Wicked Summary

Gregory Maguire

Wicked

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Wicked Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics.  This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Wicked by Gregory Maguire.

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West is a novel published in 1995 and written by Gregory Maguire. The novel addresses the nature of good and evil and takes place in The Land of Oz in the years leading to Dorothy’s arrival. The story centers on Elphaba, the misunderstood, green-skinned girl who grows up to become the notorious Wicked Witch of the West.

Elphaba is born to Melena Thropp, who is the wife of Frexspar, a minister. Melena is approached by a mysterious stranger who gives her a potion called “Miracle Elixir” from a green bottle. The elixir turns out to be some sort of drug, and the stranger then rapes Melena. Nine months later, Elphaba is born.

Elphaba, born with green skin and sharp teeth, is seemingly savage, bites at anyone and anything, and forces her parents to fashion a muzzle so she cannot hurt herself or others. She is terrified of water, even as a newborn, as touching it causes her pain. Frex believes the baby is punishment from the “Unnamed God” for failing to protect his parishioners.

While Melena has trouble bonding with and caring for Elphaba, she calls on her childhood nanny for help. With the nanny there to help, Frex decides to leave home to travel, spreading the word of the Unnamed God through his ministry. To dull the pain of raising a difficult child and the loneliness while Frex is away, Melena chews pinlobble leaves (a type of Munchkinlander drug) and drinks heavily.

About a year and a half later, a traveler named Turtle Heart visits the home of Melena and Frex. Melena offers him food and drink. With Frex absent for extended periods, preaching to the Munchkinlanders, Turtle Heart and Melena begin a passionate affair. When Frex returns, he befriends Turtle Heart (seemingly unaware of the relationship between his wife and Turtle Heart).

Elphaba spends her early years with an alcoholic mother, her mother’s lover, her mother’s old nanny, and her very religious father. Her childhood is difficult, as her green skin makes her a social outcast, and her own family is repulsed by and scared of her.  During this time, the Wizard also arrives and takes over Oz. He is a cruel dictator and starts suppressing various ethnic groups and animals.

Melena eventually becomes pregnant again (likely with Turtle Heart’s child) and she has another girl, named Nessarose, who is born without arms. Melena later dies while giving birth to her third child, a boy named Shell.

Elphaba and Nessarose accompany their father during most of their childhood as he does his missionary work. Nessarose is very religious, just like her father, and therefore becomes her father’s favorite. Their father does not hide his favoritism, and even gives Nessarose a pair of special, beautiful shoes. Elphaba becomes very resentful of her father’s open preference for Nessarose.

The novel then moves forward to Elphaba’s college years, when she attends Shiz University. At the university, she is terribly mistreated by the headmistress, Madame Morrible. A few years later her younger sister, Nessarose, also comes to attend Shiz University.

While at Shiz, Elphaba befriends a girl named Galinda, a spoiled girl who eventually changes her name to Glinda. Elphaba also befriends Boq, Crope, Tibbet, Fiyero, Avaric, and Doctor Dillimond, who is a goat studying the origins of Oz’s speaking animals in an effort to stop the Wizard’s anti-animal legislation.

Elphaba becomes involved with Doctor Dillamond’s crusade; however, he is eventually murdered, and Elphaba and Glinda discover that the crime was committed by Madame Morrible’s servant, Grommetik. Madame Morrible then tries to recruit Elphaba, Glinda, and Nessarose to work for the Wizard as spies. Elphaba instead tries to convince the Wizard to stop oppressing the animals. When the Wizard refuses to listen to her, Elphaba decides to stay in Emerald City and join an underground rebellion.

While in the underground rebellion, she reunites with Fiyero and begins an affair with him, unbeknownst to his wife. Fiyero is eventually killed. A devastated Elphaba joins a convent. Years later, she and Liir (presumed to be her son), journey to Fiyero’s home, where Elphaba hopes to apologize to Fiyero’s wife, Sarima. Elphaba and Liir spend many years living with Sarima and her family until the Wizard arrests Sarima and her family and kills all of them except her youngest daughter, Nor.

Having taken on the guise of a witch after leaving the convent, Elphaba begins to practice magic. Nessarose, who had become the ruler of Munchkinland, and a witch, is killed when Dorothy’s house drops from the sky. Elphaba returns for the funeral, where she sees Glinda. She and Glinda argue over politics and Nessarose’s shoes, which Glinda has given to the girl Dorothy. They do not part on good terms.

Elphaba later has a meeting with the Wizard and learns he is from another world, and that he is likely her biological father. Elphaba starts to lose her sense of reality, becoming obsessed with Dorothy and the girl having Nessarose’s shoes. Finally the Wizard sends Dorothy and her traveling companions to Elphaba’s house to kill her. After a tense confrontation, Dorothy accidentally kills Elphaba by tossing water on her and Elphaba dies, remembered across Oz as the cruel Wicked Witch of the West.