Charles M(onroe) Schulz Michael Ruby - Essay

Michael Ruby

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

"Peanuts" [is] the evocative, touching and wise comic strip that has quietly become an American institution. As unpretentious as Schulz himself, the strip has restored to use idioms of a simpler day: "Good grief," "Rats!" and "You blockhead." It has invented the cult of the Great Pumpkin, and the concept of the Failure Face. It has given the world a dozen definitions of happiness and a store of homespun philosophical reflections…. It has expressed what may be the quintessential American lament: "How can we lose when we're so sincere?"…

The magic begins with the characters, an appealing lot whose foibles, anxieties and frustrations make a human comedy that hovers always on the lip of despair. (p. 40)

[Throughout the years] the strip itself has changed in subtle ways—the features are sharper now, the dialogue more sophisticated, the heads larger in relation to the bodies…. Schulz's dialogue has always carried his strips, and lately he has moved steadily away from straight gags and trick humor, the kind invariably revealed in the last panel. "I want to get the humor from the personalities of the characters, to get people to know them…. It's a mistake to try to please all the readers every day. It's unreasonable to think someone should be able to pick up the paper for the first time and enjoy Peanuts. We have to tease the reader along from day to day." (pp. 42-3)

Michael Ruby, "Good Grief, $150 Million!" in Newsweek (copyright 1971 by Newsweek, Inc.: all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), December 27, 1971, pp. 40-4.