Gregory Maguire has done something really different with his series of “twisted” fairy tales, hasn’t he? Wicked is my first foray into Maguire’s writing. I really enjoyed it.
Was the Wicked Witch of the West really ever wicked at all? This question is central to the novel. Elphaba, the name Maguire gives to Dorothy’s nemesis, wonders herself. Early in the novel in a conversation with her college roommate Galinda, who later became Glinda the “Good” Witch of the North, Elphaba wonders, “Do you think evil really exists?” Near the end of the novel, Elphaba’s friend Boq asserts, “You’re not wicked.” She replies, “How do you know?” Boq theorizes that “it’s people who claim that they’re good, or anyway better than the rest of us, that you have to be wary of.” I found this to be the most important passage in the novel — it a manner, it is an answer to Elphaba’s question to Glinda. Yes, there is evil — in the form of people who refuse to admit that they are, well, evil.
Let me explain.
I think this book can be read on many levels, but one thing I took away from it was a sort of moral or political message. There are multiple points of view, and depending on yours, you see others as good or evil. However, it is that group of people that seek to impose their definition of good upon others that are dangerous — the extremists on the left and right.
I also found it interesting that Elphaba felt herself to be a failure, that she fell into her role as the Wicked Witch of the West, and that she had spent so much of her life seeking absolution that she would never receive.
I will admit to being confused at times. I had to re-read passages. There are portions of the book that I found difficult to follow. However, I have to highly recommend it to anyone who enjoyed The Wizard of Oz. This revisionist version of the story will cause you to question what’s real. It was enjoyable fantasy — different from anything I think I’ve ever read before.