Book Commemorates 50th Anniversary of Charlie Brown and the Rest of the Gang

Have you ever questioned the existence of God? Have you ever had a crush on someone and gotten too choked up to say anything whenever that person is near? Have you ever daydreamed? If you said yes to any of these questions, then I would recommend picking up “”Peanuts: A Golden Celebration.””

This is compilation of the best, most thoughtful comic strips from the “”Peanuts”” collection by the late Charles M. Schulz. The selection of the strips, which includes the very first “”Peanuts”” strip published Oct. 2, 1950 and even prototype strips called “”Li’l Folks,”” epitomizes Schulz’s long and distinguished career. Schulz died from complications from a stroke last year, only weeks after the legend decided to retire after 50 years.

But “”Peanuts: A Golden Celebration”” is much more than just a collection of comics, just as “”Peanuts”” is much more than a simple children’s comic strip. It is a history book of Charlie Brown and the gang and also the history of Schulz. So much of his life was ingrained into the comic that his name is synonymous with “”Peanuts.”” He is “”Peanuts”” and “”Peanuts”” will always be him.

“”Peanuts: A Golden Celebration”” gets readers up-close and personal with the life of Schulz — his influences, the people he has influenced, his interpretation of religion (Christianity in particular) and adaptation of his life into the strip. In a sense, the comic strip is a history of his life.

Many look at “”Peanuts”” (a title that Schulz disliked and never understood), and see a child’s comic. True, it is that. But it is much more than a child’s gleeful laughter. “”‘Peanuts,’ like any great work of art, can be read on many levels,”” Sharon Begley wrote in “”Newsweek.”” “”For every child who giggles over Sally’s jump-rope troubles … an adult nods at the strip’s tragicomic view of life,”” Begley stated. Tragicomic is a term often used to describe one of William Shakespeare’s greatest and final play, “”The Tempest.””

“”Peanuts”” is not a simple story of a moon-faced child and his gang of friends. It is a story of children placed in adult-like situations. The blatant truth of life, the harshness of reality and the pains of love are not what we expect children to face, yet these characters do. Anxiety, self-doubt and the betrayal of innocence plague them. How many times has Schroeder spurned Lucy? How many times has Lucy pulled the football away from Charlie Brown? How many times has Charlie Brown got too nervous to speak when the Little Red Haired Girl is around?

“”Peanuts”” is a story of juxtapositions. The characters live in innocent times yet they are not, by any means, innocent. The scene is set in the post-World War II era, yet there is no Vietnam. The Plumbers never broke into the Watergate Hotel, there is no Monica, no Cold War, no racism. True, these things may have actually occurred, but through the veiled eyes of children, they did not happen. After all, we can always expect to see Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin to arrive. And we can always expect to see him disappointed. This is the reality of life pitted against the innocence of children.

As innocent as they may be, they are at, the same time, not innocent. Lucy enjoys torturing Charlie Brown, the every-man that represents us. Charlie Brown suffers from failure and disillusionment, as we all do. He has desires that we all have: “”All I want is a normal life …”” he said to Lucy during one of their psychiatric sessions. Peppermint Patty’s secret crush on her “”Chuck”” does not, and never will, end the way she wants it. As many times as Lucy pulls the football away, Charlie Brown still has the innocence to fall for it again.

Schulz was a devout Christian and his beliefs surface in the comic. The strip puts into question faith in God and man, something we have all done, lying in bed in the dead of night. “”Sometimes I lie awake at night and I ask, ‘Why me?'”” Charlie Brown says in the middle of the night. Then a voice answers, “”‘Nothing personal. Your name just happened to turn up.'”” Despite all that transpires around their lives, the children have a devout following to God. The same applies to their belief in the goodness of man. Charlie will always attempt to kick the football; Lucy will always try to catch the baseball.

Linus and Franklin often quote from the Old Testament, particularly the Book of Job. The significance of this lies in the story of Job, a man who had everything. God, sure of Job’s love and trust, allows the Devil to tempt and torture Job. But at the end, after many trials and tragedies, Job arises from the decay with his devotion to God still intact. The same type of devotion to God and man applies to Charlie Brown and his friends.

The characters posses an unwavering belief in what is right and moral, something we all aspire to have, yet fail to achieve. Each major character possesses a human quality that represents each of us. Lucy is the mischievous, frank one. Linus and Franklin personify our religious sides. Snoopy represents the many faces of our character. Pig Pen “”may be carrying soil that was trod upon by Solomon or Nebuchadnezzar or Genghis Khan.”” And Charlie Brown epitomizes our innocence, our pains and ultimately our redemption as he is the Christ-figure that suffers for his fellows.

“”Peanuts: A Golden Celebration”” represents all of these aspects. Every strip was chosen to represent everything that “”Peanuts”” represents. Perhaps the most poignant line from the book was one rather uncharacteristic of Lucy: “”Happiness is a warm puppy.””

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