In the children's story, "The Magic Art of the Great Humbug", all of the characters run into problems with their identities. The old man has the most difficulty with his own identity. He wishes to be a great wizard with superhuman capabilities. The Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Cowardly Lion have trouble with desiring qualities that are only common to humans. Finally, Dorothy runs into trouble with the symbols around her that establish her identity. The common problem that consumes each character in this story is commonly known as an identity crisis, meaning they ask the question, "Who am I?" Although these problems with identity seem difficult to solve for, the essays of Lacan, Payne, and McGillis can help to find the answers. Every identity question that each character has in the story can be defined from Lacan's mirror stage and symbolic order. From the examples of the characters' identity problems, it will be seen that they are merely a mirror (example) of some of the challenges we may face in defining and developing our own identities. The old man from the story first questioned his identity when he was back home in Omaha. He lived his life as a ventriloquist and a balloonist (Baum 453). He was bored with his life because he was an ordinary man. At the time, the old man felt that he was insufficient, and did not know who he was. He faced an identity crisis because he was an ordinary man, yet he wanted to be so much more. When he came to the Land of Oz, he got his chance. In his old world, he had a reputation for being ordinary. Because everybody in his old world already knew him, they knew he was ordinary. However, he was able to create a new identity for himself in the new world because nobody there knew him. As a result, he had a clean slate that would allow him to establish a new identity. After all, how could he already have an identity in Oz if nobody knew him? The old man succeeded in creating a new identity for himself for a couple of reasons. First, he placed green spectacles upon the people of the city in order to convince them that everything was green (hence the name, Emerald City). The old man exclaimed, "But my people have worn green glasses on their eyes so long that most of them think it really is an Emerald City" (Baum 454). Also, he created a new identity for himself by creating several disguises. The old man took on different forms of a wizard for each of the four main characters (Baum 451). In this part of the text, the old man uses "mirror" images of himself toward each individual by portraying various characteristics that he desired in order to be a wizard. The old man displayed those different images because he believed in the phrase, "We are as others see us" (McGillis 43). The "mirror" images of himself were only images because they were not the real old man; they were just reflections of his desires. In real life, almost everybody portrays "mirror" images of himself or herself because they have a desire to be something greater than what they really are. Pieces of the mirror stage can be seen when the old man was suffering from a sense of lack with his self-image (imago). The imago can be defined as "the counterpart and the drama of primordial jealousy" (Lacan 181). It is because of his desire (jealousy of real "wizards") to be something greater that the old man created different images, or imagos, of himself as a wizard. He would certainly feel content if he could fool everyone into believing he was a real wizard. Furthermore, the old man's vision of being a wizard was his Ideal-I, which is "the succession of phantasies that extends from a fragmented body-image to a form of its totality" (Lacan 181). The old man was a fragmented person because he felt incomplete due to his desire to be something more than he was. As a result, he needed his Ideal-I (the missing piece) to complete himself. Many people face the same desires in real life. They too, feel incomplete...
Cited: Baum, Frank. "The Magic Art of the Great Humbug from the Wonderful Wizard of Oz." Dreams and Inward Journeys. Eds. Ford and Ford. (450-457).
Lacan, Jacques. "The Mirrror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience." Literary Theory: An Anthology. Eds. Rivkin and Ryan. Malden: Blackwell, 1998. (178-183).
McGillis, Roderick. "Another Kick at La/can: I Am a Picture." The Children 's Literature Association Quarterly 20 (1995): (42-46).
Payne, Michael. "Ecrits: A Selection." Reading Theory: An Introduction to Lacan, Deurida, and Kristeva. Cambridge: Blackwell, 1993. (26-34)
Please join StudyMode to read the full document