The notion that Charlie Brown is an existentialist is discussed by Radke:
Another key aspect comes from this monstrous freedom that abandonment allows, and this aspect is despair. In a nutshell, we are created by our actions. We are responsible for our actions. Therefore, we are responsible for our creation. What we are is the sum total of what we have done, nothing more and nothing less. But why should this cause despair? To answer this, Sartre examines the characteristics of cowardice and bravery. When Sartre describes the position that opposes his own, we can see how it may be comforting to not be responsible for one’s creation:
If you are born cowards, you can be quite content, you can do nothing about it and you will be cowards all your life whatever you do; and if you are born heroes you can again be quite content; you will be heroes all your life, eating and drinking heroically. Whereas the existentialist says that the coward makes himself cowardly, the hero makes himself heroic; and that there is always the possibility for the coward to give up cowardice and for the hero to stop being a hero.
(Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism and Humanism 1957)
It is this very possibility that causes despair. Why does Charlie Brown tear himself into knots over the little red-haired girl? The very possibility that he could go over and talk to her is far more distressing than its impossibility would be; he must take ownership of his failure. When she is the victim of a bully in the school yard, Charlie Brown’s despair threatens to leap right off the comic page. He isn’t suffering because he can’t help her, but because he could help her, but won’t: “Why can’t I rush over there and save her? Because I’d get slaughtered, that’s why…” When Linus helps her out instead, thereby illustrating his freedom of action, Charlie Brown only becomes more melancholic.
In order to combat despair, Charlie Brown succumbs to bad faith, which is to say, he denies his freedom: “I wonder what would happen if I went over and tried to talk to her! Everybody would probably laugh … she’d probably be insulted too …” It is only by falsely denying his freedom that Charlie Brown can overcome his despair. But by hiding behind bad faith, he does himself no favours. Another lunch hour is spent alone on a bench with a peanut butter sandwich.
It’s only proper that Charlie Brown’s dog shows us the other side of existentialism. Shulz said of Sartre
I read about him in the New York Times, where he said it was very difficult to be a human being, and the only way to fight against it is to lead an active life – that’s very true.
Is not this Snoopy? Snoopy
the WW1 ace
It Was A Dark And Stormy Night
It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, a shot rang out!
A door slammed. The maid screamed.
Suddenly, a pirate ship appeared on the horizon!
While millions of people were starving, the king lived in luxury. Meanwhile, on a small farm in Kansas, a boy was growing up.
A light snow was falling, and the little girl with the tattered shawl had not sold a violet all day.
At that very moment, a young intern at City Hospital was making an important discovery. The mysterious patient in Room 213 had finally awakened. She moaned softly.
Could it be that she was the sister of the boy in Kansas who loved the girl with the tattered shawl who was thedaughter of the maid who had escaped from the pirates?
The intern frowned.
“Stampede!” the foreman shouted, and forty thousand head of cattle thundered down on the tiny camp. The two men rolled on the ground grappling beneath the murderous hooves. A left and a right. A left. Another left and right. An uppercut to the jaw. The fight was over. And so the ranch was saved.
The young intern sat by himself in one corner of the coffee shop. he had learned about medicine, but more importantly, he had learned something about life.
the property investor
Why would we want to hunt rabbits, he wonders when Frieda tries to make him. Later he is seen joyously dancing with them. In 1961 he said: ‘Some of us are born dogs, and some of us are born rabbits. When the chips are down, I’ll have to admit that my sympathy lies with the rabbits.’ An optimistic existentialist if ever there was one. Charlie Brown is like Jonas in The Conqueror except that his same failures make us sympathetic. Snoopy reminds us that an existential life can still be a joyous one. And whereas Charlie Brown is a cowardly coward, Snoopy is a brave one – and is that not, after all, what a hero is?
I’ve never stopped adoring Snoopy since I was little. It may be that I wrote yesterday I wanted to be Julie Andrews when I grew up, but not like I wanted to be Snoopy, even if that meant I no longer had a chance to catch the eye of Christopher Plummer.
You’re my hero, Snoopy.