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Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (Harper Fiction)

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Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (Harper Fiction) Cover

ISBN13: 9780061350962
ISBN10: 0061350966
Condition: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

Questions for Discussion

1. Gregory Maguire fashioned the name of Elphaba (pronounced EL-fa-ba) from the initials of the author of The Wizard of Oz, Lyman Frank Baum-L-F-B-Elphaba. Wicked derives some of its power from the popularity of its source material. Does meeting up with familiar characters and famous fictional situations require more patience and effort on the part of the reader, or less?

2. Wicked flips the Oz we knew from the classic movie on its head. To what extent does Maguire's vision of Oz contradict the Oz we're familiar with? How have Dorothy and the other characters changed or remained the same? Has Wicked changed your conception of the original? If so, how?

3. The novel opens with a scene in which the Witch overhears Dorothy, the Lion, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Woodman gossiping about her. She's "possessed by demons," they say. "She was castrated at birth . . . she was an abused child . . . she's a dangerous tyrant." How does this scene set the stage for the story, and what themes does it introduce?

4. What is the significance of Elphaba's green skin? What are the rewards of being so different, and what are the drawbacks? In Oz — and in the real world — what are the meanings associated with the color green, and are any of them pertinent to Elphaba's character?

5. One of Wicked's key themes is the nature and roots of evil. What are the theories that Maguire sets out? Is Elphaba evil? Are her actions evil? Is there such a thing as evil, a free-floating power in the universe like time or gravity? Or is evil an attribute of the actions of human beings? (Hint: Turn to pages 231 and 370 for scenes that will draw you into the conversation.)

6. Discuss the importance of the Clock of the Time Dragon. Does the Clock simply reflect events, or does it shape them? Why is it significant that Elphaba was born inside it? That Turtle Heart was killed by it? What revelations does it offer to Elphaba and the reader when she reencounters it at the end of the book?

7. The first section of the book ends powerfully but enigmatically when the young Elphaba is discovered under the dock, cradled in the paws of a magical beast as if sitting on a throne. How do you interpret this scene, and what do you think it foretells, if anything?

8. The place of Animals in society is an important theme in Wicked. Why does Elphaba make it her mission to fight for Animal rights? How else does social class define Oz, and why?

9. [Galinda] reasoned that because she was beautiful she was significant, though what she signified, and to whom, was not clear to her yet" (page 65). Discuss the transformation of Galinda, shallow Shiz student, to Glinda the Good Witch. How does she change — and by how much? What is her eventual "significance," both in Oz and in the story?

10. Discuss the ways in which Elphaba's determination and willfulness lend purpose and order to her life, and the cost of being such a strong character. Elphaba isn't the only strong female character in Wicked. How do Nessarose, Glinda, and Sarima deal with the issues of power and control? Where do each of them draw strength from? Is the world of Maguire's Oz more or less patriarchal than millennial America?

11. Wicked is an epic story, built along the lines of a Shakespearean or Greek tragedy, in which the seeds of Elphaba's destiny are all sown early in the novel. How much of Elphaba's career is predestined, and how much choice does she have? Do you think that she was no more than a puppet of the Wizard or Madame Morrible, as she fears?

12. Early in their unlikely friendship, Galinda catches a glimpse of Elphaba and thinks she "looked like something between an animal and an Animal, like something more than life but not quite Life" (pages 78-79). Discuss the dual, and sometimes contradictory, nature of Elphaba's character. Why does Elphaba insist that she doesn't have a soul?

13. Who or what is Yackle? Where does she appear in the story, and what role does she serve in Elphaba's life? Is she good or evil — both or neither?

14. Was Elphaba's story essentially a tragedy or a triumph? Did she fail at every major endeavor, and thus fail at life; or because she refused to give up or change to suit the opinions of others, was her life a success? Is there a possibility that Dorothy's "baptismal splash" redeemed Elphaba on her deathbed, or was this the final indignity in a life of miserable mistakes?

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Average customer rating based on 6 comments:

Eric Watson, March 20, 2015 (view all comments by Eric Watson)
I was originally reluctant to read this book due to all of the hype surrounding Wicked, but it's truly an amazing story. The Wicked Witch's backstory is beatuifully crafted and brings wonderful depth to the Wizard of Oz universe. Often overlooked, I believe, are the themes within the book pertaining to animal rights. The story directly explores some of the issues of speciesism, which I think helps to emphasis the related, but much more commonly discussed, theme of "otherness".
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faob, June 12, 2010 (view all comments by faob)
This story reminds me to look deeper into my felow man and ask why they treat me the way that they do-not simply assume they are good or bad. It helps people understand that behind every face is a person, a life that has had it's share of hardship. It helps me love those I wish I wouldn't.
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DeanLC7, January 17, 2010 (view all comments by DeanLC7)
I thought this was an excellent book that reminded us that there is always more than one side to a story. To quote Kermit, "It's not easy being green." Maguire has a unique writing style that draws you into the book and reminds you that it's about what is different, not what you're familiar with.
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(1 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780061350962
Subtitle:
The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
Author:
Maguire, Gregory
Illustrator:
Smith, Douglas
Author:
by Gregory Maguire
Publisher:
Harper
Subject:
Fantasy - General
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Witches
Subject:
Oz (Imaginary place)
Subject:
Fantasy fiction
Subject:
Science Fiction and Fantasy-Fantasy
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Mass Market PB
Series:
Wicked Years
Series Volume:
01
Publication Date:
20070925
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
, Y
Pages:
560
Dimensions:
6.86x4.16x1.19 in. .61 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Featured Titles » Literature
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Science Fiction and Fantasy » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Science Fiction and Fantasy » Fantasy » General

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (Harper Fiction) Used Mass Market
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$3.95 In Stock
Product details 560 pages Harper - English 9780061350962 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , 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 be 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.

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