Wicked, the Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the East is a fantasy book by Gregory Maguire. It follows the life of the Wicked Witch, the character from the Wizard of Oz, from her birth to her death, or her pseudo-death. It also explores the question the nature of good and evil. The main character is, of course, the Wicked Witch, Elphaba. She is born green, with really sharp teeth, and afraid of water. When she gets near water, she just gets really scared, and when she cries or a couple drops of water get on her it burns her.
When she is still young her father, who is a minister, decides they will move to the Quailing country to try to convert the people there to the faith of the Unknown God. Elphaba is described many times throughout the book as "prickly." She is intelligent, and likes to get people to think. She is also convinced that she doesn't posses a soul, in part to thwart her father's religious convictions, and partly because she truly believes she doesn't. Then, there is Galinda. She meets Elphaba at boarding school in the town of Shiz, where they are paired as roommates.
Galinda acts like a ditz but is actually quite smart. She is obsessed with becoming popular, until Doctor Dillamond dies. Then she becomes a little more serious and disenchanted with her old friends. Doctor Dillamond is a Goat.
Animals, with capital A's, are treated as full human citizens until the Wizard arrives. They are able to speak and take part in society, but the Wizard passes bans on travel and employment. Doctor Dillamond is working on an important scientific experiment to show that there is no difference between Animal and human tissue, and therefore the bans could also apply to humans. He makes a major breakthrough, and then is murdered by Madame Morrible's tick-to ck machine. Madame Morrible is the headmistress of Shiz and works for the Wizard. Nessarose, Elphaba's sister, is born without arms.
She is annoyingly religious, and her fathers' favorite. Elphaba once says about her: "If she ever comes down off that plinth -- the one that has words written on it along the edges in gold, reading MOST SUPERIOR IN MORAL RECTITUDE -- if she ever allows herself the be the b she really is, she " ll be the B of the East." She becomes the Wicked Witch of the East. Fiyero is a prince from the Vinkus, the west of Oz. He meets Elphaba, Galinda, and Nessa at Shiz. The first part of the book is all about Elphaba's childhood in Munchkinland. The next section picks up with Galinda on the train to Shiz, and goes through her and Elphaba's school days.
Madame Morrible tries to get them to work for the Wizard, but she puts a spell on them so they won't remember. Afterwards, Elphaba goes "underground" with a revolt against the Wizard. Fiyero spots her one day, and they start talking. Even though she tells him to go away for his own safety, he keeps meeting up with her and they have an affair. Elphaba tries to murder Madame Morrible but fails. Fiyero, who watched her, goes to her apartment, where members of the Wizard's private army are waiting.
When Elphaba comes back, she finds massive amounts of blood all around the room, but no body. She goes into shock, and seeks refuge with a religious order. It is implied she has a son but you never actually know because she was in a coma for the first year. She stays for seven years in all. Elphaba, with her son Liir, goes to the Vinkus to beg forgiveness from Fiyero's wife, Sarima. Sarima is dead set against Elphaba telling her anything upsetting, so Elphaba's wish is never fulfilled.
By now, Elphaba has learned a little magic from a book she found in Sarima's library, but is actually from our, and the Wizard's, world. Nessarose, who is now the ruler of Munchkinland and a witch, writes, and Elphaba goes to visit. While she is gone the Wizard's forces storm the castle and carry off Sarima and her family, leaving only Liir. After seven years of unsuccessful search for the family on Elphaba's part, Dorothy and the tornado arrive, killing Nessa.
Elphaba had always wanted Nessa's shoes, and had gotten Nessa to leave them to her in her will, because they were a symbol of their father's love for Nessa. When Galinda gives them to Dorothy, Elphaba sees it as a betrayal, and sets out after Dorothy. She realizes that she has left home too long, and heads back. When Dorothy comes to the castle, she asks Elphaba's forgiveness for killing her sister. To Elphaba, this is amazing and frightening, to have to give forgiveness out of the same void within her that waited for it almost all her life, but was denied to her. She accidentally set herself on fire, and Dorothy throws a bucket of water on her to put it out, melting Elphaba.
To all purposes she is dead, but I don't know if you can truly die if you don't have a soul. "The real thing about evil," said the Witch at the doorway "isn't any of what you said. You figure out one side of it -- the human side, say -- and the eternal side goes into shadow. Or vice versa.
It's like the old saw: What does a dragon in its shell look like? Well no one can ever tell, for as soon as you break the shell to see, the dragon is no longer in its shell. The real disaster of this inquiry is that it is the nature of evil to be secret." Elphaba says this as she is leaving a dinner party hosted by her schoolmate, Avarice. They spend the whole time talking about the nature of evil, to the great distress of the hostess. The main argument is... is evil bad thoughts or bad deeds? Is it an appetite to do bad, or is it giving in to that evil? There are other themes, but they are only explored briefly, is evil a power, an infection, an attribute, metaphysical, or is it the result of a god? If it is the result of a god, did the god make it on purpose, or was it a mistake? As a maybe, Elphaba even suggests that evil might be an art form. Whatever it is, this section gives real food for thought.
This is a wonderful book that I would recommend to almost no one because of some sexual stuff in it, plus swears, plus just random erotic bits in the most harmless looking chapters. Seriously, if my mom had actually read the book she would freak out about the content. However, if you are mature enough to stand it, and your parents won't get mad at you, I would recommend this book to anyone who has read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz or seen the movie and wondered about the other side of the story. I liked the way Wicked was written, but let me warn you to read it very carefully, because almost every chapter has little things that you don't see the first time you read it, but by the second or third reading those little details give the book a whole new dimension.
I think the author's purpose was to explore the possibility that the Witch wasn't evil, just misunderstood. He did it in his other books, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister but not so much in Mirror, Mirror. He also wanted to make Oz seem real, with it's own problems and quirks. I think that the discussion of the nature of good and evil, and whether Elphaba actually has a soul, came later, after he started the book. Again, this book was one of the best I have ever read, and if you do read it, I hope you enjoy it.