Narrative Report Story and Plot
In a narrative film, a plot is considered all visible and audible elements present in a film, in essence the film in its entirety including nondiegetic images. In The Wizard of Oz, the plot begins with Dorothy (Judy Garland), a young farm girl from Kansas who dreams of escaping to ‘somewhere over the rainbow’ without troubles and torment for her dog Toto from a horrible neighbour Miss Gulch (Margaret Hamilton).
During a tornado she is hit on the head and is transported to the World of Oz where she meets characters transformed from her Kansas life at home, meeting three companions who are all missing a quality that they wish to gain. She goes on a journey with them all to see the Wizard (Frank Morgan) down the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City, defeating the Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton) and visits the Wizard who rewards her friends with all of their wishes.
Dorothy then gains her wish to go home to Kansas where she wakes up in her own bedroom, greeted by her beloved family and friends who have missed her. A story is all events present in a narrative including both those that are explicitly presented and those that are implied, including diegetic elements. The story of The Wizard of Oz has a temporal duration over several days and goes beyond the plot by also including an underlying element of familiarity through the characters being present in both Kansas life and in the magical Oz.
It is insinuated that Dorothy experiences this adventure internally in a dream state, as she travels through Oz meeting characters who represent significant people in her Kansas life and in turn facing challenges, conflict and gaining unconditional friendship, learning valuable life lessons including the appreciation of her home and family and friends in Kansas.
The explicit meaning of the film falls in line with this story of a young girl who wishes to escape the troubles in her life and comes to realise how uch she appreciates home and the people there only after she has left it. Implicit meaning could be analysed through the underlying theme throughout the film which centres around a young teenager confronting her childhood fears and developing emotionally through challenges and adversity, discovering that what she was seeking was there all along, if she had only had the courage and strength to seek it out.
This being the moral of the story shown at the climax of the film when the Wizard reveals to the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), Tinman (Jack Haley) and Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) that the qualities they seek, a brain, heart and courage respectively, come from within and when Dorothy is told that she has always had the power to go back to Kansas she just had to find it within herself, from Glinda, the Good Witch of the North (Billie Burke).
Opening and Closing
The opening scene of The Wizard of Oz begins shot in sepia tones, with a concerned and alarmed Dorothy and Toto running down a road away from Miss Gulch, the viewer then meets the characters of Aunt Em (Clara Blandick), Uncle Henry (Charlie Grapewin) and the characters of the farm hands (Ray Bolger, Jack Haley & Bert Lahr). As Dorothy desperately tries to tell someone about the off screen confrontation with Miss Gulch the viewer then meets Miss Gulch’s character who has a court order to take Toto away to destroy him.
Dorothy’s upset reaction to this action shows Dorothy’s kind and caring nature and her dedication to her pet, which are traits presented consistently throughout the film. The set up of the film continues with Toto escaping from Miss Gulch’s bicycle basket and reuniting with Dorothy at the farm, raising expectations that Toto will be safe and Miss Gulch will not be successful in her goal to have him destroyed.
This is confirmed during the scene of Dorothy’s house flying around in the tornado, where the viewer sees characters through Dorothy’s window in the eye of the tornado, where it shows Miss Gulch and her bicycle transform into the Wicked Witch of the West, forming a parallelism between the two characters and expectations are formed that the character traits held by Miss Gulch will also be held by the Wicked Witch of the West.
Oz is shot in bright and vibrant colours, which pertains to the idea of a magical land that appears very opposed to the dull and colourless real world of Kansas, assisting on taking the viewer on the journey ‘over the rainbow’. This goal oriented plot in The Wizard of Oz follows a pattern of development that encourages the viewer to expect Dorothy to reach her desired goal.
The viewer then sees each action of Dorothy’s to be a progress of this desire to go home to Kansas. The film is brought to a climax when the Dorothy and her friends return to visit the Wizard after destroying the Wicked Witch of the West, of which he had requested. During this scene it is revealed that the Wizard is in fact a fraud, an ordinary but clever man who although as no powers, still fulfils the expectations of the story.
He gives Scarecrow, Tinman and the Cowardly Lion the answers they seek by giving them the self confidence to recognise they had the qualities which they were looking for all along and he presents them with some token external symbols to represent this. In the final scenes and formal resolution of the film, which is shot in sepia tones creating a parallelism with Kansas on the opening scene, Dorothy attains her goal of returning home, waking up in her own bedroom surrounded by friends and family from her real life, therefore fulfilling the resolution of the goal oriented plot.
Range of Information
The Wizard of Oz narration style fits into the Classical Hollywood Cinema form, where the narrative surrounds the protagonist Dorothy who desires something different than what she originally has at the beginning of the film. Her decisions, choices and certain character traits being the main driving force within the film.
Counterforces are presented within the characters of Miss Gulch/Wicked Witch of the West and also the Wizard during parts of the film and the narrative is fairly unrestricted with the ending of the film leaving very little to wonder about, giving strong closure to the viewer. However the ending does present some disunity as the viewer is left with the unanswered question regarding Miss Gulch and if she will still return to take Toto away, however an assumption may be made that as her counterpart in Oz was destroyed, that this may result in Miss Gulch also never being seen again.
The unrestricted and omniscient narration throughout majority of the film brings an overall awareness of the common goals of conflicting characters. This is evident in the viewer having an awareness of the goals of both the protagonist Dorothy and also the Wicked Witch of the West, an example of this is being when the viewer sees the Wicked Witch in her castle looking into her crystal ball and hears her speaking to the flying monkeys about her plans to foil Dorothy.
This type of narration assists to achieve a well-rounded goal oriented plot as the viewer gains insight into the minds of all the main characters, making it easier to form expectations regarding the final outcome. The narration is also experienced as restricted as the viewer sees at the end of the film that the experiences in Oz are in fact in Dorothy’s mind, this also exhibits some perceptive and mental subjective elements due to the story being told from one character’s point of view and the expectation then formed because of this.
However the elements of objective narration present shows how characters appear unaware of upcoming twists and turns to the plot, for instance Dorothy and her friends discovering the Wizard to be an ordinary man, or after Dorothy destroys the Wicked Witch of the West and it is unknown how the Witch’s henchmen will react to her death. This effectively assists in achieving some suspense and mystery in portions of the story.
Causality plays a large part in how the plot is developed and presented in a narrative. This can be demonstrated through characters or in some cases the action of a natural disaster or some event within the plot. Such events generally set up scenarios for human responses, desires and goals that form the majority of the narrative.
For example in The Wizard of Oz the tornado in Kansas resulted in Dorothy’s house landing in Oz and killing the Wicked Witch of the East, this event then resulted in the Dorothy gaining the red ruby slippers and the response to this being Dorothy then forming the goal to return to Kansas, followed by the Wicked Witch of the West having her goal of attaining the ruby slippers from Dorothy’s possession for herself. As characters act as these agents of causality, some traits that are fundamental parts of a character can instigate elements of cause and effect throughout a film.
In the instance of The Wizard of Oz, some of Dorothy’s traits of being a very loyal, determined and a patient person are evident from the beginning of the film when the viewer meets her in the first scene running away from Miss Gulch concerned for Toto’s welfare. Dorothy’s loyalty and determination to save Toto instigates Dorothy to run away, where she encounters Professor Marvell (Frank Morgan) and returns to the house too late to escape the impending tornado and is such transported to Oz.
That same determination is a common theme in Dorothy’s character with her goal of going home to Kansas and her loyalty to her companions in Oz, the Scarecrow, Tinman and Cowardly Lion.
List of References
- Bordwell & Thompson, 2010, Film Art: An Introduction, McGraw Hill, New York Study Guide CMM17