Charlie Brown is the typical American kid. He goes to school, deals with his weird family, plays with his dog, talks to his friends. He’s just your everyday guy that happens to be bald at the age of eight.
But there’s a melancholy to Charlie Brown, especially in the television specials. Everything, the music included, tends to be somber and down key. It feels like it’s always a rainy day in the Peanuts universe.
“My life is a pit of never-ending hopelessness. Good grief.”
According to a theory passed around on Tumblr, there may be a reason for that. It speculates that Charlie Brown lives in extreme poverty and he’s pretty much all alone. His friends? Totally imaginary. His dog? Actually a boring old dog, so Charlie imagines adventures for him. His parents and teachers are real, but they’re concerned with grown up stuff like banks and paying for food, so he imagines them making noise instead.
Before you brush the idea off, remember that Peanuts debuted in 1950, just a decade or so after the Great Depression. Charles Schulz lived through that era. He probably knew people who went to bed hungry and didn’t have water to wash in.
Here’s something even weirder: Charlie Brown was originally the only character. All the other kids were introduced as babies, grew up until they were his age, and then stopped. Lucy, Linus, Sally, Schroeder– they all started out as infants and when they got to their now-recognizable ages, Schulz made them stay kids forever.
He’s actually laying on the ground and sobbing.
And what about Pigpen? Constantly dirty, no one wants him around. In his first appearance, he says “I haven’t got a name. People just call me things. Real insulting things.” Throughout the strip’s run, you never learn his real name. He’s just Pigpen, truly dirt poor and the target of scorn.
Maybe he’s Charlie Brown’s only real friend. Or maybe it’s Charlie himself, subconsciously projecting his reality into his dream world.