Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

Charlie Brown: Tragedies and Trials

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Charlie Brown

Charlie Brown, the central character in Charles Schultz' long-running cartoon "Peanuts."

Certainly, there’s no doubt you recall Charles Schultz‘s Peanuts cartoon character Charlie Brown. The series namesake was, of course Charlie Brown, who – as were all the characters – was perhaps aged 10, or 12 years. That’s a phenomenally formative time in our lives.

As children are wont to do, they imitate adults, particularly their parents. Perhaps emulate might be a better word? For with emulation there is a desire to be like, or in some sense exceed a person, and their character, whereas with imitation, there is not necessarily a sense of desire. It is merely a state of being, or of existence.

Nevertheless, as with all cartoons – and indeed, life – there were certain repetitive events. Nearing Halloween, for example, the readers could look forward to “The Great Pumpkin,” a fictitious imaginary character within the strip whose exclusive existence was in the fertile imagination of Charles Schultz. Though throughout the years he drew the characters in various stages of attempted discovery, readers never saw even the slightest hint of the elusive “Great Pumpkin.”

Similarly, readers were witness to Linus‘ ever-present blanket, Schroeder‘s piano, Lucy‘s psychiatry booth, and Charlie Brown’s never ending saga with the kite and football.

Perhaps you recall it.

The story was always the same, and readers always knew what would happen. It was calculable, predictable, and unchanging. And yet, it was comic, if only in a tragic way.

Most often occurring in autumn – otherwise known as “football season” for the fans – Lucy would seek to engage Charlie Brown in a game of football. Or, at least she would offer to hold the football while Charlie Brown would run up to kick it. Football games are started with kick-offs, as you know. The starting team which kicks off has possession of the ball, and once kick-off occurs, they become the defensive team.

Lucy always held the ball for every one of Charlie Brown’s attempts to kick off.

It was tragically ironic, however, that Lucy – though she appeared to be on Charlie Brown’s team – never allowed Charlie Brown to kick the ball.

In every instance, Charlie Brown would – time and time again, even though he wearied of it – trust Lucy to hold the ball. And with all that was within him, every time he would rush up to the ball Lucy would hold, and, at the very last minute as he was committed at the point of no return – his leg swung back in mid-arc to kick the ball with all his might – Lucy would snatch the ball away from its place, and Charlie Brown would suffer a mighty tumble, and fall flat on his back… every time.

Every time. Without fail.

Time and time again, Lucy demonstrated that in that instance, she could not be trusted. And yet, with his child-like innocence, and ever-present hope, Charlie Brown would trust Lucy to to the very thing that she continually demonstrated she would neither commit to, or follow through with.

Over the years, those never-aging child-like characters never changed, for they seemed to learn few lessons from their life experiences. On occasion, Charlie Brown would recall Lucy’s deceitful trickery and would express some reticence to playing football with her, though the readers could be certain that, eventually, he would lower his defenses, ignore every sign in which she continually demonstrated that she never changed her behavior, and would, once again, become a victim of her deceit.

It was easy for readers to pity poor Charlie Brown, for he was a trusting soul, one who believed in the goodness of everyone… including those most near him who continually demonstrated they could and would disappoint him, and cause him harm.

What love!

What trust!

What ignorance!

Charlie Brown wasn’t the Almighty.

Charlie Brown didn’t use his good judgement.

Charlie Brown never learned his lesson.

Charlie Brown just couldn’t understand why Lucy would constantly betray him.

But understanding why Lucy would betray him wasn’t Charlie Brown’s problem. It was that he was never able to learn his lessons… even when he taught himself the hard way.

Part of the irony of it all was that Lucy – the deceitfully treacherous little girl – would on occasion, set up a psychiatry booth, and dispense advice.

Imagine that… a little girl whose baneful existence in a comic strip consistently demonstrated that the was not to be trusted, would dispense advice. How absurd is that!?!

It might have escaped some readers, but the solitary character whom would visit Lucy’s psychiatric booth was Charlie Brown. Even when she was out, and the booth temporarily manned by Schroeder, Charlie Brown was the solitary client.

Schroeder was perhaps the solitary character who saw through Lucy’s treachery, and once, when he gave her a Valentine, he remarked that he needn’t love her to give her one, because “barely being able to tolerate her” was sufficient reason.

Ever the aloof one, she is self-centered and independent of almost all characters in the strip, and only on rare occasion does she ever seem to express a sense of uncharacteristic honesty or genuine feelings. And those are only toward Snoopy, Charlie Brown’s dog. On those rare times, her character seems to begin to experience a sense of reflective self-awareness when in Snoopy’s presence. However, as she comes near the conclusion of her interaction with him, she quickly squelches any lesson she might seem to have learned, and leaves unchanged, remaining cynically bitter, sarcastic and narcissistic.

What we see emerging in the development of the character of Charlie Brown – recall, we’re talking about pre-adolescent character – is that Charlie Brown and Lucy seem seemingly inextricably drawn toward each other in a very unhealthy manner. And in reality, it is perhaps Charlie Brown whom is more drawn to Lucy, than she is to him.

With the psychiatry booth, she purposely takes unfair advantage of Charlie Brown’s good nature and unwitting character, and directs him toward herself precisely at the time when he would genuinely seek insight or understanding in his life. She purposely and deceitfully gives him bad advice, and he continues to heed her. She is, in fact, manipulative and abusive, while he is ignorant of her treachery.

To describe her relationship with Charlie Brown as symbiotic would be incorrect, for in almost every instance of relational interaction, Charlie Brown is disappointed by Lucy. While to characterize their relationship as antibiotic might be more accurate, there is never quite the sense that the ultimate demise of one character is accomplished. And it is precisely that aspect of Charlie Brown’s character which is perplexing to some.

Charlie Brown, though he may exercise good judgement in some cases at times, demonstrates more than once that his most notable character strength – forgiveness and trust – is simultaneously his most vulnerable weakness. Consequently, because he does not recognize his own flaws, he becomes prey to others – most notably Lucy – and more often than not, to himself. And it is tragically so.

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