Choices: In Life, Literature, and Wicked

When Jacob Jankowski decides to stow away on a circus train in Water for Elephants, his choice alters the course of his life. When Miss Skeeter decides to involve “the help” as sources for a book she decides to write in The Help, that choice affects all of their lives. When Ebenezer Scrooge decides to take the painful and frightening advice of three spirits, his life, and the lives of others, are changed from that point forward in A Christmas Carol.


We make them every day. Choices such as whether to add a stick of butter to our bread, to water the flowers, to make a run to the grocery store are daily, small choices. However, every choice we make has a consequence, some much bigger than others, obviously. If we add butter to the bread consistently, our waistline might grow; if we choose not to water the flowers, they could perish; if we don’t make a run to the grocery store, we may not have the proper ingredients to make what we want for dinner.

Then there are the big ones, choices such as entering or ending a relationship or marriage, moving to a new city or town, buying a new home, getting a degree, having children, taking a new job, or deciding whether or not we should “defy gravity” can come into play.

I sat at The Kennedy Center on Sunday and watched in awe the production of Wicked. I’ve seen it before (a few times), but each time I see it I get something new out of it. I think it’s the universal appeal of the show—there are many themes presented to the audience, and at least one, some, or all of them will take hold. Some of these themes include fitting in (or being an outcast), love and support, standing up for what you believe in, forgiving someone for hurting you, and making choices, whether they are good or bad ones.

Wicked provides us with some background information on the witches of Oz, as created by Gregory Maguire, though the show is much lighter and tamed than the book of the same name. In the show, Elphaba (the green witch) makes a choice that alters her life—and the end of that show takes us to where The Wizard of Oz begins. Ga-linda, or Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, makes a choice, too. No one can say whether the choices they make are right or wrong, good or bad: it’s just a choice. It’s akin to Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken.” What would happen if we had picked something else? Gone a different path? Who’s to say?

When we think about a character, especially memorable ones, my mother put it best. We were discussing the character development in a new project I’m working on currently.

“What’s the mother’s choice?” she asked me about one of my main characters.

“I’m still working on it,” I said. “Why?”

“Well, because don’t you think some of the choices a character makes—especially the ones we don’t think he will make or don’t expect him to make—are the most interesting?”

Hmmmmmmm. Yes. I do.

We may want a character to avoid buttering his bread or to water the flowers, but if he chooses not to, if he chooses to slather the butter on his fresh loaf of French bread after a breakup and expand his waistline in grief, or if he chooses to let the wilting zinnias die because he’s given up on life, we want more of the details as to why and how he chose to move in that direction. More importantly, the reason for his choices should intrigue us, captivate us, and make us wonder.

Would we have done the same thing?

When Elphaba sings “Defying Gravity” and she makes her own choice about the path she will take alone and rises up high at the end of Act I with her broom and her witch costume flowing in the breeze, her pointy, black trademark hat perched on her head, belting out that hair-raising song, I get both the chills and watery eyes.

We’ve all had to make a tough choice or two (or many more) along the way. It’s what we do with that choice—and what our characters do with that choice—that makes the novel of our lives worth reading.

{Click video twice to see it…it will take you to You Tube.}


  • Ann A

    I have a sister who read all the Oz books when we were kids. She loved them so much that she won’t go see Wicked. After watching this clip, I really want to go see it. That scene alone is worth it. Funny that it comes at a time when I and several friends have big decisions in front of us. Thanks for posting it, Steph.

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