Welcome to "Mad Arcana", where we find connections between the characters of Mad Men and the Major Arcana of the Tarot. Because symbolism, that's why.

Mad Men devotees know that there's always more to the story than we're explicitly told. From the costuming to the background noise, Matthew Weiner lives for the little details that end up being of major significance. For example, Weiner Bros.' vanity card features an image of The Sun card, one of the "trumps" (or Major Arcana) of the Tarot. Given Weiner's penchant for symbolism (and Mad Men's expansive cast) it's not hard to find links between the 22 cards in that series and the characters on the show.

"Why can’t I get anything good all at once?”

If privileged douchebaggery had a face, it would be Pete Campbell's. Overly smug and eminently punchable, Pete was born into New York high society. His connections and family pedigree got him employed at Sterling Cooper as an Account Executive, though in the early seasons it was more than hinted that his true goal was to be a member of the Creative team.

Being born into the lap of luxury does not necessarily prepare one for the cutthroat world of business—especially the business of professional asskissing—and Pete was completely out of his element most of the time in the earlier seasons. His general naïveté and his raging sense of entitlement caused him to make a number of grave missteps that very nearly cost him his job. His smarmy, pompous demeanor also wasn't doing him any favors. However, Pete also has a forward-thinking, progressive bent and the most potential for growth, which makes him Number 0: The Fool.


The cards of the Major Arcana tell a story about the Fool's journey, and how the people he comes into contact with end up changing him. Though he's had some major backslides in the last two seasons, no character on the series has undergone as massive a transformation as Pete did between seasons 1 and 4. During that time, he became a major asset to the agency, bringing in enough new business that Roger Sterling, a senior partner, began to worry about Pete completely overtaking his job. He is the only one at the agency to question why they don't advertise to minority markets, and although he's ambitious to a fault, he always seems to be looking out for what he feels is the good of the agency. His personal life is much more of a mess—commitment really isn't in his nature—but by season 4 he appears to be approaching his marriage as a partnership of equals, a progressive idea for the time.

Like Pete, the Fool is a visionary, full of ideas and ambition, but sometimes gets so caught up in his own plans and schemes that he loses sight of what's going on around him. The Fool is also a childlike figure, and Pete, with his babyfaced appearance and often immature reactions fits that bill, as well. Pete at his worst is like a spoiled toddler, prone to throwing tantrums to get his way and sulking when he doesn't. He tends to lapse into this mode when he feels underappreciated, as he has for most of the last two seasons.


But the Fool's journey is not always positive, and though Pete has hit some stumbling blocks in his development of late, he still has time to pick himself up, dust himself off, and rediscover his purpose. After all, there is no growth without hardship.