Sartre & Peanuts

An ideal example of abandonment is the relationship between Linus and The Great Pumpkin. Every Halloween, Linus faithfully waits by a pumpkin patch, in the hopes that he will be blessed with the holy experience of a visitation by The Great Pumpkin. Of course, The Great Pumpkin never shows up, and He never answers Linus’ letters. Despite this, Linus remains steadfast, even going door to door to spread the word of his absent deity. Does The Great Pumpkin exist? We can never know. But from an existential point of view, it doesn’t matter if he exists or not. The important thing is that Linus is abandoned and alone in his pumpkin patch.


Why does Charlie Brown tear himself into knots over the little red-haired girl? The very possibility that he could go over and talk to her is far more distressing than its impossibility would be; he must take ownership of his failure. When she is the victim of a bully in the school yard, Charlie Brown’s despair threatens to leap right off the comic page. He isn’t suffering because he can’t help her, but because he could help her, but won’t: “Why can’t I rush over there and save her? Because I’d get slaughtered, that’s why…” When Linus helps her out instead, thereby illustrating his freedom of action, Charlie Brown only becomes more melancholic. —Nathan RadkeSartre & Peanuts (Philosophy Now)

Of course, Charlie Brown does keep trying to kick the football, so he is not completely immobilized. He is also the manager and pitcher of a hopeless baseball team, but he (and his teammates) keep playing anyway. Radke interprets these incidents as a sign of disconnectedness with the past, and the possibility of change.

Lucy’s own psychological problems make her a fairly suspect voice of reason in her role as Charlie Brown’s therapist. But in Schroeder’s veneration of Beethoven, we do see a largely positive representation of humanist faith.