Charles Schulz' views of American customs and life in general have been teaching and entertaining us for over fifty years. Take the time to ponder what Schulz is saying and you will soon realize there is a lot more to these cartoon strips than entertainment.
I can remember as a child reading the cartoon strips and at times I thought, "I don't get it.", though knowing full well there is a bit of wisdom right in front of me. The 'something' that is outside of each of the characters would be obvious once I understood.
"It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" portrays the struggle between existentialism and religious determinism. The Western fear of Paganism has always reached its height on October 31, originally the closing date on the pre-Christian Celtic calendar and marked be Druid harvest practices. All Saints' Day was introduced by the pope in the 7th century as a way to counter the effects of the pagan festival. Brought to the United States in the 1800's by Irish immigrants, Halloween is mainly regarded as a social gathering, a holiday for children, with little thought to its being connected to the restless afterlife. The Great Pumpkin attempts to find the spiritual in the mundane and to locate the divine in the pagan.
For the Peanuts gang, the world is an inhospitable place. Narrow-minded and gullible, Charlie Brown sees the world as cruel and unforgiving. Day in and day out he falls into the same patterns of behavior resulting in the failure once again. Many of us can relate to Charlie Brown because we often find ourselves going through life repeating patterns of behavior or expectations and then wondering why things don't work out any differently.
Violet's Halloween party with all its temptations of fun and frolic pulls the rest of the gang into the excitement of 'the now', while Linus is mocked for missing out and choosing to separate himself and wait for the unknown rather than enjoy the obvious. Even Sally loses interest and joins the festivities, portraying the message of how often the chasm of beliefs can put a wedge within a relationship.
Linus seeks religion and philosophy as the key to understanding his universe. Rather than letting Charlie Brown's self-pity in why things are the way they are, Linus believes there must be something beyond the ordinary everyday happenings, a divine purpose. He doesn't give an air of superiority over his peers but his perceptions set him apart from the rest of the gang, similar to the way those of us with strong convictions feel so alone among the majority in our society. Linus clings to his thumb and blanket for security and comfort. The Great Pumpkin is symbolic as the 'sign' that there may be something greater in which to believe even if we must continue to wait. We need to keep firm in whatever foundation of faith we have and to understand that some things in life are just a mystery.
Charles Schulz' writings reflect his own personal search for understanding and meaning. He portrayed very well the message that for those who keep on searching, the world can be an unforgiving and perhaps lonely place. But life is what it is and though an unpredictable blend of tears of joy as well as grief, we mustn't give up on the fascination of this mysterious journey.
The complete article "The Book of Linus" by Michael Koresky