Those Peanuts Characters: “All I Saw Was a Poem to Unrequited Love”

I have a deep abiding love for the Peanuts characters. They stand out as perfectly real to me in the same way that Emma Bovary, Holden Caulfield, Gregor Samsa, and Charlotte the spider do. I was a socially awkward child, and the daily plight of Charlie Brown said something to me. I understood in a profoundly personal way the guaranteed failure that made up his world. It was my world, too. . . .

I never stopped reading the strip but as I grew older I started to take it for granted. My adolescent tastes turned to the more direct power fantasies of comic books. Only in my early twenties, when I started seeing the strip through adult eyes, did it come back to life. Rereading all those old paperback collections—stretching back thirty years at that point—I began to recognize the sophisticated wit and poignant social commentary that were the foundation of Schulz’s writing. But above all I saw the strip as a poem to unrequited love. Lucy for Schroeder, Sally for Linus, Charlie Brown for the Little Red Haired Girl. The very best of the individual strips read like polished haikus. Those Peanut characters, so familiar to all of us, wander through the bleak suburban landscape like miniature existentialists.

—From the book The Peanuts Papers: Writers and Cartoonists on Charlie Brown, Snoopy & the Gang, and the Meaning of Life. The above was written by Seth, the designer for the book The Complete Peanuts.



  1. Yes, there is unrequited love in life but the real message of Peanuts is keep trying and keep smiling.

  2. This is from a post I wrote in 2015 about the book Schulz and Peanuts, by David Michaelis:

    One of my favorite books is Schulz and Peanuts, by David Michaelis; it’s the life story of Charles Schulz, a shy kid from Minneapolis who created the nation’s most popular comic strip. It has some memorable comic strips and also some editorial advice.

    Here’s Schulz talking about how to attract readers: “You must give the audience moments. You must give them laughter, you must give them a little poignancy…”

    Creating moments?

    Getting laughs is hard. But any writer who does great reporting can create moments of poignancy, moments that get the reader to say wow.

    It can be an emotional wow that brings tears to your eyes. Or the cerebral wow that makes the reader think, “Now I understand.”

    Here’s Michaelis writing about the last strip that Schulz drew before he died 15 years ago:

    “The cold of a January day. Peppermint Patty and Marcie, behind the rampart of one snow fort, exchange volleys of snowballs with Charlie Brown and Linus. Snoopy sits behind the lines in Charlie Brown’s camp, pondering a snowball.” The caption: “Suddenly the dog realized that his dad had never taught him how to throw snowballs.”

    Michaelis on the meaning of that: “The last strip is not about a father who hasn’t taught his son to play but a father who hadn’t known how to help his son become the artist he yearned to be—a father who couldn’t teach him how to play because he himself could not free himself to play. Carl Schulz always had to be doing something useful. He could not just go out and throw baseballs or snowballs with his son. Drawing, even on a fogged trolley car window, had been the one area in which the son was free to play, to be a child, and to be creative; Peanuts had preserved that sacred grove for fifty years.”

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