…a closer look at Without Dorothy There is No Going Home

Behind the Titles: A Closer Look

at Without Dorothy There’s No Going Home by Alex Stolis

Featuring ELJ Publications’ April Jones and Samantha Duncan

April:

This is the second collection of Wizard of Oz inspired work that I’ve read recently. I think it’s so fun that this children’s classic is making a comeback in the hearts who have grown up loving the story.

Samantha:

It’s always interesting to see children’s classics spun in different ways, because they typically explore darker themes below the surface of their kid-friendly versions. I’m not an avid Wizard of Oz fan, but I really enjoyed reading these characters in stark, less magical states of mind.

April:

This collection is broken up into three parts. In the first part Dorothy, or at least who the author is referring to Dorothy has lost all of her childish innocence. She is on the cusp of change drowned in alcohol and sadness. However, in the last two poems of section one, “Dorothy Buys a New Pair of Red Shoes” and “Dorothy Remembers Oz,” we get the sense of her excitement as she feels the change coming. There is a definite theme of liquid in the first section between all the rain and alcohol mentioned. Did this strike you as a representation of baptism? Not in the traditional sense of the word, but rather in the way that life can change us. One minute life is dragging up through the mud, and then the rain comes and washes us. Once we are clean we are free to become something glorious. Or did you see the liquid as more stagnant? Something that she was trapped in?

Samantha:

In Dorothy, I see a thirst for change, love, and excitement, and the rain’s purpose is to quench that thirst, perhaps, like you said, through cleansing. There are repeated references to a drought before the storm and the praying and yearning that accompanies it. Just as rain can rescue crops from a drought, it breathes new life into Dorothy, who “hated being left cotton-mouthed and thirsty for more,” and who wanted to “forget the smell of smoke that’s so close to the ground it chokes the green from the grass.” The last poem in this section states, “Beginnings are…endless fields waiting for rain,” and I get the strong sense that Dorothy sees hope in a storm that not only cleans the slate and prepares it for change, but revitalizes her with an energy needed for a new adventure.

April:

In the second section, we get change but it isn’t the clean and hopeful one that Dorothy wished for at the end of section one. Instead, we get the Tin Man abandoning her. Not at all once, but their relationship changes in a way that might never be fixed. In the poem, Dorothy & Tin Man” she finds her refuge from heartbreak in sleep. Again we get the language of water as the narrator mentions that she is afraid of the waves that will wake her. I love that water is tying this collection together and the complex ways that it affects her.

Samantha:

The water motif ties this together wonderfully, and in a way that wasn’t too obvious to me on the first read – I appreciate that subtlety a lot. Stolis easily could have overdone these metaphors by serving them more heavily, but the balance and the ambiguity of what, exactly, the water can represent, is refreshing (pun intended?!). In this section, it appears things aren’t working out between Dorothy and the Tin Man, and Dorothy’s desire for the storm versus the Tin Man’s fear of it further speaks to the demise of their relationship.

April:

In the second section Dorothy and Oz are entangled with one another and one can’t seem to free itself of the other. Oz is the tender opposite of Tin Man, and I can’t help but love contrast between the two. Dorothy is stuck in between more than just these two different loves. She’s stuck in between versions of herself and what needs/wants. If you were Dorothy which one would you choose? The one that you are magnetically pulled to but doesn’t complete you, or the emptiness that keeps you thirsty?

Samantha:

It’s not an easy choice, because I think there’s an appeal for many people in both the satisfaction of organic attraction and the intensity of thirst. Dorothy’s entanglement with Oz introduces another realm of nature into this section – that of air and fire and burning, and while that’s meant to juxtapose the water and rain nature of her relationship with the Tin Man, it also serves, like you said, as another appealing choice for Dorothy. Where the water cleansed the way for change, fire brings about the “slow burn of discovery,” and there’s an emotional fulfillment to be gained from both.

April:

I love the opening poem of section three, “Oz Falls Through a Crack in the Earth.” In this poem Dorothy is open and honest about the sorts of things that she believes in and can’t believe in. Perhaps it is her struggles through the first two sections that causes her to state, “I tried to believe in God. Simply couldn’t.” Which sets us on a path with Dorothy where she forgets him. Or rather where they forget each other. What do you think of this twist in the story? I find it really interesting that even though this is not the Dorothy we are used to from The Wizard of Oz, that this Dorothy is a woman who is changing and losing and growing that somehow underneath all of the things that make her a new breed of Dorothy she’s still our Dorothy. She still trying to learn to live with all of the magical and terrible things that happened to her in Oz. Did you see the original Dorothy under the layers of battered Dorothy? Or was she completely different for you? How did you relate to this new Dorothy?

Samantha:

I like the opening poem of this section, as well, because it seems like a very decisive moment for Dorothy. Not regarding her choice of relationships, as we saw in the previous section, but a decisiveness about her perspective on life. Given that (as I see it) Oz and the Tin Man didn’t end up being quite what she wanted or needed, Dorothy now goes forward accepting that she often won’t have answers to everything, that certainty and perfection aren’t guaranteed in life. This poem, more than any other in the collection, shows Dorothy’s maturity and her willingness to go on with no concrete knowledge except what’s happening here and now.

I believe the original Dorothy lies somewhere underneath the one Stolis has envisioned. She’s Dorothy through a realism filter; while the original tale is meant to enchant and transport readers to its magical setting, Without Dorothy There is No Going Home almost does the opposite, grounding Dorothy in intimacy and hurt through these confrontational poems.

April:

I enjoyed this collection.

Samantha:

Loved having this discussion, it highlighted some stylistic touches I didn’t catch when reading on my own.

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