18 October 2011

Uncle Henry’s Mortgage Crisis

The second chapter of The Emerald City of Oz, L. Frank Baum’s fifth and, he thought, final Oz novel, starts with an echo of the first:
Dorothy Gale lived on a farm in Kansas, with her Aunt Em and her Uncle Henry. It was not a big farm, nor a very good one, because sometimes the rain did not come when the crops needed it, and then everything withered and dried up. Once a cyclone had carried away Uncle Henry’s house, so that he was obliged to build another; and as he was a poor man he had to mortgage his farm to get the money to pay for the new house. Then his health became bad and he was too feeble to work. The doctor ordered him to take a sea voyage and he went to Australia and took Dorothy with him. That cost a lot of money, too.

Uncle Henry grew poorer every year, and the crops raised on the farm only bought food for the family. Therefore the mortgage could not be paid. At last the banker who had loaned him the money said that if he did not pay on a certain day, his farm would be taken away from him.
This was, of course, before American society decided that it was both heartless and wasteful to let medical costs force people into bankruptcy. Now, of course, we’ve progressed to... Never mind.

In this book, published in 1910, Dorothy comes up with a solution to the family’s financial straits: occupy the Emerald City! Or at least move there. Baum explains that Oz under Princess Ozma has a very different economic system, as I quoted back here, which means there are no poor people.


Sam said...

SIXTH Oz Book, actually.

Sorry for the correction but . . .

J. L. Bell said...

Quite right. I originally wrote "fifth sequel," but then changed the noun without changing the number. Thanks!