Wicked begins shortly before the actual birth of the strange green girl who will grow up to take the title of Wicked Witch of the West. Her parents are Frexspar who is a struggling clergyman and his noble-born harlot of a wife, Melena. Melena appears to be the source of much of her daughter's rebellious character, as she rebels against her parents by marrying beneath her station and she rebels against her husband by sharing the company of a string of lovers. Cast away in the lonely frontiers of Munchkinland, Melena enters the equally unknown environs of childbirth with only the aid of some strange local women who administer a drug called pinobble to alleviate her pain. The child is daughter, healthy, but with green skin. Frex and Melena expend great effort in dealing with the strange affliction of their daughter; not only does she have green skin but appears also to be allergic to water. The daughter, named Elphaba in homage to the sounds L. Frank Baum, is raised as much by the same nurse who raised Melena as she is by her parents.
Elphaba's otherness is endowed within her from birth; her childhood is one characterized by her family protecting themselves by protecting Elphaba from socializing with other children. It is this otherness that will eventually cause her to marked as wicked and a witch and the novel's beginning explodes with the mythmaking idea that a wicked witch is thought always to be born rather than be made. Elphaba is a strange child in that she is precocious about how external forces serve to act upon her and imprint an identity that is not her own choice, but that she nonetheless chooses to exploit once it become a natural fact. Contemptuously rejected by her family, Elphaba is directed toward a course in which she has no choice but to always play the outsider. Adding to her social anxiety is that she is viewed by her father as a punishment from God for his transgressions; his daughter's inability to get near water is viewed as a symbolic inability for her to be baptized from her owns sins. Compounding the injury to Frex is the insult that is tossed his way as a result of her daughter's decision to embrace atheism and reject his religious beliefs.
Elphaba becomes a wicked witch not as the result of a punishment from God, or because she is born that way, but because in the pursuit of her own identity she struggles to help others who have been disenfranchised. Far from viewing her father's religion as a path toward salvation for those who have been oppressed, Elphaba comes to view the traditions that those in Oz have clung to as the perpetrators of suppression (Cashdan 234).
The opening section closes with a mysterious vision for Elphaba: a man arriving in a hot air balloon; the vision fills the young green girl with dread and horror. The next time the reader sees Elphaba she is grown up and heading off to college where she meet a self-centered young woman named Galinda. One of the themes that the novel is consistent in is questioning the traditional views and values that associated beauty with goodness and wickedness with otherness. The most obvious element that makes up this thematic fabric is the contrast of the vain Galinda who is the object of desire for almost all