It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

There is a reason why this Halloween special will never go away. It says more about the world most of us live in than a decades worth of Oscar winning dramas. In a dense fog of condescending, lulling, pandering children’s programming, it shines like a massive lighthouse. It reminds us that in a universe where we are guaranteed that many of our needs and wants will go unfulfilled, needing and wanting might be their own rewards; a magical fuel that inspires us to drive forward.

Comparing this Halloween special to the glorified commercials masquerading as children’s entertainment produced today is like comparing the work of VINCENT VAN GOGH to doodles found on the back of an issue of Us magazine next to KIMORA LEE SIMMON‘s toilet. If you have children, I insist that you force them to watch it yearly. If your children don’t love it, put them in a sack and throw them over the Brooklyn Bridge. Don’t bother wasting your time raising duds.

I don’t know if anybody has noticed but current television spews endless fantasies about obtaining more and more. Children are told from day one that they are what they own. Privilege is a virtue and gluttonous excess is to be emulated rather than condemned. I’m not here to critique modern culture, but it should be noted that in the jazzy water-colored background world of the Peanuts, you just might get a rock thrown into your trick or treat bag. In fact, you just might get SEVERAL rocks thrown into your trick or treat bag. Does that make you a loser? Possibly, but you at least get the feeling that such a fate is preferable to being a selfish jerk like Lucy. (The actually quite lovable Lucy Van Pelt will get a chance in the future to receive her own “request denied” slip as she attempts to woo the enigmatic Schroeder).

Of course THE GREAT PUMPKIN really centers around the seemingly unfulfillable dream of Lucy’s lil brother Linus. (Personally I’ve always found Snoopy’s nonverbal, consequence-free fantasy war with the Red Baron a snore.) Linus, armed with “sincerity” faces the night sky and knows there is something else out there, something larger than himself that delivers gifts to those that honor and believe. Creator CHARLES M. SCHULZ denies any intended religious allegory to Linus’s faithful anticipation for the hero he alone believes in. Organized religion aside, many claim Linus’ plight works as an across the board representation of man’s base existential angst. In any case, Linus, like friend Charlie Brown, attempting to kick a football that Lucy systematically pulls away, does not get what he wants.

To follow a story only to find the character you are routing for fails seems almost unthinkable in this day and age. What is the point if there is no victory? Speaking of religion, isn’t the idea of heaven a “victory” of sorts? It’s a reward for services rendered, a prize for the loyal and most importantly a happy ending. (The idea of finding a rock in that particular trick or treat bag is enough to drive some folks bonkers) If Linus does not get what he wants then he’s a blockhead right?

On the contrary. I say worship Linus. Build a religion around Linus. Linus does not want to dress up in the ghost uniform. He will not trade his belief for “candy everybody wants.” I don’t know about you, but I can think of worse fates than spending Halloween night in a pumpkin patch looking up at the night sky. His sack may be empty, but he’s so much richer than his trick-or-treating pals. He has imagination, faith, and sincerity. He has created his own universe and nobody can take it away. His desire, his wanting for something better, more substantial than what his friends can imagine, elevates him. Receiving makes you complacent. Wanting makes you grow like a pumpkin vine toward the sun. Linus may not know it, but he’s bigger than the Great Pumpkin himself. Let the Great Pumpkin and others like him continue to elude, I already have my idol and he carries a security blanket.

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14 years ago

The perceived notion that kids need stuff to be happy has always been a well-intentioned yet misguided attepmpt by parents to prevent kindertrauma in their kids.  (Little do they know that kindertrauma is unavoidable… who knew an Afrin commercial of giant nose would scar one of us!).

I relate this back to when I played Little League baseball.  Everyone on the team got trophies, no matter if you sucked, or if your team was in last place.    Even then I knew this was rotten.  It almost works like backwards-psychology on the kids.  Deep down you KNOW the winner should be rewarded, but when you – the “loser” or the “lesser” in that one miniscule part of your whole life – are rewarded too it kinda messes with you.  It makes you feel coddled and pampered, as if the adults are saying through their smiles “hey, we know you’re a loser, but we don’t want you to know that we know that”.  And that’s way worse, in my opinion.


14 years ago

*stands, applauds*
*applauds louder and more flailingly*
*pumps fist in the air and WHOOTS*

Well-said, Unk, well-F*CKING-said! This is really the Halloween special to end them all–nay, the HOLIDAY special to end them all, full stop. I mean, “Merry Christmas Charlie Brown” is fun, but Linus’s treacly retelling of the Xmas story* just never rang true to me in the way that his letter to the Great Pumpkin did:

“P. S.–Even if you *are* a fake, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.”


*Especially considering that just a few months prior he had advocated a pagan religion and scoffed at Santa. Total Xmas lip service, imo.

As for Lucy, yeah, she’s a fussy little Fussbudget, cranky and dog-germophobic, but for me one of the many touching, perfect scenes in “Great Pumpkin” is the coda of her waking up, checking on Linus’s room and finding his bed empty, then getting dressed to go retrieve her brother from the pumpkin patch and silently, lovingly putting him to bed. A peek into the better side of Lucy’s nature, and the universal truth that even when they’re calling you a blockhead and ragging on your friends, the people who love you will show it. Awesome.

I must disagree about the Red Baron adventures, though–the whole Schroeder/Snoopy “happy/sad music” sequence is COMEDY GOLD.

Amanda By Night
14 years ago

I think Linus was one of my first crushes. I think you can see why.

Great review Unk!

14 years ago

Wonderful job Unk! Prof. and I absolutely love all the Peanuts specials. Remember a time and place when a kid had one shot a season to enjoy these specials? If you did mess up and miss them you were SOL until the next year. I always appreciated (and still do) Linus. As a fellow blanket carrier, I endured much mocking courtesy of my older sister. She use to ask if I planned to wear my pink blanket to the prom.

Professor Von Whiskersen
Professor Von Whiskersen
14 years ago

I too had a blanket.  I still have it, even though it’s lost approximately 70% of its body mass and is confined to a hyperbaric chamber inside a cedar chest.  And guess what was embroiderred on that blanket…

Yep, Snoopy and the gang!

Mickster knows my love for all things Peanuts.  When she was in the hospital earlier this year, reading the comic strip collections was the only thing that kept me sane.  The Complete collections are rapidly consuming my bookshelf space, and my new favorite Halloween decoration of all time is a Haunted Snoopy Doghouse Bank.  I wish I still had my zip-up vinyl Snoopy wallet.