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A wickedly good… and bad hero

In most stories, the main character or hero tends to go through what is known as the “Hero’s Journey”. This journey was originally outlined by Joseph Campbell as the internal path that a character follows as they move through their lives and through the plot or storyline of their story, movie, or in this case, play.

A great example of the “Hero’s Journey” can be found in the Broadway musical, Wicked. This play, which challenges the ideas of good versus evil, tells the story of the Wicked Witch of the West, before she was “wicked”. Before she was “The Witch”, she was just Elphaba. In this story, Elphaba’s own journey directly follows the “Hero’s Journey” as outlined by Campbell.

In the beginning, Elphaba lives in an ordinary world. She is an outcast among her classmates at school, and really anyone in general, because she is noticeably different, in that she has green skin. She is unwanted, undesired, and made fun of by most people. Along with being green, Elphaba can use magic, sorcery, witchcraft. When Madame Morrible sees this gift of Elphaba’s, she offers Elphaba a call to action to meet her idol, the Wizard of Oz and “do good” for him and for Oz.

Elphaba is excited by this call, but is forced in a way to refuse it, at least for the time being. Madame Morrible said she would write to the Wizard first before Elphaba could proceed. During this time and the song, “The Wizard and I”, it becomes clear that Elphaba idols the Wizard and sees him as a mentor figure, because he is also different and magical. She looks up to him and wants to learn by his side, as well as save the animals in Oz.

She then can accept the call when Madame Morrible sends her to meet the Wizard in the Emerald City. She is excited and ready to meet her mentor.

Once in the Emerald City, she is faced by obstacles and challenges she didn’t expect. The biggest being that the Wizard is a fraud, not magical, and harming the animals in the land of Oz, taking away their speech, which is something Elphaba wanted to be fixed. When she discovers the true identity and nature of the Wizard, the mentor she had in him then dies. While the wizard himself still lives, the mentor she looked up to and trusted is no longer there.

Here she hits rock bottom. She uses a spell to free the flying monkeys caged by the wizard and is declared to be the “Wicked Witch” to all of Oz. She is now feared and hated by all in Oz. At this point she can’t go back, but she is able to take her life in her own hands and continue forward in her quest to save the animals in Oz. This is the climax of the play and is shown in the song “Defying Gravity”. In this song, Elphaba says how she is embracing herself fully and will not be held back by anyone, and how “no wizard that there is or was is ever gonna bring [her] down”.

Following this song, Elphaba is on the run, hiding from all in Oz. She is being chased by everyone. Her friends are trying to find her to offer help, but most are looking for her to kill her. This chase goes on between the people Oz and Elphaba until the end.

Sticking with Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey”, Elphaba’s story finishes with her being changed. This is made evident in her actions as a more confident woman and explicitly in the song, “For Good”, where she acknowledges Glinda as the friend who changed her life, for the better.

This story follows Elphaba’s journey as a hero and in so doing captures the attention of the audience, and has been able to do so for almost 14 years on Broadway. This is because audiences like characters they can relate to in one way or another. Some characters can relate and put themselves in parts of the story and find a way to fit, while other times individuals relate by seeing what they want to be. People can relate to Elphaba, the character who is neither good nor bad, and for that reason it continues to be a sensation that draws all in.

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