FIND in
<--prev V30 next-->

From: James Jordan <jbjordan4@home.com>
Subject: (urth) Free Live Free
Date: Wed, 18 Apr 2001 11:12:30 

	I just re-read Free Live Free, and since this list is dormant, thought I'd 
toss this out to see if anyone wants to discuss it a bit. Here are some of 
my thoughts, to start us out:
	I do think that the Wonderful Wizard of Oz plays a major role in the book. 
It's alluded to a number of times. But the narrative is greatly 
transmogrified. FLF is Wolfe's book about America, and to spring off of 
this quintessentially American fantasy is very apropos.  I've not (yet) 
re-read WWOz so I'm going by memory here; but:
	1. We begin by arriving at a house presided over by a wizard (not a witch, 
and not a bad person), Ben Free. That house is torn down, and the 
characters scatter. Compare the beginning of WWOz.
	2. At the end we find the Good Witch of the South (Glinda; formerly Madame 
	3. The movement is from the house, to a hotel (Emerald City), to an insane 
asylum (abode of the wicked witch of the west), back to the hotel (Emerald 
City), and then on to High Country (the journey south, where the characters 
in WWOz are tested), and finally back to the original house (now 
corresponding to the city of the south).
	4. The destruction of the psychiatric witchery of the insane asylum 
corresponds to the defeat of the wicked witch of the west and her horde of 
	5. Notice that it is while in the hotel the first time (in the Emerald 
City), that the four receive a communication from the moon via Serpentina 
about their destinies (compare the wizard's promise in WWOz).
	Thus, in a general way the movement of the novel seems to track WWOz. But 
there are some more general allusions, it seems. For instance, the field of 
poppies seems to link with the drugging of patients in the asylum, though 
it is not in the same narrative order as WWOz. Does the encounter with the 
queen of the mice link with Serpentina's return to the gypsy king just 
before going to the asylum? I suspect that a re-read of WWOz will show many 
more parallels.
	Second, the characters: I suspect that many of the minor characters come 
from later Oz books, since Wolfe is familiar with them. I'm not interested 
in reading these to see if this might be the case, however.
	The four main characters each have a besetting sin. These seem to link 
with four of the Seven Deadly Sins (Pride, Greed, Envy, Anger, Lust, 
Gluttony, Sloth).
	Fat Candy - gluttony. That's a no-brainer. (Her name links to this also, 
of course.)
	Ozzie (Osgood = Oz-Good) Barnes (the salesman) - lust. I think his 
marriage broke up because of unfaithfulness, though this is not stated.
	Stubb (the detective) - pride. He thinks he can handle everything, and has 
a "little man complex" or "Napoleon complex." As a short man consumed by 
being short, he's a "stub."
	Madame Serpentina - witchcraft, perhaps greed as lust for power (the sin 
of the Serpent, Satan). Also, as a gypsy pickpocket she's "greedy." (Note 
that her name originally was Marie, Mary, but that she has fallen from this 
"Christian" name into serving Satan as Madame Serpentina.)
	Each is trapped by his/her sin just before being offered a new life. This 
corresponds to the tests that the characters in WWOz undergo in their 
journey south in the second half of the book:
	Candy by her lust for food and drink by Sweet (note the name: sweet guy 
and sweet food);
	Barnes by his lust for sex at the Flying Carpet cabaret;
	Stubb by his pride in thinking he can handle the situation with Cliff 
(Stubb "falls over the cliff" because he's not careful enough);
	Madame Serpentina by her lust for forbidden knowledge and power 
(symbolized by Egypt, the ancient enemy).
	Now, in WWOz the three Oz characters are animal, vegetable, and mineral. I 
don't know how Wolfe might be playing with this. But they are also mind, 
emotion, and will.
	Stubb - very smart; mind (Scarecrow; vegetable?)
	Candy - very loving; emotion (Tin Woodman; mineral?)
	Serpentina - very determined; will (Lion; animal?)
	Which leaves Barnes as Dorothy, and Little Ozzie as Toto.
	And of course Ben Free as the Wizard. Free is not a humbug, but I think he 
is trapped in "Oz" (see below), and only escapes through death. Free does 
move upwards (compare the wizard's balloon).
	Now, overlaid on this fully American fantasy (WWOz) is Wolfe's reflections 
on America. America used to be free, but it isn't any longer. (Ben Free = 
been free). America has lost her vision, the vision of a free nation, 
symbolized by the abandonment of High Country (the high ground, the ideal). 
America is full of people living in destructive sins (the four characters) 
and presided over by psychiatrists, who are themselves as insane as the 
America-Asylum they guard. America is a fallen and perverted Land of Oz. 
Ben Free escapes this Oz by going back to early America, and so never 
leaves Oz until he dies. The others are given the opportunity to transform 
this fallen Oz into a good Oz, not by killing back witches, but by killing 
the bad parts of themselves.
	Free-Whitten goes back to the days of Lewis and Clark, when America was 
free, and when Americans still were explorers with vision. That's his 
personal escape, but it's not an answer to the problem. The answer is for 
Americans to go back to being moral and spiritual people. The four 
characters are given the chance to change their lives and to become such 
people. As such, perhaps they as the Quadrivium can lead America forward 
(and back) to what America should be (and once was). The moral part of 
their transformation is clear, but the need for Serpentina to see through 
the fakeries and dangers of witchcraft points to a need for 
religious/spiritual transformation also.
	Thus, in a very broad sense, Ben Free is partly a kind of Christ figure, 
providing an opportunity to have a "new birth."
	A final thought. I don't know where the gizmo was hidden in the "wall" of 
Ben Free's house, but I'm betting that it was behind the sign that read 
Free Live Free. That seems to be hinted at in the last chapter. Little 
Ozzie says "there's a sign," and "sign" can have two meanings. The physical 
sign is Free Live Free. Barnes seems to link this with the gizmo. But I'm 
not sure about this.

JBJordan (Nutria)

*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

<--prev V30 next-->