This freaked me out the first time I heard.
Back in 1989, a week before Halloween, Jim Davis began a short storyline in which Garfield discovered himself all alone in a dark, deserted house. No one had been in that house for years. So what was going on?
Wikipedia says that among the theories regarding the meaning of these strips, there's the possibility that "Garfield was either dead or starving to death in an abandoned house, imagining future strips in a state of denial."
Evidence supporting the idea that Garfield is dead and imagining current strips (and all others subsequent to October 28, 1989) in a state of denial:
- October 27, 1989 – During Garfield's odd experience, he suddenly sees Jon and Odie. Jon offers Garfield food. Jon disappears. If Garfield imagined Jon then, he could have gotten much better at imagining things. Maybe he could imagine his whole life.
- October 27, 1989 – Caption: "Locked fast within a time when he no longer exists, Garfield grapples with his greatest fear… loneliness." How is he locked within this time? Two possibilities. Either he is imagining it (like in a dream), or it is real. If it is a dream, and he can't wake up, he's locked in. If it's real, and he can't change things (i.e., go back in time to when he was alive and when Jon still lived in the house), he's locked in. So the caption doesn't definitively specify one way or another (dream or reality), but it does leave room for the possibility that Garfield really is dead.
- October 28, 1989 – Caption: "After years of taking life for granted, Garfield is shaken by a horrifying vision of the inevitable process called 'time.' He has only one weapon… denial." Maybe some of those years (the ones leading up to 1989) were also denial of his death. He "woke up" to reality for a few moments, realized the truth, and quickly dove back in to his make-believe world, using denial to shelter himself.
- October 28, 1989 – Garfield says, "I don't want to be alone," and immediately Jon and Odie appear. Garfield is in the same position he was in the "Dead Garfield" reality. His arms were raised. If he had been sleeping, he likely wouldn't have been on the counter. He'd have been in his bed box. He'd have woken up, and still have been tucked in. So if the "Dead Garfield" reality was part of a dream, and Jon and Odie are part of Garfield's reality, then Garfield experienced that dream while moving around on the counter. That is unusual. Jon greets him with, "Want some breakfast, Garfield?" That is just like before, when he offered some food and then faded away. It seems like Garfield could very likely be imagining this resolution out of desperation.
- October 28, 1989 – Caption: "An imagination is a powerful tool. It can tint memories of the past, shade perceptions of the present, or paint a future so vivid that it can entice … or terrify, all depending upon how we conduct ourselves today…END." The use of the ellipsis at the end seems to denote a "loose end." Does this caption mean that Garfield used his powerful imagination to paint a vivid future of things to be, and that future was terrifying? Or did it mean that he has finally woken up to the truth, that he is really dead, and will from now on use his powerful imagination to shade his perceptions of the present, so as to (re)create an imaginary and comforting home in place of a dark, abandoned house in which his spirit is locked?
I like Garfield. I think he's alive. And Wikipedia says, "Jim Davis is reported to have actually 'laughed loudly' when informed of these rumors circulating on the internet."
But I think that this short storyline was created, maybe accidentally, to show two separate realities, both equally possible. In Reality #1 (the commonly accepted reality), Garfield is alive. So whatever he experienced between October 23 and 28, 1989 was just imagined, and provided him with a life lesson regarding appreciation and not taking things for granted. In Reality #2 (the alternate reality), Garfield is dead, and perhaps was dead before October 23, 1989. Some of the strips prior to 1989 and all of them following that year have been imagined by Garfield out of desperation, in denial of his unfortunate circumstances. In Reality #2, Garfield is possibly haunting Jon's old house, moving around while acting out his imagined life.
This situation is just like Total Recall, where the director made the film so that you never know whether Arnold is dreaming or awake. Most people think it was all real, because Arnold's an action hero, and making it into a dream would invalidate his heroics. I too like to think it was real. But there are 3 distinct realities presented in that film. The first, he's really a secret agent, and the memory implant of a vacation to Mars (where he would have been a secret agent) was coincidence, and never given to him. In the second reality, he did receive the implant, and had a schizoid embolism followed by a free-form delusion. After a certain point in the movie, he was making up the adventure as he went along, and was lobotomized at the very end of the film (the white light when he kisses Melina). The third possibility is that the memory implant worked perfectly, and everything, all the doubts and confusion, was simply built in to make his adventure seem more convincing. After all, he paid good money for that memory implant!
This also happened in the TV shows "Smallville" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Both series each featured an episode in which the main character of the show wakes up in an insane asylum and is told that his/her adventures are all part of an ongoing delusion. I believe both episodes ended by leaving the question up in the air as to whether or not the entire series was a part of one big delusion.
So it does seem possible that Garfield could be dead…
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Tags: 1989, action hero, appreciation, buffy, dead, denial, dream, free-form delusion, garfield, ghost, haunting, imagination, lobotomy, memory implant, october, odie, schizoid embolism, smallville, total recall, vampire slayer