In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week: some great songs with prominent literary references.
Dorothy Gale didn’t peak with her defeat of The Wicked Witch Of The West—at least, not in the books. The plucky Kansas farmgirl went on to feature prominently in L. Frank Baum’s series, eventually setting up permanent residence in the land of Oz. It’s her cinematic counterpart who got the short shrift: In what was perhaps the greatest discrepancy from the book, Dorothy’s Emerald City adventure turned out to be merely a dream. She didn’t even get to keep her famous shoes. And it’s a middle-aged version of that Dorothy that Cursive imagines in “Dorothy At Forty,” a song off its 2006 album Happy Hollow.
“Dorothy At Forty” still has dreams. In fact, they’re all she has, whether they’re of “dream cars, dream houses, dream jobs, dream spouses,” or they’re “dreams of tornadoes, cities of emerald.” But that rich interior life seems to be preventing her from accomplishing anything in the waking world. The 40-year-old is told she can’t run off on the yellow brick road or go “chasing down each golden street,” because there’s nothing on them that’s worth pursuing.
And while this Dorothy appears to have at least made it off the farm, she’s just swapped Tornado Alley for a midlife crisis. She’s unfulfilled and resentful, demanding “more of our fair share/ more of our birthright/ more of what we’re owed.” She’s not a savior or a princess of Oz—she’s just a middle-aged woman hoping for a bigger piece of the pie. That’s probably not the future that MGM had in mind when it altered the ending, but it’s the path Dorothy was set on when she was robbed of her literary destiny.