School of Communication and Digital Content


Master of Arts in Communication (MA)


William Mullen

Primary Subject Area

Theater; Psychology, General; Music; Literature, General; Language, General


Communication | Critical and Cultural Studies | Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Ethnicity in Communication | Music Performance | Rhetoric and Composition | Theatre and Performance Studies


The purpose of this study was to examine the Broadway production, Wicked, and more specifically, the character of Elphaba, or the Wicked Witch of the West. The study utilized Kenneth Burke's theory of the guilt-purification-redemption cycle, and considered Elphaba's journey between the three steps of Burke's cycle. In order to understand this journey better, the researcher considered various facets of the show, including the script, lyrics, costuming, including attire and make-up, and interactions with other characters in the production. Elphaba's causes of guilt, including her mother's death, her relationship with Glinda, her cause in working with Animals, and failed magic were discussed. Following this, was a discussion of her various attempts at purification, including both mortification and scapegoating, and finally her ultimate redemption both in her own eyes and those who meant the most to her. By the finale of the Wicked production, audiences see Elphaba gain redemption. Though she does not necessarily gain forgiveness or redemption from those around her in Oz, she does finally learn to accept herself, and unhindered by peer pressure, Elphaba is able to live the life for which she has always hoped.