By Max Kath
It would be a slight understatement to say that the characters in the “Peanuts” comic strips and movies are some of the most memorable in American pop culture history. The ever pessimistic Charlie Brown, the wannabe psychiatrist Lucy, the smitten Sally, the musical prodigy Schroeder, the always in need of a bath Pig-Pen, and, of course, there’s Snoopy and Woodstock. However, there is one character that always seems to escape most people’s minds when they talk about their favorite Peanuts characters: Linus, the lovable sidekick to Charlie Brown during his many adventures-or maybe he’s the Greek chorus.
Linus is the glue that holds together many of the peanut gangs’ outings and yet he is never given the full credit he deserves. Linus was always the voice of reason among the group, often times putting things into perspective and helping Charlie Brown out with whatever dilemma he was facing. He would often interject words of wisdom to Charlie Brown or the rest of the audience that cover many different topics: religion, politics, American History, etc. and always with a sense of humor. Take for example the opening scene from the 1969 film “A Boy Named Charlie Brown.” Lucy, Linus, and Charlie Brown are lying on the grass watching the clouds go by and start to name what they look like. Linus mentions that one of the formations looks like “‘The Stoning of Stephen,’ I can see the Apostle Paul standing there to one side,” suggesting that Linus is one of the leading theologians of the group and he’s only eight years old. A similar example, and a more popular one, is the scene in the Charlie Brown Christmas special when Linus goes up on stage and recites the Nativity story in front of all the kids in the Christmas play. He does it in such a way that it helps all the kids remember what the true meaning of Christmas is and forget about all the empty consumerism. These are two good examples of Linus’ take on religion, but the rest of his philosophy is something more complex. It encompasses a view of “relax and let things be as they are” to everyone around him, thus making him the prime choice for the supposed Greek Chorus of the gang. Look at the scene towards the end of “A Boy Named Charlie Brown” where Charlie Brown has come back from losing the national spelling bee:
Linus: “Well, I can understand how you feel. You worked hard, studying for the spelling bee, and I suppose you feel you let everyone down, and you made a fool of yourself and everything. But did you notice something, Charlie Brown?”
Charlie Brown: “What’s that?”
Linus: “The world didn’t come to an end.”
In just a small exchange Linus was able to take the fact that Charlie Brown has lost the spelling bee and applied it to a larger scheme to show him that there are worse things that could have happened. All the ways in which Linus is able to diffuse a situation is part of his appeal. He doesn’t just dwell on the bad things in life, he looks at them and finds the positive side in everything to cheer everyone up. Of course he isn’t without his idealism- he is more than willing to tell anyone who will listen about the great pumpkin, the Santa Claus of Halloween who comes and gives out presents to all the girls and boys who wait in a pumpkin patch for him.
Linus interjects a bit of wisdom for all people to embrace that is just as relevant today as it was forty two years ago: “I’ve learned there are three things you don’t discuss with people: religion, politics, and the great pumpkin.” That statement could be the slogan for the every American in this election year because no matter what your position on the candidates is you never know who you might offend by saying who you are pulling for. In the end, however, Linus is just a good friend. He always is there to offer up advice and inform people to lessen their prejudices towards whatever might be troubling them. He represents the good that we should all strive for in our lives, and he does it all with his trusty blanket by his side.