Snoopy Come Home Movie Review

Interpretive Method

 

Charles Schulz would say that if a person wanted to get to know him, that they ought to simply read his comic strip.  His tendency to inject autobiographical material into his comic strips has been well documented.  Part of the reason for the comic's widespread appeal is that t attempted to address life’s most confusing questions.  It would be a mistake to interpret everything that happens in his comics, and Snoopy Come Home for that matter, as pointing to an event in Schulz's life, but it goes agains.  Schulz was particularly adamant that his comic, and I think it would not be too much of a stretch to include his films, was not something that was for children.  It was for adults.  The name of his comic strip, Peanuts, was not chosen by him and he was embittered with his publisher, United Feature Syndicate, for having chosen it. 

 

In attempting to make sense of what happens in Snoopy Come Home, it is appropriate to seek out events from Sparky's life that may have inspired the situation, and, in turn, try and put the events it into the larger context of the story as a whole.  When asked whether character x in Peanuts was person Y in Schulz’s life, he would respond, “It’s not that simple.”  I shall endeavor not to oversimplify these relationships in the review.  Snoopy Come Home was released in August of 1972.  I don't exactly how much before this time the script was written.  The part of the film where Charlie Brown describes his father and the cute girl in the car is autobiograohical and it happened around April of 1970.  The script must not have been finished before that time.  I will be drawing heavily from a recent biography of Charles Schulz written by David Michaelis entitled "Schulz and Peanuts."  It is very well written and researched and I would not be able to explore Snoopy Come Home with this kind of depth without his insight into Schulz's life.  It is also here that I learned that Charles Schulz went by the nickname, "Sparky".  I will be using this to refer to him frequently during this review.

 

Movie Review

The film opens with Charlie Brown and Linus standing beside each other, watching the tide flow in.  Charlie Brown clutches a rock that has just washed up at his feet; he takes a pitcher's stance and tosses it into the ocean.  

"Nice going Charlie Brown," Linus surmises, "It took that rock four thousand years to get to shore and now you've thrown it back."   

Affected by the comment, Charlie Brown frowns, pauses, and puts his hand across his chest.  He puzzles briefly over how some seemingly innocent action on his part can intrude upon and affect attachments, processes, and feelings that he will always miss.  He reaches the fatalistic conclusion: "Everything I do makes me feel guilty."  No action of his will ever be completely innocent.  He shrugs, looks up at the sky and fixes his gaze on the ground.  Is there any way to act within the context of another person that doesn't carry the potential to hurt or to be hurt?

Snoopy comes on the scene, surfing like a professional.  After a few wipeouts he returns to shore.  He digs a moat for Peppermint Patty.  The two ride the surf for a while.  They have a few confusing and comical dialogues wherein Patty talks about how she likes Snoopy and they agree to meet the next day.  

 


 


 

The sun sets over the horizon and the scene shifts to the gang playing Monopoly.  Charlie Brown is about to roll the dice.  Before he can finish, Lucy touts her monopolistic practices, relishing her real estate over Boardwalk and Park Place and asserts that she will destroy C.B. economically.  C.B. is undeterred, he says,  "I'll never give up.  I have a philosophy that tells me no matter how bad things get, things will always turn out good in the end."  We shall revisit this later in the film.  After some incarceration and expensive hospitality, Charlie Brown's thoughts leave the game.  He gets up and stares outside the window.  "It's almost dark.  Snoopy isn't home yet.  I wonder where that dog is.  There he is.  I wonder where he's been all day.  What an independent dog!  He comes and goes as he pleases, but I have to stay home and fix his supper."  He immediately goes to prepare Snoopy's dinner.  Already frustrated, he hurts his thumb in the process of getting Snoopy's dinner.  He delivers it to the doghouse with a scowl.  

"Alright it's supper time, come and get your supper."  Snoopy turns over and looks at him.  "Do you see this finger?  I cut it opening up a stupid can of dog food, for your stupid supper.  I hope you appreciate it, besides that, it wasn't just a finger, it was my thumb."  Charlie Brown gestures with his thumb for emphasis.  After he finishes, he points down at Snoopy's dog dish commandingly.  Snoopy hops down and stares at Charlie Brown blankly.

"You've been acting awfully independent lately.  Don't forget that I'm the one that feeds you.  I'm the one who takes care of you, look at me when I'm talking to you.  Without me you'd be nothing.  Everything that you have, you have because of me, even that collar around your neck.  Why I remember the day that I had bought that collar with the money I had work for, and had saved..   [Snoopy removes his collar and offers it] I hate it when he does that."

 

Charlie Brown is constantly reminded that you cannot force gratitude or appreciation.  Snoopy also reminds him that some relationships are based on convenience and not out of necessity.  He'd sooner give up having someone take care of him than he would his unfettered freedom.  The ease with which Snoopy considers giving up their relationship will haunt Charlie Brown throughout the film.

The next morning, Snoopy packs up his things and heads off to meet Peppermint Patty.  As he arrives on the beach, something sudden and unexpected happens.  A sign has been posted with "No Dogs Allowed" in bold print.  Snoopy is forcefully ejected from the beach with all his belongings.  His date with Peppermint Patty is ruined and the chorus taunts him.  

No dogs allowed  

You're not our crowd

Obey the signs and

You're out of place

You bark and chase

 

Snoopy finds himself relegated to the role of a mere canine.  For the first time, he is prohibited from crossing the familiar boundary into humanity.  He doesn't take it lightly.  He returns to his doghouse, and dictates his outrage to his new friend, Woodstock.  Snoopy, as it turns out, is literate and he composes the following letter:

To the Editor

Dear Sir:

  It has come to our attention that a new sign has been posted on the beach which says that no dogs will be allowed there on.  Therefore I am writing to protest this policy.  Very sincerely yours, [Snoopy]

"Like most of the nation's ten-year olds," says the great American novelist Jonathan Franzen, "An intense private relationship with Snoopy."  

Shulz biographer David Michaelis described the dynamic of this relationship as being stronger than the relationship that the reader or viewer could have with any of the other characters.  The audience he would be made into "Snoopy's accomplices in transcendence." 

 Snoopy's world changes during the film.  He is forbidden to mingle in the activities of the rest of humanity and for the first time, the force of his character cannot change it.  The beach would not be the first assault on his transcendence.  Charlie Brown would soon take the dog and his sister to the library.  Sally complains during the trip.  "I know why you want me to go to the library.  You're trying to trick me into learning how to read.  That's what you're trying to do.  Who cares about reading?  The next thing you know, you're going to want me to conjugate all those verbs and split those infinitives.  I hate reading, I just want to be a good housewife."  Worthy of note is that Sally's complaints betray a deeper understanding of grammar than what is to be had today.  

In the library, Snoopy picks up a copy of The Bunnies and laughs uproariously.  He is ejected from the library.  "No dogs allowed in library."

Barred from literary enjoyments, Snoopy unleashes his frustration upon the world.  He fights Linus for his blanket.  The two exchange Linus gets in two consecutive nose pinches.  Snoopy counters by forcing Linus to his feet and kicking both of his knees.  

Snoopy's next victim is Lucy.  He stumbles upon her as she as she practices boxing. Upon seeing the beagle, she smiles and welcomes his challenge.  This is probably the most violent encounter in all of the comic strips and television shows.  To understand the meaning behind the bout, it helps to understand Lucy's character and what was going on during his life at this time.  Lucy's main inspiration was Schulz's first wife, Joyce Halverson.  Joyce was a very strong woman.  David Michaelis, Schulz's biographer, summarized her as follows: "Throughout her life, Joyce was known to a few very close friends as an exceptionally thoughtful and caring person.  But beyond those stalwarts, her manner could seem brash, arbitrarily changeable.  Her energy and drive- the willingness to initiate the next good thing and indeed to press it upon others-would give way in the twinkling of an eye to an untrusting stiffness and a self-absorbed shyness."

 

Several times during interviews, Joyce would be asked, "Are you Lucy?"  In April of 1962, she said, "Sparky really is Charlie Brown, and I guess I'm Lucy. Though I don't like to admit it.  I suppose that means something, but someone has to do the hollering."  Michaelis would describe the dynamic of their marriage as follows: "If he got angry with Joyce, she got angrier, and things came to a showdown.  But if he kept his anger in and instead made it silently clear that he was downcast, Joyce's anger was neutralized by his 'depression,' and they retuned to a stalemated middle ground.  In this way, he learned that there was nothing Joyce could do when he let himself turn black; 'being depressed' gradually became the weapon with which he could express his anger while disorienting Joyce's."  By the time Snoopy Come Home was written, however, even this had stopped working.  There is something different about the way that Sparky would model his characters after people in his own life.   He did not just rely on people in his life for an artistic inspiration of a few character traits; there was a kind of transference that took place with his characters.  His characters could represent his own deeply personal conflicts and they evolved with him.  Snoopy Come Home was written during the time when Schulz's marriage was on the rocks.  It was released in 1972; the same year that Sparky's divorce would become final.  Snoopy Come Home has the violent boxing match between Snoopy and Lucy.  In the Peanuts comic strip, Charlie Brown kicks Lucy off the baseball team.  1972 would also be the year that Sparky would walk out on Joyce.  Some part of Sparky's personality emerged around the time Snoopy Come Home was written and he had decided that he was no longer happy and that he would not resign himself to this fate, he would do what he had never been able to before, he would challenge Joyce.  It was never Charlie Brown's place to stand against Lucy.  She would ultimately decide whether he succeeded or failed at kicking the football, she would act both as his tormentor and his therapist, ultimately deciding on the manner in which he was neurotic and what the cure would be.  It was Charlie Brown's lot in life to always be dominated and to never succeed, but Snoopy knew no such boundaries.  David Michaelis reports the following: "He kept trying to leave her.  Once, after a fight, he got in the car, intending to drive away and never come back.  But no sooner was he behind the wheel than he realized he had a dentist appointment within the hour - which he kept -and went back to the studio to finish the day's work, then come home as usual.  Then came an afternoon-he always remembered that it happened in the afternoon-when he and Joyce fought once more.  This time, he made it to the front door, actually passed through, and headed outdoors, walking towards his silly, dangerous little Ford Pinto.  He pulled the keys from his pocket-everything looked unreal, even the car keys-when, without warning Joyce's head popped out the second-floor window.  'You don't have the guts!' she called after him.  He answered with silence.  'You won't do it!' she taunted.  He put the key in the ignition and started the car.  He put the stick in gear and drove down the long driveway."

Snoopy wins the fight.  He lands a kiss on Lucy's nose to seal his victory and he dances in celebration.  

 

The movie leaves Snoopy's frustrations and cuts to a scene of mountains and trees that pans over to a hospital.  The viewer is treated to the angelic vocal styling of Shelby Flint.  We see a blond girl who seems to be about Charlie Brown's age.  She's reading a book for a few moments and then she puts it down.  She picks up her doll for a few seconds, frowns, and then sets it aside.  She is neither in the mood to be serious or playful.  She gets out of her bed and sits down to write a letter.  She pauses as she writes, choosing her words carefully. 

 

I still remember a summer gone by, why was it over so fast?

I still remember when we said goodbye, why can't those summer times last?

Do you remember me, once I called you my own?

I'm sad as I can be; it's no fun all alone

Why can't a memory roll away like a tear?

Why do I go to my window, hoping you will appear?

Cause I need you, cause I miss you, cause I wish you were here

 

 

The songs simple lyrics, together with Shelby Flint's amazing voice reasonates with people.  Crippled by ill health and loneliness, our mind turns to the past, there doesn't seem to be anywhere else familiar or hopeful for the mind to go.  This is where the happiness hides.  

The little girl in the hospital room makes a desperate appeal.  She questions whether or not the memory of this former relationship still exists in the mind of its object.  If it does, perhaps the one might be moved by her unhappiness and loneliness.  Some part of her knows that there was a reason why they had parted earlier and things have changed now.  Re-establishing contact may not be the best thing for her or the one that she is attempting to reach out to again, but her memories and the desires they invoke in her seem to abide.  She can't put it out of her mind; she goes to her hospital window and imagines things coming back.  After addressing the letter, she moves over to the glass window and stares outside.  A tear streams down her cheek.  She decides to mail the letter.  Her ultimate justification is in the song's last line; it is that she is unhealthy and unhappy; she needs to have closeness back in her life.

In the next scene, Charlie Brown gets the mail.  He sees the letter that the girl wrote and notices it's addressed to Snoopy.  The very idea of a letter addressed to someone else that he knows makes him think about how one-sided his relationships are.  He talks about how no one ever writes him, not even his pen pals.  Something about his personality bleeds into every expression and interaction he has and it ultimately makes him shoulder the burden of any kind of relationship he has with another person.  The reflection ends as the letter is delivered.  Snoopy seems a bit perplexed, but immediately after opening it a serious look comes over his face.  He wastes no time packing up his things and leaves as soon as his travel companion can join him.  Charlie Brown asks for an explanation.  Snoopy merely shakes hands and walks away.  Charlie Brown, helpless, laments, "I never know what's going on."

Charlie Brown looks out into the night sky as the rain pours down on the streets.  Surely Snoopy would come back under these conditions…if he were going to come back.  "He's gone," concludes Charlie Brown.  "I don't understand it.  Who is Lila?" Questioned by his friends, Charlie Brown reads its contents.

Dear Snoopy,

  I have been in the hospital for three weeks and I am very lonely.  Could you come to visit me?  Love

-Lila

 

Who is this person in Snoopy's life that is totally unknown to him?  Why can she call Snoopy away in a second with just a letter?  The questions are maddening.  There are no answers now.  Charlie Brown sits down with Linus and they talk. 

C:  I don't understand it.  Why would Snoopy go to Lila?

L: Maybe Snoopy felt he needed a vacation.  Maybe his life with you was getting too boring

C: Boring what was I supposed to do?  Keep him entertained?

L: I don't know.  What do other dog owners do?

C: I never thought of myself as being a dog owner.  Snoopy was more like a friend. 

L: Friends get bored too Charlie Brown. 

Snoopy cuts through a residential neighborhood on his way to Lila.  He greets a girl warmly.  Although her name is never said in the film, it's Clara.  Snoopy endures his greatest shame at her hands.  She does the unthinkable.  She treats Snoopy like an ordinary dog.  She gives him a dog's name, Rex.  She ties him up to a fence.  She drags him along when she takes him anywhere.  I always hated this scene as a kid.  Some part of me said, "No you don't understand.  That's Snoopy!  You don't treat Snoopy like that!"  The ordeal is degrading for Snoopy, though it is colored by some comic relief.  After it, we return to Charlie Brown and Linus.

 

 C:  I'm depressed Linus.  I need an encouraging word to cheer me up.

L: Happiness lies in our destiny.  Like a cloudless sky before the storms of tomorrow destroy the dreams of yesterday and last week.

C:  I think that blanket is doing something to you.

Perhaps Linus is as wrapped in fatalism as he is in his warm reassuring cloth.

As Snoopy and Woodstock continue their journey to Lila, they find themselves afflicted by the urge to make music again.  They play the chorus to a song with lyrics that the film will repeat often.

Me and you,

a two man crew

Side by side we're unified

and we will never be divided

Lose or win

Sink or swim

We're the best of buddies

Me and you

 

The song and its instrumental will be repeated frequently throughout the film.  Ironically enough it is juxtaposed between scenes where its sentiments are challenged.  Which friendships are unified to this degree?  Which friendships can endure through all kinds of circumstances?  Is it the friendship Snoopy has with Lila?  Is it his relationship with Charlie Brown?  These two relationships become difficult and complex through the film.  The friendship that is going to last or at least that the sentiment attaches to is Snoopy's relationship to Woodstock.  This film is Woodstock's very first appearance.  How does a relationship that emerges out of nowhere enjoy such a degree of permanence?  

After the two retire for the evening, we return to Charlie Brown.  He is sitting on his stoop depressed.  Lucy is with him.

"There's only one thing to be done Charlie Brown.  I think you should disown that ungrateful dog."  Lucy's advice reflects a fundamentally different view of relationships.  Relationships, it seems for her, are about giving and taking.  When you aren't getting back what you put in, you break away. 

"Disown him?! " Charlie Brown cannot even begin to entertain the notion.

"You have to face it.  Nobody made him leave.  He went because he wanted to.  You'll just have to get another dog."

Her position is that people will ultimately do what they want to do in relationships.  Personal desire and fulfillment take precedence over all else.  When someone doesn't want to be around anymore, the only thing to do is look for something new. 

"I don't want another dog.  I still say if I don't find out who Lila is, I'll go crazy." 

There are some autobiographical elements to this exchange.  Sparky struggled with depression throughout his life, although he would say, "Depression was the wrong term.  I would say 'melancholy.'"  Joyce's solution to this problem would be to "Snap out of it."  In her defense, she had her own struggles for identity during that time.  "I just can't be satisfied in being Mrs. Charles Schulz, I have to be ME."  She would later say, "I get so depressed sometimes.  I look around and think: what have I accomplished?  Then I realize I do all the footwork.  I like businesses and wheelings and dealings . . .Most of all I love building."  "It's hard to be an individual with a famous person in the house.  I know that I wanted to do things that were mine alone, and as the children get older, they begin to feel the same."  Happiness and identity for her was achieving something unique that was one's own.  She wanted to create.  Friends took note of her reactions to her husband's depression.  "He was perpetually sad, and he had no reason to be," she contended.  "He got everything he wanted.  Here was a life where everything worked out.  Everything progressed.  The dailies, then the Sunday page, the comic books, the Reuben, Yales: everything eh wanted!  It just went, went, went."  One day she said to him, "I don't understand why you're depressed, I'd be ecstatic."  She would later say, "He was always depressed.  I think he liked being depressed."  When he would talk about the time he served in the military or the death of his mother, Joyce would respond with "There are worse things than that.  You were not eleven, for instance.  It's tragic, but everyone loses their mother."  Joyce's sorrows centered around feeling a lack of accomplishment and identity.  For Sparky, it was entirely different.  While there were times when he would be struck with melancholy, there was still something missing from his life.  He wanted to feel loved.  

Charlie Brown refuses to think of his relationship with Snoopy as a position to fill, which is to assert that he is not interested in attempting to replace it with something else.  He is holding out for some kind of explanation as to what is happening with Snoopy and Lila.  Lucy thinks he is the architect of his own misery.  Lucy's advice is to 'Snap out of it'.  It is a harsh reaction to Charlie Brown's plight and her frustration at his inability to move on, but it's one that she thinks is effective. When the evidence of betrayal is so clear, Charlie Brown is only holding himself back by hanging on to this relationship in his mind.  His devotion is self destructive in her mind and he is the cause of his own unhappiness.  She turns to Peppermint Patty and says,  "He's hopeless."

Peppermint Patty does not share in that sentiment.  She sits down next to him.  "Listen to that music Chuck.  It's a carnival, doesn't that do something to you?  Listen. It’s a beautiful evening Chuck.  The air is warm, the sky is filled with starts and I've got a whole pocket full of tickets for the carnival.  C'mon let's go."

Listen, people are laughing Chuck, they're having a good time.  No response.

"You can't let yourself get into a mood like this.  I know you miss Snoopy.  I miss him too, but if you let yourself get into a mood, no one will want to be around you.  No one likes a moody person Chuck.  Take it from me; I learned a long time ago that if you go around in a mood feeling sorry for yourself, you do it alone.  And I mean alone chuck." 

In her view, it’s not productive or healthy to continually think about the relationship with Snoopy.  There is nothing to be gained by thinking about it, whether he comes back or not.  

"We're having a good time, aren't we Chuck.  I love this kind of like.  I like action.  I'm a moving type of person.  When nothing is moving, I feel low.  That's why I always keep moving."

Is this good advice?  Isn't there anything to be gained by figuring out why Snoopy left and who Lila is?  Or is the advice to keep moving just a truism for those of a certain temperament?  The answer seems to be both.  Patty enjoys herself in all of the carnival festivities while Charlie Brown spends all of his time trying to hide the fact that he cannot do anything well and tries to keep from embarrassing himself as much as possible.  Despite the fact that she says that if you get in a mood, you will be alone, she reaches out to Charlie Brown to pull him out.  It's true that Charlie Brown may never share her personality and its motivations, but it doesn't mean that he can't take her advice.  Thanks to her intervention, this will be one evening that Charlie Brown does not spend lonely, sad, and preoccupied on his doorstep.  By the end of the evening, Charlie Brown is not thinking about Snoopy and that's quite an accomplishment.

 The contrast between the two character's personality types comes up in conversation on the Ferris wheel.

"Does your kind ever think about love Chuck?"

"What do you mean, my kind?"

As much as he would like to deny it, there is some truth to the idea.  Charlie Brown, and Charles Schulz, is different from other people.  His first wife Joyce said of him:  "Sparky is really Charlie Brown, or rather, he was," she said.  "Before we were married, he was shy and reserved.  He felt he could never do anything well.  He's different now.  But he's still quiet and kind of reserved."  The real question that is being asked is whether a shy quiet person thinks about love.  The answer: all the time.  In July of 71, Schulz had brought a few business associates to the ice arena that he and his wife had built.  One of the associates, Warren Lockhart, was a very handsome man that had attracted the attention from a great many of the women in the area.  "What's that like?" Sparky asked, "Women aren't interested in me."  Warren summarized Schulz's entire battery of questions as "How do I loosen up?"  He also mentioned that Schulz was not as unattractive to woman as he had assumed.  "That combination of being shy and yet capable of coming up with just the right words at the right moment." 

Peppermint Patty apologizes for the characterization and the two shake and make up.  Patty points out that he has just touched her hand.  Perhaps it's an acknowledgement that Chuck isn't completely repulsive.  The subject of love comes up again later in the conversation. 


 

Charles Schulz wrote Snoopy come home during a period of great marital strain.  It was also written at the height of an affair that he had with Tracey Claudius.  His marriage with Joyce was ending up being a disaster and he had grown close to Tracey.  Schulz would say of his relationship with her: "I have never been happier than when we were prowling together through the stacks of books, holding hands and teasing."  David Michaelis summarized the relationship as follows: "They teased about everything.  He was such a prig about good grammar; she nicknamed him "Mr. Whom."  Charlie Brown and Patty continue their dialogue. 

You kind of like being with me, don't you Chuck?  What do you think love is Chuck? 

C: Well, years ago my dad owned a black 1934, two-door Sedan.

P: What's that got do to with love?

C: Well, this is what he told me … there was this real cute girl, see…She used to go for rides with him in his car, and whenever he called for her, he would always open the car door for her.  After she got in and had closed the door, he'd walk around the back of the car to the driver's side, but before he could get there, she would reach over and press the button, locking him out.  Then she'd just sit there and wrinkle her nose, and grin at him.  That's what I think love is.

P:  Sometimes I wonder about you, Chuck. 

Charlie Brown attributes the incident to his dad, but the event is entirely autobiographical.  Whenever Schulz would follow the chivalrous duty of an old-fashioned courtship by opening and closing the passenger door for Tracey, she would come right back and lock him out of the other side, smiling at him with a wrinkled nose.  In Tracey, Schulz genuinely believed that he had found what he had been missing.  He had found out what love was.  Thinking of love in terms of roles, destiny or responsibility had left him trapped and unhappy.  Love is teasing, love is playful, love buoys a person up, or at least that's what it was at this time in his life.  Tracey would later say of Schulz, "He just needed somebody who didn't make him feel alone."

Snoopy continues his journey to meet Lila.  After being turned away from passenger rail, he follows the rails on foot.  He and Woodstock settle for the night.  Even in sleep, their minds do not rest; they continue the long journey toward Lila.  

After a long journey, the dog and bird pair arrives at the hospital where Lila is waiting, only to be greeted by another "No Dogs" allowed sign.  Birds are also included in the scope of the prohibition.  Snoopy's devotion to Lila inspires new heights of disobedience.  He first attempts to enter the hospital posing as a surgeon.  When this proves unsuccessful he sneaks in. 

Lila awakes to see Snoopy at her bedside.  She at first has a look complete surprise and then a broad smile comes over her face.  "Snoopy!" she exlaims.  The two hold hands and their smiles reach heights only possible in animated media.    "I knew you'd come."  The two embrace.  

 

 Lila, in a weakened state promptly slips back into unconscious, but keeps the same smile on her face as she rests.  Snoopy is saddened at the sight of her ill health.  He sighs deeply and wraps his arms around her as she sleeps.

We return to the group.  They each take a turn discussing their feelings about Snoopy and speculate as to what may have caused him to leave.

Patty: You've got to agree, he's gone because of me.  Maybe I came on too strong for him

Lucy: Right after our fight, he kissed me.  I think he thinks that I think there's something wrong with him

He wanted my blanket.  I wouldn't let go.  He left because I was hostile and unkind to him.

I made him feel like he was unwanted, like he was a pest.  Now I'm going out of my mind for him.

Patty's comments are a nice touch of comic relief.  Lucy's comments reflect about as much remorse as her personality allows her to take.  Linus and Charlie Brown are both a bit more introspective.  Linus recognizes his selfishness.  He sees that this selfishness created an attitude of hostility that was alienating.  Charlie Brown isn't selfish per se, but he recognizes the way that he had developed a sense of entitlement and is no doubt thinking of how he had attempted to force gratitude out of Snoopy the night he had cut his thumb.  That night was not unique, the drama had played out a few times.    He wanted to have Snoopy see the harsh reality that was absent of his care and sacrifice.  After finally getting his wish, Charlie Brown finds himself mired in regret.  

 

It's clear that Snoopy left because he wanted to leave.  Lucy pointed this out earlier and Charlie Brown couldn't deny it.  Would Snoopy have stayed at home after reading this letter if everyone had treated Snoopy differently?  Charlie Brown read the letter that Lila wrote, they know that Snoopy is compelled by some sense of duty; they must think that if they had all treated him differently then Lila wouldn't be in his life.  Is this actually true?  As the viewer of the film, we know that while Snoopy was legitimately frustrated with Lucy, Linus, and Charlie Brown, he did not leave out of frustration, but rather out of a sense of duty.  Why does the group presume that they are responsible for what happened?  What is to be gained in shouldering this blame? 

Schulz seems to be asserting that it is important to take responsibility and be accountable in relationships, but at the same time you can never completely understand another person or control what another person does.  Taking blame for something is another way of saying that you caused something.  Even if it is negative, perhaps it gives an illusion of control and understanding to what would otherwise be totally unexplainable phenomena.  It's true that they all could have treated Snoopy better, but nothing they could have done would have prevented him from leaving.  Charlie Brown and Linus continue their discussion.

“Do you think pets are important?  A friend of mine at school got some goldfish for his birthday, but I don't think he really wanted them.” 

If the film is an allegory of relationships, or perhaps an exploration of them, Linus is really asking whether entering into certain types of relationships, like marriage, is important.  His line of questioning might come from the observation that people end up in relationships they don't really want to be in.  The confusing thing is how do they get there?  There is a pause. 

"How did you happen to get Snoopy Charlie Brown?"

“Well I’m not quite sure because I was kind of young.  I think it was something that happened at a playground.  I was playing in the sandbox with a couple of other kids.  I can't even remember who they were.  Anyway all of the sudden one of them poured a whole bucket of sand over my head.  I started crying, I guess.  And then my mother came running up and took me home.  It’s kind of embarrassing now to talk about it.  Anyway, the next day we drove out to the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm and my mother and dad bought me a dog.” 

Charlie Brown sighs deeply. 

“I just don’t know what to do, Linus.  If I don't find out what happened to Snoopy, I think I'll go out of my mind!”

"I don't understand it, every morning I brought him a toasted English muffin with grape jelly on it.  Sometimes at noon, I'd even fix him a salad.  He wrote all those letters to the editor.  Why doesn't he write me a letter?  Snoopy, come home!"

Charlie Brown ultimately chooses to accept his confusion rather than pretend like he's responsible for Snoopy leaving.  He knows that he can always do better, (this fact haunts him daily) but as he examines his relationship with Snoopy and his sacrifices, he can't find anything that seems to bring on what's happened now.  He still feels entitled to at least an explanation.  Even if he is in the right, it doesn't matter.  All that he wants right now is for Snoopy to come back.

Linus resolves to begin his investigation.

We return to Lila and Snoopy in the hospital.  I'm feeling so much better now that you're here.  I hope I can go home soon."  Snoopy and Woodstock hide behind a cabinet as the Nurse brings in some food.  Lila thanks the nurse politely and Snoopy and Woodstock promptly return to her side as soon as the nurse leaves.  "I'm feeling better every day.  Perhaps soon we can go home."  This causes Snoopy to swallow heavily.  Lila continues, "I know that when my mother sees how you've made me well, she'll let me take you home with me.  Lila gets down from her hospital bed and wraps her arms around Snoopy lovingly.  "I'll keep you with me forever."  Snoopy looks uneasy, he backs away immediately after she looks go and can't make eye contact.  "What's the matter Snoopy?" Lila asks, "You do want to go home with me don't you?"  Snoopy starts to cry.  Lila knows she has hit a nerve.   "You poor dear.  You’re homesick aren't you?"  Snoopy loves Lila too much to cause her any pain in her weakened condition.  Asking Snoopy to stay was justifiable, but asking him to give up everything for her is too much.   "But we'll be good for each other," she points out.

Meanwhile, the rest of the group is attempting to ascertain Snoopy's whereabouts.  Lucy is making a phone call.  "Hello Humane Society.  I'm looking for a lost dog.  <unintelligible adult dialogue>  Describe him?  I don't know, he's just a stupid beagle. "

She slams down the receiver.  "I've had it, little wishy-washy Charlie Brown can find his dog himself." 

The scene is a touch of comic relief, but it's also an observation that we can be around people for so long and spend so much time with them and yet know so little about them.

L:  You are not Snoopy's original owner.  You bought Snoopy in the month of October.  According to the records of the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm, Snoopy was bought by another family in August.  This family had a little girl named Lila.  Snoopy and Lila loved each other very much.  They had to move and the family decided they just couldn't keep Snoopy, so they returned him.  You got a used dog Charlie Brown

C: So that's why Snoopy left

L: Sure, he had tried to forget her all these years, but when he found out she was in the hospital, he ran off to see her

C: I'll be he wishes he was still her dog instead of mine.

 

Charlie Brown is finally able to let go of the idea that Snoopy left because he was unhappy.  He still takes a jab at himself when he says that Snoopy would have preferred Lila for an owner. 

Who is Lila, anyway?  She's named after Lyala Bischoff, a secret crush that Schulz had in high school.  She made an appearnace in the Peanuts comic strip in 1968 and in the strip it was revealed that she was Snoopy's first owner.  The relationship is explored in slightly more depth in the film.   I say slightly because the film doesn't delve into a great number of particulars.  For the film's purposes, Linus's summation will suffice.  Lila was Snoopy's original owner.  She loved Snoopy very much.  Due to some particular circumstances, the family could not keep Snoopy and so Snoopy was returned to the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm where he was eventually adopted by Charlie Brown.  Years past and Snoopy had tried to forget her, but when Lila's letter came the memories returned and Snoopy rushed to the hospital to see her.  Their relationship is entirely inaccessible to us.  Her existence, and the loyalty and affection it commands raises questions about whether or not we can ever completely know another person, even in our longest and most important relationships.

The scene cuts back to Snoopy and Lila.  "Well Snoopy, this is our last day together.  What are we going to do?  You're coming to visit me saved me."   Her tone betrays a desire that Snoopy leave his original owner for her.  Snoopy gets up and walks away at even the thought of this.  Lila follows him.   

"Are you sure you don't want to come home with me?"  Snoopy responds by hugging her lovingly, but he can't look her in the eye.  Lila responds, "It's up to you Snoopy.  You can go to your other owner if you want to, but I wish you'd come home with me."  Snoopy begins packing his things and shakes Lila's hands.  They're both crying. 

As Snoopy exits the hospital, he cannot restrain himself from looking back.  He turns to see Lila.  She's staring at him from her hospital window.  Her face is still wet with tears.  

Snoopy cannot go through with his decision to leave.  He makes his decision in an instant and rushes back up to her room.  Lila seems legitimately surprised.  

 

"Snoopy?!"  she cries out in pleasant astonishment.  "I'm so glad you came back.  This means that you want to stay with me doesn't it?"

Things don't mean themselves, they mean what we want them to mean.  For Lila, Snoopy comes back because he wants to come back.  He wants to come back because he wants to stay.  He wants to stay because he prefers being with her to being with his original owner and his other friends.  It doesn't matter that the idea of leaving his old life had brought him to tears and that he had packed his things only a few moments before.  The decision could only be the conclusion of a process of careful deliberation rather than a spur of the moment act motivated by pity and guilt.

"Why don't you go home and settle your affairs?  After this we'll never be apart again, promise me?"

She knows that he has been homesick.  She saw him cry at the very thought of giving up his former friends.  She feels threatened.  There can only be one solution.  Snoopy will have to give up his former life.  He needs to make a decision and a promise to make it permanent.  His feelings on the matter may change and so it is important that he give his word while he is still motivated.  Lila sincerely loves Snoopy, she cares about him deeply.  The Snoopy she knows was the six-month-old puppy.  She does not see the dog struggling to transcend.  

 

Charlie Brown walks out his back door.  He hears the sounds of a typewriter.  He turns to look and to his astonishment, Snoopy is there, typing away. 

"Hey!  You're back!  I heard about Lila.  Did you see her, was she well?  Where did you stay all the time you were gone?  Was Lila nice to you?  Why didn't you write?  Are you hungry?  Are you well?  Can I do anything for you? 

 

I'm not getting any answers.  I can't stand it."

Snoopy, anticipating this sort of reaction, has already typed his response.  He hands Charlie Brown the letter.  It reads as follows:

I Snoopy being of sound mind do bequeath to Charlie Brown, my previous owner, my best wishes for the future.  My treasured belongings will be given to my friends as follows:

My croquet set I leave to Linus as well as the chess set.  My record collection, I leave in the capable hands of Schroeder. 

Carpeting and rest of the furnishings, to my favorite charity, the American Humane Association.  Thus, with the settling of my affairs, I return to Lila, who needs me.

 

 

We don't get to hear any dialogue or see Charlie Brown's initial reaction to the letter.  The scene cuts out to a farewell party.  Schroeder plays "It's a long way to Tipperary" a British music hall and marching song that describes abandoning the familiarity of England to meet a sweet girl.  Linus conducts the festivities. 

Snoopy finds himself crying through the festivities.  Linus manages to get Lucy and Schroeder to say a few words.  He calls on Charlie Brown, Snoopy's "Ex-owner" to speak.

 

Grief stricken, Charlie Brown cannot look up at the podium.  Snoopy swallows heavily, anticipating something heavy.  Charlie Brown hands Snoopy a present without making eye contact and bursts into tears.  Snoopy starts crying as well.  Snoopy says his final goodbye to all of his old friends.  He unwraps his presents and afterward, everyone starts crying.  The farewell party ends.

 

Snoopy hugs his doghouse one last time.  His fantasies of fighting the Red Baron have come to an end.  He bids farewell to Woodstock.  He will be facing this journey alone.  Woodstock cries and runs to Snoopy one last time.  They exchange a hug before shaking hands and parting.

 

Charlie Brown is waiting for Snoopy's final goodbye on the sidewalk.  He holds back his feelings as he attempts to summon the courage to say goodbye to Snoopy forever

He does not reach out to Snoopy, perhaps it is out of fear that he will try and change his mind.  Snoopy hugs him and all Charlie Brown can do is hold back his tears.

The moment passes quickly and in an instant Snoopy is gone.  He is a shrinking shadow beneath the evening sky. 

Just when you think that you know where you stand

You've got the world in your hand

Just when you're sure of a dream that you planned

that's when the scenery changes.  It changes

Just when you think that you know all the facts; you hold the whole ball of wax  You've got it made you can start to relax

That's when your world rearranges and changes

 

Someone that you really cared about,

someone that you couldn't live without severs the ties. 

All at once you're all alone and scared

All the happy hello's that you shared changed to goodbyes

 

Why must we pay for hellos that we say? 

Pay when we sigh and adieu.

Just when you're sure and you're safe and secure

that's when it happens to you.  It changes. 

“Why can't we get all the people together in the world that we really like and then just stay together forever?  Someone would leave.  Someone always leaves, and then we'd have to say goodbye.  I hate goodbyes.”

 

 

Life is nothing but impermanence.  Charlie Brown has learned to cope with losing at everything he had ever tried, the scorn of his so-called friends, and his romantic frustration.  He cannot adjust to not having Snoopy.  It was his only permanence and comfort in a world that was perpetually against him.  He had allowed himself to grow accustomed to that, to rely on it.  Snoopy was his dog, the two had grown up together, and he had worked and sacrificed to take care of him.  The relationship he had with Snoopy was one of the only things he had put real work into and could be proud of.  Now it had been taken from him.  The only entitlement Charlie Brown had, the pet owner relationship, was gone.  It had happened completely without warning and he found himself totally powerless.  He had assumed a kind of permanence that wasn't actually there.  He had assumed that he knew all the facts, or rather that he knew and cared for Snoopy better than anyone else did.

At its core, the song is a rejection of the philosophy that Charlie Brown articulated earlier in the film.  He had asserted that no matter how bad things get, things will always turn out good in the end.  Turning out good had come to mean being happy with the people that you cared about.  There is no final outcome anymore.  With the dissolution of his most secure relationship, the idea that things could ever reach a point where they become stable and persist is called into question.  The minute you become happy, the minute you feel safe, the minute that life is so hard all the time; this is the moment in which life will completely change and everything that you've built up will be destroyed.  He entertains a dream of everyone that he really likes coming together and staying together forever.  He can't even maintain the fantasy for a moment; he knows that someone is bound to leave for whatever reason.  It seems to be a hard truth about life that someone will always leave.  Nothing lasts.  He observes that for every time we let someone new into our lives and open our hearts, we are borrowing from the future.  Every time we find someone in our lives that we come to care about, we open some part of our heart to that person.  We will enjoy closeness for a time and happiness for a time.  At some point, we will have go give it up.  How will he recover from his recent loss?  Can we ever hope for any kind of permanence in our relationships?  Charlie Brown simply concludes that he needs more hellos.  This is not to say that he won't have to painfully surrender any joy or hope these new friends will give him, it's just to say that he needs to be at a different stage of the cycle than where he is at now.  

The events of 1972 almost assuredly happened too late in the production of the film's script to be autobiographical.  The song does however reflect a sense of impending loss and impermanence that would eventually come to fruition the year the film was released.  Perhaps some part of him knew that his attempts to find happiness with Tracey would ultimately fail.    In addition to his marital problems, his relationship with Tracey was also having issues.    She had wanted to think of Charlie Brown as innocence and Schulz as Charlie Brown.  In August of 1970, Sparky took Tracey to a public function for their give month anniversary.  Tracey wanted to be discreet, but Sparky introduced her as his wife.  Embarrassed, she whispered furiously, "I do not want to be the woman who ruined the innocence of the Peanuts characters." 

"You're so naive to think they're innocent.  Children are not innocent at all.  Children are cruel."

"Children aren't cruel.  They're learning from us."

He kept pursuing her. 

As time passed during the affair, Joyce found out.  She confronted him one evening.  "How could you do this?  Don't you know I go over the bills?  Don't you feel sorry about it?"

Sparky later sent the following letter to Tracey.

"My phone calls were discovered and a bad scene took place, so I have been forced to live without the sound of your nice voice, and, much worse, the sight of your marvelous face.  Do you still like-[crossed out]- love me?  I miss you very much and I don't know what to do.  Please be happy, but don't forget me."

Tracey had become disappointed in the fact that Sparky's letters to her remained unchanged, as time had passed.  He was continually gushy, almost to the point of being worshipful, and it made her feel invisible.  Sparky wrote letters with sentiments such as the following: "Tracey, Tracey, Tracey, Golden eyes and a perfect nose.  The nicest smile the world has ever seen . . . You are a very pretty girl.  You are the most fascinating girl I've ever met.  I love you very, very much.  The green light is driving me crazy." 

She had felt that he had stopped listening to him.  "I could say stuff and he wouldn't hear me."  She would later add, "There were things with Sparky that gave me great pause."  She became concerned about his ability to love and open up to other people.  She concluded, rather harshly, "He didn't think anyone cared because he didn't care for anyone."   She would finally conclude,  "When you put it all together, he wasn't who I thought he was."

Schulz kept pursuing Tracey through 1971.  He had also met Donna Smith in April of 1972.  Donna Smith was the woman that Sparky had initially pursued before marrying Joyce and she was the inspiration for the red haired girl that had captured Charlie Brown's affections.  She had been dating Sparky seriously for a while years earlier (she in fact, does have red hair), but had declined his marriage proposal, ultimately to marry Alan Wold.  The meeting had powerfully affected Sparky, it had dug up all of his memories of being in love and it had also brought back pain.

   A week later, Sparky had asked Tracey to marry him.  Tracey did not say yes, but simply told him that she could not make him happy. 

Tracey had become disappointed in the fact that Sparky's letters to her remained unchanged, as time had passed.  He was continually gushy, almost to the point of being worshipful, and it made her feel invisible.  Sparky wrote letters with sentiments such as the following: "Tracey, Tracey, Tracey, Golden eyes and a perfect nose.  The nicest smile the world has ever seen . . . You are a very pretty girl.  You are the most fascinating girl I've ever met.  I love you very, very much.  The green light is driving me crazy." 

She had felt that he had stopped listening to him.  "I could say stuff and he wouldn't hear me."  She would later add, "There were things with Sparky that gave me great pause."  She became concerned about his ability to love and open up to other people.  She concluded, rather harshly, "He didn't think anyone cared because he didn't care for anyone."   She would finally conclude,  "When you put it all together, he wasn't who I thought he was."

Schulz kept pursuing Tracey through 1971.  He had also met Donna Smith in April of 1972.  Donna Smith was the woman that Sparky had initially pursued before marrying Joyce and she was the inspiration for the red haired girl that had captured Charlie Brown's affections.  She had been dating Sparky seriously for a while years earlier (she in fact, does have red hair), but had declined his marriage proposal, ultimately to marry Alan Wold.  The meeting had powerfully affected Sparky, it had dug up all of his memories of being in love and it had also brought back pain.

   A week later, Sparky had asked Tracey to marry him.  Tracey did not say yes, but simply told him that she could not make him happy. 

His relationship with his children had also suffered around the time of Snoopy Come Home.  Joyce had had some issues trying to control their teenage daughter Meredith.  She had shown some signs of rebellion.  Joyce wanted Sparky's help and discipline, but he withdrew.  Meredith would later reflect, "My father was always kind of out of things, out of touch with me or what was going on and I felt I was kind of a threat to his social status, and I wanted to be accepted by him, and I wanted to be accepted by my mother.  It got to be kind of a distorted thing because I didn't feel any security with either of them."  Joyce had become infuriated over Meredith's unauthorized parties and sent Meredith and the rest of the children to an American school in Switzerland.  Sparky had objected to sending all of the children, but did not challenge Joyce.  The plan had backfired and Meredith returned pregnant at the age of 18.  "To me," Schulz said, "raising children is a complete mystery.  The older they get, the more it baffles me."

 The selection below is taken from Michaelis's biography.  It happens after Snoopy Come Home, but it captures Schulz's feelings about his divorce. 

"The day came when he decided to remove his gold wedding band, never to wear it again.  But it was stuck below the knuckle and would not come off.  His old pastor from the Merriam Park Church of God, Frederick Shackleton, and his wife, Doris, happened to be visiting the new studio that day and found themselves bearing inadvertent witness to Sparky's sense of shame: 'It makes you feel like a failure." The ring, with its dishonored engraving, Forever, adding a morbid envoi, finally had to be hacksawed off."

Sparky had grown highly sentimental during the years after his divorce and affair.  He could not even listen to his old records from the previous decade.  "For a long time after my separation and my missing of the kids for a little bit, it was so depressing that I just didn't listen to any.  It would make me sad."

His attempts at finding true love with Tracey had failed.  He couldn't succeed as a husband or as a father and he was terribly unhappy.  He had failed as good ol' Charlie Brown and as the transcendent Snoopy.  He hadn't been able to carry the weight of family with his misery over his relationship with Joyce and his bold decision to explore new territories and find happiness had proved fruitless.  His affair had only succeeded in hurting everyone, including himself.  There was a profound disconnect between Charlie Brown and Snoopy and both of them were unhappy.  Schulz's world was falling apart.

Charlie Brown is unable to cope.  He goes to Snoopy's doghouse and puts his head against the side.  Upon returning to his room he is greeted by a picture of Snoopy.  He sheds a tear at the sight of it.  He retires to bed for the evening.  He wakes up in the middle of the night and goes to Snoopy's doghouse.  He stares at its empty interior.  He starts back to his house, but turns back and gazes longingly at his empty doghouse.  He returns to the house and decides to have some cereal, however the second he pours his milk, he realizes he can't eat it and he pushes it aside.  

Charlie Brown's song concludes with the line, "It changes.  Why, oh why?"

Snoopy is shown heading over the address that Lila has given him.  Upon reaching the apartment, he turns to the left to see a familiar sign.  "No dogs allowed in this building."  Snoopy at once rejoices and dances.  Lila soon greets him.  "Snoopy, you finally got here.  We've been expecting you, our whole family is eager to see you again, and I can hardly wait to have you meet my cat.  You'll just love each other.  He's the sweetest thing."  Snoopy's eyes bulge at the thought of sharing an apartment with a cat and he recoils in fear.  Lila may love him, and Snoopy may feel a duty to care for her, but she has lost touch with who he is.  

 Snoopy points to the sign at the apartment entrance.  Lila is shocked and at once understands that she once again cannot have what she wants.  Snoopy cheerfully bids her goodbye and rushes off.  

The scene cuts out to the group sitting down at a bench.  Lucy turns to Charlie Brown.  "Have you ever thought of getting another dog Charlie Brown?"

Charlie Brown responds with language that bears unmistakable resemblance to that of a spurned lover's thought of loving again, "No, never again.  I never want to go through such an ordeal again."

 

Snoopy rushes back to see his friends.  He first meets Woodstock and then the entire gang surrounds him.  His carried up and triumphantly returned home.  Snoopy's return proves to be bittersweet.  He is initially able to reciprocate the affection of his friends, but his mind turns to business by the time he returns to the roof of his doghouse.  He requests the return of all of the items that he loaned his friends and threatens legal action if they do not comply in a timely manner.  Lucy explains, "He's your dog Charlie Brown and you can keep him!"  Lucy and the others storm off leaving Charlie Brown with Snoopy.  They had all reflected thoughtfully on their relationship with Snoopy and what might have been done to make Snoopy leave and ye.  The pervasive sentiment was simple, "Snoopy come home!"  And here he is.  The group realizes that the return of someone dearly missed is also a return of the same behaviors and character traits that inspired the alienating hostility in the first place.  Charlie Brown shrugs.  He's realized that he won't get the appreciation that felt he deserved.  If he hasn't received it after such an emotional reunion he'll probably never have it.  He understands the vast gulf that separates desires and expectations in a relationship and the entire episode is a grim reminder as to how little control he has over his relationship with Snoopy.  He doesn't know what to think or what to feel, his only comfort is that Snoopy is back.

 There are no easy answers.  Snoopy never could have gone back to Lila; he's changed too much since they were together.  She was asking for too much when she wanted him to stay with her.  Now she is left hurt and in the larger context of the Peanuts story she will ultimately be forgotten.  The truth is Snoopy does not just want to be loved.  He wants to be himself; he wants to assert himself as more than a dog, and perhaps, more than a person.  He wants to be completely independent and do as he pleases.  Lila's character would appear briefly in the Peanuts comic strip.  Charlie Brown began to question whether or not it would be better for Snoopy to have stayed with Lila instead of becoming his dog.  Linus explains that Snoopy probably would not have been happy in the apartment.  The next panel in the strip shows Snoopy riding atop his doghouse and fighting the Red Baron.  Linus was right.  Snoopy cannot live in an apartment, no matter how much he is loved.  Perhaps Schulz is trying to say that love is something more than duty and affection.  Snoopy is set free by the very thing that had made him feel so trapped; the notion that love is an obligation that is a product of our situation rather than our identity.  Once Snoopy sees clearly that it's not in his capacity to be for Lila what she wants, he realizes that he doesn't have to try.  He is free.  But what is love?  Affection, loyalty, fun, and personal growth are a part of it, are they not?  Don't these experiences soften up Snoopy or give him a certain measure of reverence?  How can things between Snoopy and Charlie Brown just go back to being the way they were after all that?  Doesn't Snoopy, or in fact, Schulz himself, owe us some kind of an explanation of what love really is or how we can really deal with these kinds of challenges?  No.  Lila was perfectly entitled to want Snoopy to come back to her in her weakened condition.  Her mistake was that she chose to misinterpret what Snoopy was doing.  Could she have helped it?  Probably not.  Charlie Brown was trying to get Snoopy to consider his own feelings and sacrifices so that he could feel appreciated.  He requested that, but he never forced Snoopy to acknowledge him and this freedom was the very thing that brought Snoopy back.  Could he have helped feeling this way?  Probably not.  We don't know why people do the things that we do.  Sometimes we find out later.  We might not ever be able to completely know a person or command unwavering loyalty or devotion.  The ultimate answer is just to give up on trying to answer these kinds of questions.  We just have to keep hoping that no matter how bad things get, that everything will turn out alright.  Joyce would soon find happiness with Ed Doty.  Sparky found a woman named Jean Forsyth Clyde.  Sparky would be happily married to her until the end of his life.