Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
L. Frank Baum, throughout his books of fantasy, especially the Oz series, gradually resolves the conflict of pastoralism and technology by developing a technology managed by love. Baum uses magic as a representation of both pastoralism and technology. Fairy magic, the capacity for love, represents pastoralism, and ritual magic, the capacity for good or evil depending upon who wields it, represents technology. Baum deals with the ways in which ritual magic or technology can be misused through selfishness and ignorance and points out how destruction can be avoided if technology were managed by not greed for power and money but by love. Because of this idea, many critics of Baum have said that he is a utopian, but it seems to me that they have failed to take into account Baum's realistic depiction of the problems to be expected in the development of a technology of love.
These problems center around the conflict between reason and faith. Letting love control technology demands that we accept things which cannot be proved. Our scientific reason finds it difficult to relinquish control, and thus the main problem which Baum describes is the lack of faith. Baum suggests that we must learn to develop faith through the renunciation or the self and the realization that happiness lies in duty. His point is that if we do not use technology wisely with love, we will destroy ourselves. In other words, if we do not renounce the needs of the self and use technology wisely, technology will destroy us. But if, on the other hand, we do renounce our own needs for the needs of others and use technology wisely, technology will take care of all our needs.
Baum wished to write an American fairy tale, and he does succeed in capturing many American ideals, the most prominent being the behavioristic idea that all men are created equal and that environment determines behavior. Baum seems to be saying that a love-controlled technology would produce loving people, that if we learned to use technology with love, our needs would be assured by technology, and we would not have to struggle to survive. Without this struggle, man would be able to develop his capacity for love, and thus, in such an environment, grow up to be happier and more loving.
Baum brought to American literature for children a deep moral sense and a hopeful outlook. Children of today find themselves in a world growing ever more bleak. They look for love, but are unable to find it in their movies or television where although there maybe a depiction of companionship, there is often no commitment and, finally, no love. In Baum they find people who do love, and they find that they too must love. Baum leaves his readers with the hope that they can have the benefits of technology without the dangers if they can learn to love one another.
Goble, Robert Bruce, "L. Frank Baum and the Technology of Love" (1978). Masters Theses. 3220.
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