Color And Its Uses





The use of color was very important in the book and film, The Wizard of Oz.  Below is a discussion of its uses and the author’s background in the study of color.  Hopefully, you will find this interesting.  You will find specific citations at the end of this page, from the sources where each of these quotations were found.





Early in the book, we see how Baum was influenced by color.  It also appears that he may have wanted to specifically make references to the United States in his book as well.  “When the meet Glinda, she is described in the colors of the national flag, as a woman with “rich red” hair, a dress of “pure white,” and blue eyes.” 1  It appears as if the association of Glinda with the colors of red, white, and blue was not a mere coincidence.  Glinda plays an important role in the story, and while she is a witch, she is a “good” and powerful witch.  She also plays an important role at the end of the story when she is able to help Dorothy achieve her dreams.  Oz, the supposed powerful one, was not able to help Dorothy, but, “through Glinda, Dorothy finally learns the secret that by knocking her heels together three times she can return home to Kansas.” 2




Oz itself is divided into different regions, or countries.  Each country of Oz has its own distinct color (see diagram below).  The arrangement of this color scheme is also very important.  “There is no great symbolic meaning to the color scheme of Oz… but it is not arbitrary either.  The change from one region to another follows the principles of color theory.  Each of the three major countries visited in the Wizard of Oz has a primary color, one of the three from which all others derive.  Dorothy and her companions do not journey directly from one primary color to another.  Instead their path passes through a secondary one.  To get to the West, they must go through the green countryside around the Emerald City, merely a link between the blue land of the Munchkins and the yellow Winkie Country.  They also traverse from the Winkie Country to Glinda’s Castle in the red South by way of the Emerald City; the wild countryside they visit before arriving in the Quadling Country is brown.  It is made from all three primary colors or mixing green with red.  The standard color wheel puts blue to the right (East), yellow to the left (West) and red at the bottom (South) like the Munchkins, Winkies, and Quadlings.”3



Baum was very aware of how color schemes worked and had even written about the subject.  “Baum published William M. Couran’s “The Scientific Arrangement of Color,” in the September and October 1898 issues of his trade magazine The Show Window.  Baum wrote his own summary of its principles in Chapter 5 of The Art of Decorating Dry Goods stores and Windows (1900) at the time he was working on The Wizard of Oz.”4   So, the logic seen in the Wizard of Oz is also present in other works written or published by Baum.


          Color, and its significance is also reflected in Dorothy’s journey through the land of Oz as she is told to follow a road of yellow brick in order to find the Wizard, who resides in the Emerald City.  What would be more logical than a yellow brick road to travel on through the blue countryside to a green city? 5


                One other factor involving color shows the influence of Hollywood as stories are adapted from book form to the large screen.  In the book The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy is presented with a pair of silver shoes upon the death of the wicked Witch of the East.  However, in the 1939 Hollywood version, Dorothy’s slippers instead are Ruby Slippers, not silver.  The story which follows explains why the change was made.  “Margaret Hamilton, who played both Wicked Witches of the East and West, had grown up on the Oz books, so she asked the producer, Mervyn LeRoy, during the shooting of the 1939 movie why MGM did not stick to Baum’s story in this instance.  He told her simply that in Technicolor red stood out better against the Yellow Brick Road than silver would have.” 6



1 Gretchen Ritter, “Silver Slippers and a Golden Cap:  L. Frank Baum’s The

Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Historical Memory in American Politics,” Journal of

American Studies, 31 (1997), 2, 183.


2 Ibid.


3 Michael Patrick Hearn, The Annotated Wizard of Oz, New York:  W.W. Norton &

Company, 2000, p. 61.


4 Ibid.


5 Ibid., p. 51.


6 Ibid., 39.


7 The diagram below is based upon one found in Hearn’s Annotated Wizard of Oz,

found on page 61.




Emerald City





Winkie Country





Munchkin Country





Quadling Country


Return to Mike Nagle’s Homepage


Return to US History Page