Straw man (literature)

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Straw men of both the literal and metaphorical kind have been employed in literature over the years. The fact that a straw man has the shape of a man, but has nothing but (symbolically) worthless straw inside, makes it a symbol for people regarded as lacking needed qualities.

In 1900, L. Frank Baum wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, in which one of the main characters was the Scarecrow, depicted in the illustrations of the original edition and in the classic film version, The Wizard of Oz, as a man of straw, who joins Dorothy in the hopes that the Wizard of Oz will give him a brain. According to much-debated theories about allegorical meanings in the novel, the Scarecrow represents the American farmer of the time, both because of his straw (indicating his agrarian nature) and his perceived lack of intellect, which we find out by the end of the book to be illusory.

Man of Straw is one of two titles used to translate Heinrich Mann's novel Der Untertan (1918). It is the first book in his Das Kaiserreich trilogy and an unremitting critique of Wilhelmine Germany at the turn of the Twentieth Century. It portrays the life of a man, Diederich Hessling, a fanatic admirer of Emperor Wilhelm II, who becomes a straw man for authority and the existing order.

"Feathertop: A Moralized Legend," by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a tale of a scarecrow (or man of straw) made lively by the crone Mother Rigby. He sets forth into the world cloaked by magic and makes a splash in society, behaves honorably, and falls in love. When his true nature is revealed to him, he feels ashamed, though his creator, Mother Rigby, wonders at the success of many men who are just as hollow and false as her strawman.

The Straw Men is a book by Michael Marshall, exploring the idea of a worldwide conspiracy for human purity through the protagonists' discovery of a group called "The Straw Men" and their belief in how "the inhuman genome" has infected the human race.