"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 (called Chuck by Peppermint Patty and sometimes referred to as Charles by Marcie) is the central and main protagonist in the Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schulz. He has been hailed as one of the best cartoon characters of all time, and he has become one of the great American archetypes and the only Peanuts character to have done so.
Personality-wise, he is gentle, insecure, and lovable. Charlie Brown possesses significant determination and hope but frequently fails because of his insecurities, outside interference, or plain bad luck. While he can be smart, he over-thinks things and this often gives him a tendency to procrastinate.
While all of the permanent characters (and a few minor characters) are his friends, he is often ostracized by them, and three of his friends even bully him, particularly Lucy van Pelt. Many of them (including the bullies), however, follow him as the manager of a baseball team, and that is where Charlie Brown's greatest skill, good leadership, is displayed. He leads the baseball team and keeps hoping for a victory despite their numerous failures and painful letdowns, yelling words of admirable encouragement to his players, leading them to the next game. Charlie Brown has many more traits, and his character is very deep.
Charlie Brown inherited a massive number of traits from Schulz, right down to his first name. His nickname "Charlie" and his last name "Brown" were given for Charlie Brown, one of Schulz's co-workers at the Art Instruction Inc.
He and Snoopy are the only characters to appear in every TV special and movie.
HistoryCharlie Brown first appeared in 1948, two 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 storyline from July and August 1979, in which Charlie Brown is in the 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.
In a comic strip from July 11, 1979, Charlie Brown's age is confirmed to be 8 and a half.
Charlie Brown's first name 'Charles' was not revealed until March 17, 1977.
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 claimed that he saw Charlie Brown as having hair that was so light, and cut so short, that it could not be seen very easily. However, this is contradicted by the July 17, 1955 Sunday strip, in which Charlie Brown tells Schroeder that he does not have yellow hair, as well as by the TV special You're a Good Sport, Charlie Brown, in which he says that he does not have much hair to cut. As another irony, Brown's father is a barber—just like Schulz's father.
The roundness of Charlie Brown's head is often commented on by other characters in the strip. Snoopy thinks of his owner as "the round-headed kid". Ironically, Lucy frequently calls him a "blockhead".
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 a deep yellow. In the past, his shirt was colored red in the Sunday comic strips 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 wore a plain tee-shirt without a zig-zag. He, like most male characters, wears brown leather shoes, and yellow socks. In The Peanuts Movie, he wears long, black pants.
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. (Note that the phrase "good ol' Charlie Brown" is said in the first strip two times by Shermy.)
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, and her friend Marcie. Marcie originally followed Peppermint Patty's lead and called him "Chuck" too. Later, however, she took to calling him "Charles". Some readers interpret the special names the two girls have for Charlie Brown as an indication of the portrayed crushes that both girls have on him, which they both admit to each other in the strip from July 21, 1979. Charlie Brown's 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 simply 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 once in A Charlie Brown Christmas.
- Pumpkin Head is what he is called by the teenager in You're the Greatest, Charlie Brown.
- "Sack" and "Mr. Sack" are the monikers his fellow campers at summer camp give him in a storyline from June and July 1973, 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".
PersonalityIn the very earliest strips, 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. Sometimes, he would bother adults. As the strip progressed, Charlie Brown became the "lovable loser" that everyone knows and loves. He is a meek, gentle, innocent, polite, and kind-hearted child, who always means well and cares deeply about his friends and family. He is often victimized and abused by the other characters, usually getting blamed when something goes wrong even though he is obviously not the one at fault.
Charlie Brown emotionally swings between being negatively pessimistic and being heroically optimistic. He fails at most things and is often insulted by Lucy and Violet and Patty, resulting in his depression and often pessimistic view of life; an example is his reluctance to get up and start a day because he might spoil it. He also hates himself. Contradicting this negativity is an optimistic side; no matter how bad a day might be, he often looks forward for tomorrow. He also has a positive attitude on life, hoping for good things to happen; one such case is his attitude about his baseball team, and no matter how the game looks, even if it looks like his team has no prospect to win, Charlie Brown is always confident that his team still has a chance of winning. (He claims that his team has both never won a game but is also one win away from the playoffs.) Common elements in the strip's storylines include Charlie Brown stubborn refusal 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). He hates losing, and he does not let his frequent failures get in the way of becoming great; he wants people to praise him, and he tries to achieve that goal by working hard and improving any skill he has on some fields whilst trying to find more fields he has skill at. He despairs because he suffers so much that each day might likely end badly for him, but he is positive enough to hope for the best, hating the notion of being doomed to suffer, and he always works hard to achieve anything that he wishes to. Charlie Brown is very ambitious.
Despite what Lucy or Violet may think of him, Charlie Brown is actually intelligent and insightful, with a somewhat above-average vocabulary (though not as high as Linus'), and is philosophical and deep-thinking; this has often led him to talk to himself about his problems, what others may be saying about him, and philosophy in general.
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 offense 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 has stated that he is very fond of books. Despite this, he often procrastinates book report writing.
Charlie Brown is also notable for being a budding cartoonist, creating his own comic strips; he would show these strips to the other characters; this trait is likely to have been inspired by Schulz's own early childhood beginnings at cartooning. Being an admirer of comics, he also owns his own comic book collection; he has a taste for comic books like "Revolutionary War Comics", "Civil War Comics", and "World War I Comics".
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.
While he fails in many things, he has shown skill on some: he has been shown as a carpenter in his own right, as he was shown redesigning Snoopy's doghouse (which is bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside) on its third rebuilding, and he has also occasionally built birdhouses. He can also play the guitar, as seen in the TV special Play It Again, Charlie Brown. He is also quite skilled at marbles, for although he always suffered intense defeat whenever he played against Patty, she was the only character he was shown losing to, with him soundly taking down Joe Agate and proving his skill.
Charlie Brown is generally generous: 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, he easily forgives her and offers her the sack he was carrying the caramels in.
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.
In spite of all of his setbacks, life's cruelties, and unfair random chance, Charlie Brown believes in basic decency toward others and that things are right in the universe. He never gives up hope on others, even if he struggles with believing in himself.
See main article: Charlie Brown and Snoopy's relationship
Snoopy is Charlie Brown's dog, and they have a strange but strong relationship. They seem to be able to understand each other, to the point of Charlie Brown being able to read Snoopy's mind. Despite them not being from the same species, they are still close friends, although sometimes they are annoyed at each other. Charlie Brown was the one who taught Snoopy to walk on his hind legs. 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." Although Snoopy is technically the Brown family's dog, no one is his master and he has a completely independent streak.
See main article: Charlie Brown and Sally Brown's relationship
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. Charlie Brown stoically bears this, although sometimes he is able to let Sally dig her own holes without pulling him in with her while occasionally firmly putting his foot down on truly unacceptable behavior, such as lying about taking a crayon from school or reading his letters.
For his part, Charlie Brown is often frustrated by Sally's laziness and her reluctance to do the right thing when she finds herself in a difficult situation. His attempts to lecture Sally usually either go over her head or simply fall on deaf ears. However, Charlie Brown still always helps her, when it comes to her homework, or bullies, even though Sally rarely appreciates what he does for her.
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 PeltLinus is Charlie Brown's best friend, who initially appeared as an infant, but aged and grew to be only slightly younger than 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. They are commonly seen having discussions when leaning up against the brick wall, when walking to school or when sitting on a street curb.
Rerun van Pelt
Rerun and Charlie Brown appear to have little interaction with each other in strips from the 1970s and 80s. The main exception being the storyline from 1973 in which Lucy convinces a reluctant Charlie Brown to allow infant Rerun to join Charlie Brown's baseball team. Rerun is instrumental in the team's win, as he is so small that the opposing pitcher cannot throw any strikes at him, and Rerun gets a game-winning walk. However, the victory is later voided because Rerun and Snoopy had bet five cents on the game.
However, the two have more contact between the 1990s when Rerun grew beyond infancy. Rerun is often shown asking Charlie Brown if he can play on his baseball team or if he can borrow Snoopy. Charlie Brown usually is unwilling to let Rerun play on his team, but usually allows Rerun to play with Snoopy.
Unlike the other children, Rerun comes to admire Charlie Brown, while watching Charlie Brown warm up on his pitcher's mound on one occasion, he refers to Charlie Brown as "the Master". Charlie Brown also became somewhat of a mentor to Rerun, teaching him how to feed a dog, how to deliver newspapers, and how to play marbles. When bully Joe Agate tricks Rerun into losing all of his marbles, Charlie Brown wins them back for him.
Schroeder is one of Charlie Brown's closest friends, they commonly have conferences on the pitcher's mound in between pitches, mostly about hand signals (one finger means a fastball and two fingers means a curveball, etc.) and Beethoven. Charlie Brown is also one of the few people who Schroeder will let lounge against his piano, as he knows Charlie Brown respects his love of Beethoven. In fact, when Schroeder was younger, Charlie Brown would read the life of Beethoven to him. Charlie Brown was also the one who introduced Schroeder to the piano.
One on occasion the two had an argument in where Charlie Brown insulted his "yellow hair" and the fact he plays on his piano all day, Schroeder then made fun of his coonskin cap he was wearing at the time and also Charlie Brown's round head.
Schroeder at times is usually the first to defend Charlie Brown. An example of this was when Violet offers Charlie Brown one of her leftover Valentine's Day cards on the day after the holiday. Schroeder thoroughly chastises her, however, Charlie Brown accepts the Valentine's card regardless, although he expresses appreciation for Schroeder's gesture.
In the early years of the strip, Violet's relationship with Charlie Brown seems 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 April 14, 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. It is never revealed in the comic strip whether she has any feelings towards to Charlie Brown.
The Little Red-Haired Girl is kissed by Charlie Brown in It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown. In The Peanuts Movie, she reveals that she has a liking for Charlie Brown because he is honest and caring toward others. The two even promise to write to each other.
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.
Although "Pig-Pen" is one of Charlie Brown's friends, he initially did not appreciate the cloud of dirt that follows him. While he sometimes used to reprove "Pig-Pen" for his consistent messiness, he is usually impressed by how "Pig-Pen" manages to stay messy, even in a rainstorm. In one strip, "Pig-Pen" is embarrassed when Charlie Brown deduces—simply from the dirt on his clothes—where he has been playing for the past three days.
However, despite this, Charlie Brown is the only person to accept "Pig-Pen" for who he is, In one strip he even defended his uncleanliness "Don't think of it as dust. Just think of it as the dirt and dust of far-off lands blowing over here and settling on 'Pig-Pen!' It staggers the imagination! He may be carrying the soil that was trod upon by Solomon or Nebuchadnezzar or Genghis Khan!"
Peggy Jean and other camp friends
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. He is not always as successful with camp friends, including having a bunkmate who exclusively says to him, "Shut Up and Leave Me Alone".
Franklin and Charlie Brown are always on good terms, Franklin is seen as a good friend to Charlie Brown and is arguably the nicest person to him in the strip. The two occasionally build sandcastles together on the beach, go to Charlie Brown's house and watch movies together. Franklin was introduced building sand castles with Charlie Brown and the two remain on good terms—Franklin has an even-keeled personality and is neither a bully, a possible love interest, or a flighty daydreamer, so he provides some stability in Charlie Brown's life.
Charlie Brown and Shermy were considered best friends in the early years of the strip, they were both generous to each other and were commonly seen playing together, however as Shermy started gradually disappearing from the strip, he was only seen with Charlie Brown on rare occurrences before he completely disappeared from the strip in June 15, 1969. Although the first several girls introduced into the strip would bully, harass, or tease Charlie Brown—likely mirroring Schulz's feelings that he had bad luck with women—the two boys were friends who bonded over playing pretend, reading comic books, and having lazy Sundays together.
In popular culture
- A song by The Coasters is called "Charlie Brown".
- "Cha Cha Slide" by DJ Casper also references Charlie Brown midway through the song.
Charlie Brown has accumulated many memorable catchphrases and quotes:
- "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?"
- "I got a rock".
- (To Patty, about security and Linus' blanket): "Sure, but most people find security in only one or two places...here we have something infinitely greater...portable security!"
- (To Violet, about why she cannot like him because he is "not perfect"): "But I'm pretty perfect..."
- To himself, about Patty and Violet's gossiping): "I'll bet those girls are talking about me; I wonder what they're saying about me...gee...I was feeling so good too...now I'm all depressed...why does someone always have to spoil my day?!"
- (To Patty, about the definition of "beautiful" color): "'Beautiful' is only a relative term...as a matter of fact, so is 'blue'...color, you know is beautiful only when it is good color...of course, then you come up with the question, 'just what is good color?'"
- (To Snoopy and Sally Brown): "She likes to dance."
- (To Lucy when she visits the pitcher's mound during baseball games): "Why don't you go back to center field where you belong?"