The Battle of Strawmen: Symbolism of the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz

Matthew McKenna
2 min readFeb 5, 2022

There’s a reason The Wizard of Oz’s Scarecrow didn’t have a brain. He’s a scarecrow, also called a strawman.

Okay great, so what is a strawman and what does it have to do with not having a brain?

A “strawman” is a term used in argumentation and occurs when a point or idea is misrepresented to be weaker than it actually is. It makes the idea appear weaker and turns it into a hollow and empty vessel. It becomes a fake representation of something else. Doing this in an argument or debate is called “strawmanning” someone’s argument, and is condemned as being an irrational fallacy and lacking intellectual integrity.

So in The Wizard of Oz, why doesn’t Scarecrow, the strawman, have a brain? Because living as a strawman is akin to being foolish. When you constantly strawman all views that disagree with your own, you see the world as cornfield full of strawmen. Perceiving the world in such a way that you don’t take opposing views seriously and you dismiss good points without properly engaging with them is to be a living strawman among the cornfield. You become a strawman yourself; and to live this way is to not have a brain.

I can’t think of a better way to symbolically represent a character who lives their life in a battle with strawmen than as a scarecrow without a brain.

Perhaps this isn’t the true meaning behind the character, but it’s a fascinating coincidence from which we can extract a timeless truth.

Once we start using our brain and take opposing views seriously, we are no longer a strawman.

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Matthew McKenna

When facing hardship and burned by flame / We look to myth for where to aim / As stories of old were understood / Extract the gold and make it good.