"Charlie Brown must be the one who suffers, because he’s a caricature of the average person. Most of us are much more acquainted with losing than winning. Winning is great, but it isn’t funny"
Charles M. Schulz on Charlie Brown
Charles "Charlie" Brown (occasionally called Chuck by Peppermint Patty and sometimes referred to as Charles by Marcie) is the main protagonist in the Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schulz. Charlie Brown is a lovable loser, a child possessed of endless determination and hope, but who is ultimately dominated by his insecurities and a "permanent case of bad luck". He is often taken advantage of by his peers.
Charlie Brown first appeared in 1947, three years before Peanuts started, in a comic strip by Charles M. Schulz called Li'l Folks. He later appeared in the first Peanuts comic strip on October 2, 1950. He is one of the most well known characters in Peanuts and is considered to be the main character in the strip.
Charlie Brown states in the strip from November, 3, 1950, that he is "only four years old", but he aged over the next two decades. He says he is six in the strip from November 17, 1957. In the strip from April 3, 1971, he says that he will be twenty-one in thirteen years time, making him eight years old in that strip. He says that he is eight-and-a-half years old in the strip from July 11, 1979. Later references continue to peg Charlie Brown as being approximately eight years old.
Charlie Brown is an avid kite-flyer, but his kites keep landing in a "Kite-Eating Tree" or suffering even worse fates. In one strip from 1958, he finally gets the kite to fly before it spontaneously combusts in the air.
Every autumn Lucy van Pelt promises to hold a football for Charlie Brown to kick, and every year she pulls it away as he follows through, causing him to fly in the air and land painfully on his back. Charlie Brown was never shown as succeeding to kick the football in the comic strip. In a strip from 1979, in which Charlie Brown is in hospital, Lucy promises she will never pull the football away again. She does not pull the football away when Charlie Brown tries to kick it after he gets well, but he misses the football and kicks her hand. However, he kicks it in a 1981 TV special, It's Magic, Charlie Brown when he was invisible. In a strip from 1999, Lucy delegates the task of holding the ball to her brother Rerun van Pelt. Rerun does not reveal whether Charlie Brown kicks the ball or not.
Charlie Brown is the only character to appear in the first Peanuts comic strip from October 2, 1950 and the last one from February 13, 2000.According to a 1950 comic strip, his birthday is on October 30 but no strips from October 30 in subsequent years make reference to this.
Charlie Brown is drawn with only a small curl of hair at the front of his head, and a little in the back. Though this is often interpreted as him being bald, Charles M. Schulz has explained that he saw Charlie Brown as having hair that was so light, and cut so short, that it could not be seen very easily. Snoopy thinks of his owner as "the round-headed kid". Charlie Brown almost always wears black shorts and a polo shirt with a black zig-zag stripe around the middle. In the animated TV specials, his shirt is colored yellow. In the past, his shirt was colored red in the Sunday comic strips and blue in Peanuts merchandise but it now usually appears as yellow in all media. For most of the first two months of the Peanuts comic strip's run, until December 21, 1950 Charlie Brown's wore a plain tee-shirt without a zig-zag.
Peanuts Sunday strips were often titled Peanuts featuring Good Ol' Charlie Brown. Schulz later stated that he had wanted to name the strip Good Ol' Charlie Brown but that the name Peanuts was chosen by the cartoon syndicate instead; as a result, some people inferred that Charlie Brown's nickname was "Peanuts". Schulz suggested the Sunday title as a clarification device.
Charlie Brown is almost always addressed by his full name by other characters in the strip. Two of the exceptions to this are Peppermint Patty, who calls him "Chuck" most of the time. Her friend Marcie usually calls him "Charles" but occasionally calls him "Chuck". Some readers interpret this as an indication of the portrayed crushes that both girls have on him , which they both admit to each other in a strip from 1979. His sister Sally usually calls him "Big Brother", probably because it would be awkward for a member of his own family to use their surname when addressing him. A minor character named Peggy Jean from the early 1990s calls him "Brownie Charles". Charlie Brown, in his typical nervous and awkward fashion, flubs his own name when he introduces himself to Peggy Jean and cannot bring himself to correct the mistake.
It is eventually revealed that the first person to have called him "Charlie Brown" was Poochie, a girl who played with Snoopy as a pup, and who first appeared in the strip on January 7, 1973. This can imply, that before this, people used to refer to him as Charlie.
List of names
- Charlie Brown is the name by which most other characters call him.
- Chuck is the name by which Peppermint Patty usually calls him. Marcie originally called him by that name too. In You're the Greatest, Charlie Brown, Peppermint Patty calls him "Chuck-o".
- Charles is the name by which Marcie, The Goose Eggs and his pen(cil) pal call him. In the movie Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don't Come Back!!), Violette calls him "Charles", using the French pronunciation.
- Sally always calls him "Big Brother."
- Charlie is used by his mother, his pen(cil) pal, and by Lucy in A Charlie Brown Christmas.
- Pumpkin Head is what he is called by the teenager in You're the Greatest, Charlie Brown.
- "Mr. Sack" is the moniker his fellow campers at summer camp give him, due to the fact that he wears a sack over his head. The comic strip storyline was adapted as the segment "Sack" in It's An Adventure, Charlie Brown.
- Peggy Jean calls him "Brownie Charles"
PersonalityInitially, Charlie Brown was more assertive and playful than his character would later become: He would play tricks on other cast members, and some strips had romantic overtones between Charlie Brown, Patty and Violet. He would cause headaches for adults, though he was from the start not especially competent at any skill. (The early side of Charlie Brown popped up in another form in the 1959 hit "Charlie Brown" by the doo wop group The Coasters. The titular Charlie Brown of the song gets into mischief by doing typical things such as writing on the walls and shooting off spitballs at school. Like the Peanuts character, this Charlie Brown wonders: Why is everybody always pickin' on me?)
Charlie Brown soon evolved into the sad sack character he is best known as: feeling enslaved to the care of Snoopy and beset by negative comments from everyone around him. He is often victimized and abused by the other characters, usually getting blamed when something goes wrong (even when he is not the one at fault). Common elements in the strip's storylines include Charlie Brown stubbornly refusing to give in even when all is lost from the outset (e.g., standing on the pitcher's mound alone, refusing to let a torrential downpour interrupt his beloved baseball game), or suddenly displaying a skill and rising within a field, only to suffer a humiliating loss just when he is about to win it all (most famously, Charlie Brown's efforts to win a national Spelling Bee in the feature-length film A Boy Named Charlie Brown).
Charlie Brown often feels like people are picking on him, even if in reality they are not. For instance, in one strip, from May 9, 1951, Charlie Brown says his raincoat is too small. Patty tries to explain that the problem is not that the raincoat is too small, but that Charlie Brown is too big. However, Charlie Brown takes offence at that, and says "Always blaming me for everything". Charlie Brown also often feels that nobody likes him, or that people are constantly laughing at him, except for when he is trying to be funny, of course.
Charlie Brown never receives cards on Valentine's Day or Christmas and only gets rocks when he goes trick or treating on Halloween but never loses hope that he will. His misfortunes garnered so much sympathy from the audience that many young viewers of the Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown . TV specials in North America have sent Valentine cards and Halloween candy respectively to the broadcasting television networks in an effort to show Charlie Brown they cared for him.
Charlie Brown's run of bad luck continued until the strip ended its run in 2000. He did have occasional victories, though, such as hitting a game-winning home run off a pitch by Royanne, on March 30, 1993 and soundly defeating Joe Agate in a game of marbles on April 11, 1995. Usually, Charlie Brown was a representative for everyone going through a time when they feel like nothing ever goes right for them. However, Charlie Brown refuses to give up. In the final weeks of the strip, determined to finally have a winning baseball season at least, Charlie Brown tried to channel Joe Torre, which made his sister think he was cracking up.
Charlie Brown also has a problem of letting people take advantage of him, or not sticking up for himself when people pick on him. He is often referred to as a "wishy-washy" character. For instance, on April 15, 1953, Lucy tries to steal all of Charlie Brown's caramels when he offers her one. When Charlie Brown notices that she took all of the caramels, instead of getting upset, he simply offers her the sack he was carrying the caramels in.
However, even with Charlie Brown's depressed nature, he is always very optimistic, and no matter how bad a day might be, he always looks foward for tomorrow. He also has a positive attitude on his baseball team, and no matter how the game looks, even if it looks like his team has no chance of winning, Charlie Brown is always confident that his team still has a chance of winning.
Charlie Brown also tends to fall in love very easily. He fell for many girls, most famously the Little Red-Haired Girl. He also fell in love with Peggy Jean, his Pen-pal, a girl named Emily, and a few more in the strip and the TV specials. In the strip from July 24, 1990, in the storyline with Peggy Jean, Linus tells Charlie Brown he is always in love. And in the TV special, Someday You'll Find Her, Charlie Brown, Linus tells Charlie Brown that he gets a new true love every week.
See main article: Charlie Brown and Snoopy's relationship
Snoopy is Charlie Brown's dog, and they have a strange relationship. Despite them not being from the same species, they are still good friends, although sometimes they are annoyed at each other. Charlie Brown does many things for Snoopy, and Snoopy normally appreciates it, but sometimes he does not. They both need each other, and on many occasions are seen hugging. Since April 1969, Snoopy has been unable to remember his master's name, referring to him as "that round-headed kid."
Lucy van Pelt
See main article: Charlie Brown and Lucy's relationship.
Charlie Brown has a slightly critical opinion of Lucy, as she is always doing mean things to Linus, or dropping fly balls. Charlie Brown also constantly falls for Lucy's "football gag". Sometimes, it seems that Charlie Brown does regard Lucy as a close friend and occasionally cares about her. In one strip, Lucy gives him a list of things she wants for Christmas, he does not throw it away like Schroeder does, instead, he goes to a shop and says, " Yes, ma'am , I'm looking for a gift for a friend of mine, a girl..." In the strip from April 5, 1987, when Lucy gets hit on the head with a flyball, he immediately runs to her to see if she is all right.
Linus van PeltCharlie Brown's best friend appears to be Linus, who initially appeared as an infant, but aged and grew to be only slightly younger that Charlie Brown. The two often support each other in small ways when the other's foibles have been painfully exposed. Indeed, it is often Charlie Brown who is seen commiserating with Linus on November 1, after the Great Pumpkin fails to appear yet again.
Linus is himself a sort of geek like Charlie Brown, because of his inability to let go of his eccentricities, so the two have much in common.
In 1959, Charlie Brown's sister Sally was born. Initially Charlie Brown doted on his baby sister, though she too became a thorn in his side as she grew up. Sally often pesters him for help with her homework, and berates him for misunderstanding certain concepts. Charlie Brown stoically and guiltily bears this, although sometimes he is able to let Sally dig her own holes without pulling him in with her while very occasionally firmly putting his foot down on truly unacceptable behavior, such as lying about taking a crayon from school.
In the early years of the strip, Violet's relationship with Charlie Brown seem to change day to day. In some strips, Violet would tell Charlie Brown how much she likes him, and be concerned about whether or not he liked her back. On other occasions, she would be mean and rude to Charlie Brown, and try to annoy him and hurt his feelings. As her appearances became less frequent in the later years of the strip, her mercurial nature was, however, unchanged: sometimes she would use any excuse to bring Charlie Brown down or elevate herself above him; while other times the two were quite cordial, often spending the day together chatting.
Charlie Brown has a pen-pal but because he uses a fountain pen and because he has less skill than others at keeping the ink flow under control, he resorts to graphite and starts off the letters, "Dear Pencil Pal". These correspondences, which began in the August 25, 1958 strip, are usually one-way; but on 14 April, 1960, Charlie Brown reads Lucy a letter he has received from his pen pal. In the letter, the pen pal reveals that he or she read Charlie Brown's latest letter to his/her class, and that they all agree he must be a nice person and someone who is pleasant to know. In response to which, Charlie Brown utters a vigorous "Ha!" to Lucy. In a series of strips from 1994, the Pen Pal is revealed to be a girl from Scotland named Morag. Charlie Brown fantasizes about a future romance with Morag, but his plans are crushed when he learns Morag had sixty other pen pals.
The Little Red-Haired Girl
Charlie Brown is in love with an unseen character known simply as "the Little Red-Haired Girl", though he rarely has the courage to talk to her, and when he does it always goes badly. For instance, when he finally gets the nerve to call her, he accidentally calls Marcie's house instead.
Peppermint Patty and Marcie
As a result of his preoccupation with the Little Red-Haired Girl, Charlie Brown remains oblivious to the occasional attentions of Peppermint Patty and Marcie. In particular, he has a tendency to say the wrong thing at the wrong time, to both of them; Peppermint Patty when she seeks reassurance over her "big nose" and her femininity, and Marcie when she tries to show that she cares about him. However, sometimes Charlie Brown might return feelings for one of them; for example in You're the Greatest, Charlie Brown near the end after Marcie winks at Charlie Brown, he blushes, which can be interpreted as saying he likes her. He also blushes when she kisses him in There's No Time for Love, Charlie Brown.
Charlie Brown has a brief, yet surprisingly successful flirtation with a minor character called Peggy Jean whom he meets at summer camp. She kisses him and says she loves him.
Charlie Brown has accumulated many memorable catch phrases and utterances:
- "Good grief!"
- "I can't stand it! I just can't stand it!"
- "Why can't I have a normal/ordinary dog like everyone else?"
- "AAAUUGH !"
- "I got a rock".