As a kid, I didn’t just look like Charlie Brown—I was Charlie Brown: loser, misfit, blockhead. Probably why I loved reading Peanuts so much.
It’s also why I enjoyed Bruce Handy’s essay on the “absurd precocity” of Charles Schulz’s nihilistic comic strip, adapted from The Peanuts Papers: Writers and Cartoonists on Charlie Brown, Snoopy & the Gang, and the Meaning of Life.
“On some level,” Handy writes, “Charlie Brown’s relentless suffering comforted me, a lightning rod, I think, for my own anxieties about my place in the world—Peanuts as catharsis, as worst-case scenario, with the awaited thunderclap of laughter substituting for the reassurance of a fairy-tale happily-ever-after.”
If I were a better writer, I could have written that sentence myself. But here’s where I part company with Mr. Handy. Sure, Peanuts taught me that life is cruel and people are terrible (lessons borne out pretty much every day, it seems), but it also reminded me that there’s beauty in the world. And beauty, wrote Dostoevsky, will change the world.
Like Charlie Brown, I’m still hoping.