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Who is Dorothy?: 06/15/18
Asking who is Dorothy seems at first to be an idiotic question. Dorothy is the girl who rode a farmhouse through a cyclone and ended up in Oz. In later pastiches, Dorothy is either a mother (Barnstormer in Oz by Philip José Farmer), the last great Monarch (Tin Man), or a power obsessed despot (Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige).
Many versions of Dorothy stop are extrapolations from the 1939 MGM film where Dorothy's adventures in Oz were essentially a vehicle for the studio to show off what Technicolor was capable of. In fact, Technicolor color theory that was thrust upon studios who wished to use the technology are responsible for some of the biggest changes to Oz: namely Dorothy's shoes becoming ruby slippers and the Wicked Witch of the West getting green skin.
Since the MGM version of Oz has it all being a coma induced dream populated with the farm hands and other people of Dorothy's Kansas life, I am ignoring cinematic Oz for the purpose of the road narrative project.
So let's go back to the source material, the 1900 edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz which was written in 1899 and published on May 17, 1900. Who was that Dorothy and who did she become over the course of the books? Michael Patrick Hearn in the Annotated Wizard of Oz (2000) suggests that Dorothy in the first book is five or six years old. The illustrations by Denslow certainly suggest a young child.
Dorothy is five or six in 1899. She is a child of the last decade of the nineteenth century. She will spend the remainder of her life (if she gets home from Oz) in the twentieth century, at a time of rapid technological advancements followed by war, prohibition, the Great Depression, a second war. Baum, of course, couldn't see that far ahead, though those themes do appear in alter Oz adventures.
This Dorothy though, is an orphan who now finds herself living with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. She is too young to have been beaten down by the harshness of farm life on the great prairie. Toto keeps her happy and keeps her from turning gray. Although Dorothy is young she is practical. She has grown up on a homestead. Let's assume that before being taken in by her aunt and uncle, she was homesteading with her parents.
Dorothy, throughout her first adventure in Oz, remains practical and focused. Even in the cyclone (after closing the storm cellar door and rescuing Toto) she decides the ordeal hasn't killed her so she might as well just ride it out from the comfort of her bed. When in Oz she learns she has to walk to the Emerald City to ask for help, she takes a basket of food and her sun bonnet. In fact, through out the book Dorothy is constant replenishing her foodstuffs and or seeking shelter and help from the farm houses she meets along the way.
It is her practicality that allows Dorothy to add to her party. She starts by freeing a Scarecrow who was too well built for his intended job having become self aware while out in the cornfield. The Scarecrow, though, is very good at dealing with crows as evidenced by the forty crows (and their King) he kills single handedly when under attack by the Wicked Witch of the West. She's able to oil and maintain the joints of the Tin Woodman, thus giving him a reason to join her party. She's finally able to convince a lion that he's braver and more useful than he thinks he is.
Dorothy, not raised on the promise of magic in Kansas as her aunt and uncle barely have enough money to keep the farm afloat, is unimpressed by the Wizard's trickery. She takes on his quest to kill the Wicked Witch of the West because he tells her that he will then send her home. Dorothy does the thing not because the Wizard is magic, but because he is an adult (albeit presenting as a floating head at the time) and she is not.
In this first book, all of Dorothy's actions are based around the singleminded goal of returning home. In later, books, of course, Dorothy will come to see Oz as home and realize that home is where your family is (thus asking Ozma to let her aunt and uncle immigrate to Oz).
Dorothy doesn't even have a last name. She's just Dorothy, a young child of indeterminate age. Dorothy's last name, Gale, came from the stage play that Baum put on in the years between The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz. (L. Frank Baum, Creator of Oz by Katherine M. Rogers (2002), p.190).
But must Dorothy die? By this, is she so power hungry and corrupted that she is singlehandedly capable of destroying her adopted home? So far with the Baum books I've read, no.
Is she capable of singlehandedly destroying Oz, early on, yes. Before Ozma and before the immigration of Em and Henry, Dorothy is imbued with orphan magic. Over the course of the series, though, she loses power as she gains friends and family. By the end of things, she is so clearly Ozma's girl friend, that she has relinquished her orphan magic to settle into be part of a couple. Similarly, Ozma has relinquished some of her power too (also being an orphan and aside from being magical due to that fact, is of her own, magical). Put another way, Oz is safer and more stable with Ozma and Dorothy together than it is with them apart or absent.