Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Existential Pumpkin Patch

One of my favorite Halloween stories is that of the Great Pumpkin, created by cartoonist Charles M. Schultz. Not only is Linus Van Pelt one of the most appealing creations in all of fiction, but his sincere belief in the Great Pumpkin, who would preside over the "most sincere" Pumpkin Patch on Halloween night, was the crux of the story. Linus represented the optimism that Charlie Brown could never quite muster, and there is beauty in all of Linus's speeches that are meant to make Charlie Brown take heart.

These boys are the Didi and Gogo of cartoon world, the little philosophers who show us the distance between hope and despair. Schultz's great success, I think, lay in the fact that he never condescended with his characters. The Peanuts gang spoke with wisdom, even world-weariness, and they were appealing to all ages.

When the Great Pumpkin never appears (except in the disillusioning form of Snoopy), Linus is dejected, but it is not long before he is planning for the next Halloween, and a more gloriously sincere pumpkin patch. Linus avoids the abyss because he clings to hope; Charlie Brown has been to the abyss, which is why he seeks pyschiatric help from Lucy, who doles out not Prozac, but common sense.

The heroism of the cartoon boys is similar to that of the men who wait for Godot; they may not always have the answers, but there is always hope, there is always tomorrow. Charlie Brown might actually get mail, and Linus might see something magical.

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