorothy's journey can be seen when she takes her first steps on the yellow brick road despite threats of revenge from the sister of the dead witch. Another possibility for the first threshold occurs when Dorothy is hit on the head, and the house, sucked into the tornado, lands in the Land of the Munchkins. This is the first time that Dorothy can't go back to the Ordinary World without first pursuing her quest; she is now fully committed to the Hero's Journey. Crossing the first threshold is not always voluntary.
SECTION TWO — Action, Climax, Triumph
6. Tests, Allies, and Enemies: — Dorothy is tested all along the journey and often comes close to losing her way. One of the most dramatic tests occurs in the battle with the flying monkeys. Dorothy faces these tests with allies she has met during her journey, including the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion. Her dog, Toto, is an ally throughout the film, but as described below, he is more than just an ally. As the story unfolds, Miss Gulch and the Wicked Witch of the West serve as Dorothy’s most powerful enemies. The witch is able to summon allies of her own, such as the monkeys who challenge Dorothy. The Witch is also assisted by the soldiers in her castle. Dorothy and the Wicked Witch compete for the magic slippers on Dorothy's feet. It is the slippers that are the means by which a self-confident Dorothy can complete her quest and return home. Glinda, the good witch, tells Dorothy that whatever she does, she should not let the slippers off her feet. The Wicked Witch tells Dorothy that the magic of the slippers will make the Witch the most powerful force in Oz. In the symbol system of the story, the Witch wants to deny Dorothy the ability to believe in herself. And, what would have happened had the Wicked Witch gotten the slippers? Dorothy would never have been able to go home, and she would have fallen into despair. She would never have been able to develop the self-confidence that was her Elixir. This symbolism is carried over into the death of the Wicked Witch. It is water, something that promotes life, and something that will save the Scarecrow that destroys the Witch.
7. The Approach to the Inmost Cave: — For Dorothy, the approach to the inmost cave occurs in the Witch’s castle where she is forced to chose between giving up her magic slippers and Toto, whom the Witch has threatened to drown if Dorothy doesn't relinquish the slippers. If the Witch gets the slippers, she will become the most powerful force in Oz, and Dorothy will have lost the ability to return home; her quest would be at an end. Had she given up her slippers Dorothy would have lost her status as a Hero of the Journey.
8. The Ordeal: — When the Witch torches the Scarecrow and his straw starts to burn, Dorothy cannot stop herself from protecting her friend. She grabs a bucket of water and douses the fire, accidentally wetting the Wicked Witch, who thereupon melts into a puddle on the floor.
9. The Reward: Dorothy is rewarded with knowledge. She returns from the Wicked Witch's castle with the old crone's broomstick in hand. She expects that the Wizard of Oz, as promised, will send her home to Kansas. But that is not to be. The Wizard cannot uphold his end of the bargain because, as Toto reveals, he is just a meek old man who manipulates the controls of a device that creates the appearance of the Wizard's powerful floating head. Dorothy's true reward is the knowledge that adults and authority figures are just the same as she and that pretensions to being powerful are sometimes fraudulent.
SECTION THREE — Resolution and Denouement
10. The Road Back: — The Wizard gives the Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tin Man their Rewards/Elixirs, i.e., the degree, the medal for valor, and the ticking heart. When it is time for Dorothy to receive what she thought was her Reward, a trip home to Kansas in a balloon, Toto jumps out of Dorothy's arms to chase a cat. Does Toto, who many critics believe represents Dorothy's instincts, know that she cannot get back to Kansas in a balloon? Dorothy runs after her dog, and the balloon rises out of reach, taking the Wizard away as its only passenger. Dorothy's first effort on the road back meets with failure. Glinda then reappears and shows Dorothy the way.
11. Resurrection: — Dorothy is resurrected when she finds, courtesy of her mentor, Glinda, that she had the ability to return home from her first minutes in Oz, when the magic slippers appeared on her feet. Glinda explains that she didn't tell Dorothy at the time because Dorothy wouldn't have believed her. Dorothy needed to learn the lessons of her journey before she can complete her quest. While Dorothy tells the Tin Man that what she learned was that she should look for her heart's desire in her own back yard, there is another and more substantive lesson that Dorothy has learned: that the ability to get what she wants in life starts with belief in herself. Now that Dorothy has matured in Oz, she has the understanding to return home as a Heroine.
12. Return with the Elixir: — The Dorothy who awakens in her bed back in Kansas is quite different from the girl who left. She has returned from her journey with the self-assurance necessary to live fully and the knowledge that to do anything, you must first believe in yourself. This is the elixir that she has brought home. Dorothy's statement that she will never leave home again is not to be taken at face value. She is referring to her own soul with its new self-confidence and understanding.
III. Identify the archetypes of the Hero's Journey that appear in the movie and, for each, describe the function it performs in telling the film's story.
1. Hero — Dorothy is obviously the heroine of "The Wizard of Oz." She is a protagonist who successfully completes her quest, maturing and finding self-assurance as she passes test after test.
2. Mentor — Dorothy’s primary mentor is Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, who appears at strategic moments to guide Dorothy on her path. Toto, Dorothy's little black dog, can also be considered a mentor. At crucial points in the story, it is Toto who leads Dorothy to the right path. It is Toto who escapes from Miss Gulch, prompting Dorothy to run away from home; it is Toto who unmasks the Wizard of Oz; and it is Toto who jumps out of the Wizard's balloon, leading Dorothy to the final stages of her quest. "The Wizard of Oz" is a story about learning self-assurance. Knowing when to follow one's instincts is an important part of that lesson.
3. Threshold Guardians — The first threshold guardian that Dorothy meets is Professor Marvel, who convinces her to refuse the call to the quest and return home. The guard at the gate of the Emerald City is also a threshold guardian.
4. Herald: There is no classic Herald in Dorothy's story.
5. Shapeshifter — Each of Dorothy’s allies shifts their shape. Most importantly, Oz is a shapeshifter. He becomes Dorothy’s ally only after Toto reveals his true form.
6. Shadow — The Shadow in "The Wizard of Oz" would appear to be Dorothy's desire to go "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" which she realizes is a false goal when she discovers that "There's no place like home." However, this is a superficial theme, and the more important theme is that in order to attain your goals, you must first believe in yourself. Dorothy's immaturity would be the Shadow here, but it does not appear to play a major role in the story.
7. Trickster: — Professor Marvel/the Wizard of Oz is a classic trickster. As professor Marvel, he tricks Dorothy into going back to the farm. As the Wizard, he tricks Dorothy and all of Oz into thinking that he was a great magician. Toto is also a Trickster in this story in the sense that he is a catalyst for change who, by refusing to conform to what is expected of him, leads to complications for the other characters. Toto digs up Miss Gulch's garden, an action that leads to the beginning of the quest; he guides and reunites the travelers; he reveals the Wizard of Oz to be a fraud; and he sets up the final stages of the journey when, to Dorothy's horror, he leaps out of the basket of the Wizard's balloon, causing her to leave the balloon just before it rises into the air. After all, the story would have been much less fulfilling if Dorothy had remained in the balloon and Professor Marvel/the Wizard of Oz had taken Dorothy back to Kansas. If this had been the ending, the lesson of the story would have been that Dorothy, in addition to being considerate and helpful to others, needed to find a father figure to take her where she wanted to go.
IV. Describe any other other archetypes that appear in the story and the functions they perform.
In "The Wizard of Oz" we see a child grow into a maiden.
1. Students are well-served when they realize that maturation is an important element in learning. Those students who have seen "The Wizard of Oz" as children can be asked to write a comparison of their attitudes toward the film as experienced the first time they saw it and their attitudes toward the film as they experience it now. Where once they looked for action and may have been frightened for Dorothy, now they may find ideas, understand symbolism, and actually see some important lessons in the story. Students should follow the compare/contrast structure in their writing, formal or informal, as determined by the teacher.
Suggested Assignment: Write a comparison of your reaction to the movie when you saw it the first time as a young child and your reaction now that you know more about the plot and the characters. Use the compare/contrast structure in your response.
2. Ask students to write about the artistic elements in the film and to determine how these elements contribute to the ideas communicated. They can take any three of the elements of action, cinematography, music, dance, and scenery, for example, and describe them. A paragraph on each element must include description, intention, and effect.
Suggested Assignment: Write an essay about three of the following artistic elements in "The Wizard of Oz": acting, cinematography, music, dance, and scenery, and describe how these elements contribute to the ideas communicated by the movie.
3. Summaries are often difficult for students who want to write too much detail into their essays. Ask students to summarize the Hero’s Journey in "The Wizard of Oz" and to leave out all details that are not focused specifically on Dorothy's quest.
Suggested Assignment: Summarize the Hero’s Journey in "The Wizard of Oz." Leave out any details that are not focused specifically on Dorothy's quest.
4. Students can be assigned to write a list of lessons a viewer can learn from the events in the film. They must specify the event and clarify the lesson learned. In this assignment, students may find several themes that are suggested in the film. Exclude the lesson that "There's no place like home" which is an obvious theme that does not delve into the underlying themes of the story.
Suggested Assignment: Write a paragraph about the lessons a viewer can learn from the events described in "The Wizard of Oz." Your paragraph should specify the events that teach the lesson and clearly state the lesson learned. Do not include the lesson that "There's no place like home." There are other themes in this story that are less obvious but more interesting.
5. Persuasion is an important standard in ELA. "The Wizard of Oz" works well as a subject for writing a persuasive essay. Ask students to take a side on one of the following assertions and to write a formal essay in which they support or discredit the assertion.
6. Students can be asked to join in small groups and to create a storyboard upon which they would base a film designed to teach the ideas found in "The Wizard of Oz" to a modern audience. They need to find symbolic characters, representative events, and an interesting Wizard.
- The suggestion that "There is no place like home" is not supported by the events or ideas in "The Wizard of Oz."
- "The Wizard of Oz" is misogynistic in that all of the evil characters are women.
- The journey taken by the four characters in the film represents the struggle for maturation that accompanies coming of age.
- The Wizard is a symbol of the specious qualities of authority.
- Dorothy, focused only on saving her dog, is as heartless as the Tin Man, as dumb as the Scarecrow, and as cowardly as the Lion; these characters are extensions of her own character.
Suggested Assignment: Create a story board upon which you can base a film designed to teach the ideas found in "The Wizard of Oz" to a modern audience. Include symbolic characters, representative events, and an interesting Wizard.
7. Since the music in "The Wizard of Oz" no longer has much appeal to young people, students can be asked to find a song on their iPods that may work to replace any piece of music in the film while continuing to express the same feeling or idea. Some students may be familiar with the use of Pink Floyd’s album, "Dark Side of the Moon," as a sound track for "The Wizard of Oz." Particular students may be asked to deliver a brief presentation on the effectiveness of this interesting combination of art forms.
Suggested Assignment: Find a song that may work to replace any song or major piece of music in the film while continuing to express the same feeling or idea.
8. There may be differing opinions about what roles are being played and what ideas are being expressed in "The Wizard of Oz." There may be differences of opinion about what constitutes the stages and which archetypes are presented. Students can share opinions about their worksheet responses on the stages and the archetypes and debate the validity of their decisions. They should be encouraged to accept that in terms of opinions, there will be no right or wrong; there may simply be weak or strong. All opinions should be backed by direct reference to the film and clear logic.
9. Students can be asked to find people in their own lives or in mass media that can be seen as examples of the types of characters found in "The Wizard of Oz" and to describe these characters in an informal journal-style piece of writing. They may, for example, have a friend who lacks confidence in his or her intelligence and is thus a bit like the Scarecrow. Ideas about individuals from mass media can be shared with the class but respect for privacy is important and students should not share opinions about people known personally to others at the school.
Suggested Assignment: In an informal journal-style piece of writing, describe people in your own life or in mass media that can be seen as examples of the types of characters found in "The Wizard of Oz." You may, for example, have a friend who lacks confidence in his or her intelligence and is thus a bit like the Scarecrow. You may describe anyone you know except for students in this school.
10. The lyrics to many songs can be analyzed as if they were poems.
Suggested Assignment: Write an analysis of the song "Somewhere over the Rainbow" in terms of its artistic merit, its theme,
and its poetic attributes. Evaluate the quality of this iconic piece of music and cite specific lyrics to back up your opinion. Compare them to the lyrics of any songs heard today that communicate the same theme.
Common Core State Standards (CCSS) that can be Served by this Learning Guide
(Specific Standards Relating to Mythology and Anchor Standards)
Specific Standards Relating to Mythology
All Secondary Grades: Myth is included in the definition of story. CCSS pg. 57. This means that all standards relating to the analysis of story are served by the analysis of myth. Myth is also referred to in the following specific standards:
Seventh Grade: Language Standards 6 - 12 #5: "Demonstrate understanding of figurative
language, word relationships, and nuances in word
meanings. / a. Interpret figures of speech (e.g., literary,
biblical, and mythological allusions) in context."
Eighth Grade: Reading Standards for Literature 6 - 12 #9, p. 37: "Analyze how a modern work of fiction draws on
themes, patterns of events, or character types from
myths, traditional stories, or religious works such as
the Bible, including describing how the material is
Eighth Grade: Writing Standards for 6 - 12 #9, p. 44: "Analyze how a modern work of fiction draws on
themes, patterns of events, or character types from
myths, traditional stories, or religious works such as
the Bible, including describing how the material is
Anchor Standards Re: Multimedia, Writing and Speaking
Multimedia: Anchor Standard #7 for Reading (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). (The three Anchor Standards read: "Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media, including visually and quantitatively as well as in words.") CCSS pp. 35 & 60. See also Anchor Standard # 2 for ELA Speaking and Listening, CCSS pg. 48.
Reading: Anchor Standards #s 1, 3, 7, 8 & 10 for Reading and related standards (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). CCSS pp. 35 & 60.
Writing: Anchor Standards #s 1 - 5 and 7- 10 for Writing and related standards (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). CCSS pp. 41 & 63.
Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards #s 1 - 3 (for ELA classes). CCSS pg. 48.
Not all assignments reach all Anchor Standards. Teachers are encouraged to review the specific standards to make sure that over the term all standards are met.
This web page was written by Mary RedClay and James Frieden. It was last revised on April 27, 2013.
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