The Usefulness of Structuralism as an Analytical Tool for Uncovering How Meaning is Generated in The Wizard of Oz

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In the words of Michael O’Shaughnessy, ‘narratives, or stories, are a basic way of making sense of our experience’ (1999: 266). As a society and a culture, we use stories to comprehend and share our experiences, typically by constructing them with a beginning, middle and an end. In fact, the order that a narrative is structured will directly impact the way it is understood, particularly across cultures. This idea originated through Claude Lévi-Strauss’s concept of structuralism in anthropology which ‘is concerned with uncovering the common structural principles underlying specific and historically variable cultures and myth’ in pre-industrial societies (Strinati 2003: 85). In terms of media studies, structuralism’s inherent objective is to…show more content…
Monomyths all share a fundamental structure that can be divided into three stages and seventeen steps, however very few monomyths contain all seventeen steps. Departure, the first stage, begins when the hero acknowledges a world outside of his or her own, followed by receiving a quest from a guide, although the quest is often refused. However, the hero will eventually be forced to leave through some event or supernatural power. The second stage, initiation, tests the hero through numerous challenges in order to make the character more self-reliant and confident in their own abilities. Eventually, an authority figure will help the hero to better understand himself and ultimately the hero becomes a selfless person who has a better understanding of life. Return, the final stage, occurs after the quest is completed. To return home and complete the journey, the hero must re-cross the threshold and upon reaching home, the hero will understand the difference between his or her home and the new world (Campbell: 1968). The Wizard of Oz very closely follows the monomyth as coined by Joseph Campbell. The hero, Dorothy, attempts to runaway from her home in Kansas after a neighbor threatens to kill her dog, Toto, but instead gets caught in a tornado, the ‘Call to Adventure,’ that drops her in the Land of Oz. After landing in Oz,

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