Review: Wicked

May 14, 2010 Whitney Review 7 Comments

Review: WickedWicked by Gregory Maguire
Series: The Wicked Years #1
Published by HarperCollins on December 5, 2000
Genres: Fantasy
Source: Bought

When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum's classic tale we heard only her side of the story. But what about her arch-nemesis, the mysterious Witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked? And what is the true nature of evil?

Gregory Maguire creates a fantasy world so rich and vivid that we will never look at Oz the same way again. Wicked is about a land where animals talk and strive to be treated like first-class citizens, Munchkinlanders seek the comfort of middle-class stability, and the Tin Man becomes a victim of domestic violence. And then there is the little green-skinned girl named Elphaba, who will grow up to become the infamous Wicked Witch of the West, a smart, prickly, and misunderstood creature who challenges all our preconceived notions about the nature of good and evil.

An astonishingly rich re-creation of the land of Oz, this book retells the story of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, who wasn't so wicked after all. Taking readers past the yellow brick road and into a phantasmagoric world rich with imagination and allegory, Gregory Maguire just might change the reputation of one of the most sinister characters in literature.

Was the Wicked Witch of the West truly Wicked, or just a misunderstood green girl?   This is the question asked while trying to uncover the root of true evil.

Elphaba is born “damaged” being green, and seems to know more of what is going on around her than she lets on.  While growing up she and her sister Nessarose who is also disfigured, travel with their father Frex, a unionist minister who exhibits his children as the cruelty of the Unnamed God to convert surrounding villages.

Elphaba, soon leaves her father’s hopeless cause and goes to Shiz University where by unexpected chance ends up with self-absorbed Galinda as a roomie.  At first, because of resentment  both girls refuse to look one another in the eye pretending as if the other does not exist.  Later, fate intervenes and they become best friends.  All is well until an Animal teacher (Animals can talk and have human characteristic compared with animals).  Anyway, Dr. Dillamond was making headway on a scientific project contributing to Animal rights when he supposedly falls on a microscope slide, cutting his jugular vain and bleeding to death.  While it might seem a mere accident Elphaba smells conspiracy as the head of university Madam Morrible is anti animal rights, and that Galinda’s nanny is also damaged after investigating or witnessing the events that took place.

Due to this unfortunate circumstances and Galinda’s nurse unable to chaperon Elphaba’s sister comes to school with hers to take the place of Ama Crutch.  Elphie continues Doctor Dillamond’s work and unable to get over the professor’s death smelling something fishy in the air,  leaves school for an audience with The Wizard.  Elphaba soon realizes that he has no interest in what she has to say and labels him a sham, deciding to go underground in the Emerald City and become an Animals rights activist.

After Elphaba’s many failed attempts at political acts and her lover dying by the hands of the Gale Force, she leaves the Emerald City in mourning to the Vinkus in order to seek her lover Fiyero, wife’s forgiveness for the part she played in his death.  But even this denied her.

Now, unless you have been living under a rock or had a very deprived childhood, we get to the most well-known and expected part of the tale.  Dorthy enters Oz ,crash landing her home on the Wicked Witch of the East, who has become a crocked politician.  Glinda soon arrives on the scene and quickly gets the child out of Munchkinland with the silver shoes on her feet.  The Wicked   Witch of the West is furious with Glinda for depriving her of her inheritance and sets out to reclaim them.

Elphaba need not wait long as Dorothy has been sent on a fool’s errand to kill the Wicked Witch of the West being a complete political tactic.  After a lite dinner the Witch escorts the young girl upstairs for questioning.  Dorothy then asks for the one thing Elphaba could never receive, forgiveness.  She is so shocked by this that she catches her horribly out of fashioned dress on fire, and Dorothy being the good Samaritan   that she is puts it out with a bucket of water.

And that ends the life and times of the Wicked Witch of the West, asking the question “are you a good witch or a bad witch?”Personally, I think Elphaba was a good witch.  As deceiving as she may be she tried to do good but it always backfired on her.  This made her think that her purpose is wasted and as much a lost cause as her father’s was.  Wicked has always gotten mixed reviews, I think because of the political undertones, but I liked it, I think these issues made it more modern while still keeping the fantasy elements intact.  Remember, we’re hearing it from the Witch’s perspective not cute innocent Dorothy’s sob song about wanting to go home.  Gregory Maguire takes the Oz we knew or thought we  knew and turns it around 360 and for once I did not want to go home to Kansas.