Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Down and Out with Uncle Henry

Recently, J.L. Bell wrote about Dorothy's Uncle Henry's financial trouble, as detailed in The Emerald City of Oz. Beth has told me that she didn't find a poor farmer like Uncle Henry taking a vacation to Australia to be realistic, and Emerald City at least tries to explain that, by saying it was on doctor's orders. Ozma does give a few other indications that Henry was a little more free with his money than he was before, however. There's a mention toward the end of the farm having "hired men and teams," while Wizard gave the impression that Henry could not have afforded employees if he'd wanted them. The "hired men" played a major role in the MGM movie, but the film portrayed a much larger farm than the books imply. Also, the farmhouse that was blown to Oz by the tornado had only one room, while the new one has a separate room for Dorothy in the attic. We're not talking about huge improvements here, but the mortgage apparently provided enough to slightly improve conditions and hire a few workers when Henry was out of the country.

As John indicated in his post, Uncle Henry's plight is hardly a thing of the past, with plenty of people still struggling to make ends meet and pay their debts. And while some people do make poor choices with their money, a lot of time this kind of thing is not the poor person's fault. L. Frank Baum alerts people to the problem without offering a viable solution, although I guess the bankers being more forgiving would be a step in the right direction. Only in fiction can someone escape his debt by relocating to a fairy country, and even then it probably wouldn't have happened if Henry's niece hadn't been the best friend of a fairy princess.

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