This might seem like a throwaway joke, but I think it points to something very important. The characters are missing a commonality of experience that would enable each of them to understand the other.
Without commonality, only with effort can people understand another's perspective. Here, by each assuming the other is speaking in familiar terms, the characters are unable to communicate effectively.
Using Schroeder for this strip works because he's the character with the most dissimilar perspective of the kids. He's an artist, and his focus is a higher goal. This, I would say, is at the root of his differences with Lucy. Even Snoopy is more in tune with the other kids than Schroeder.
We still get strips in which Schroeder is playing ordinary kid games, but as the strip continues we'll see him doing this less and less.
This is a common pattern for strips around this time: Charlie Brown is exults in being right about something, and the character who was wrong, instead of giving him satisfaction, responds with a non-sequitur cut down.
The ages of the characters have already become somewhat obscured, and we're not even three years in. Remember, Patty is older than Charlie Brown, who is older than Violet. She's already taller than him (she might even be the tallest character), and she teams up often with Patty as equals, which implies comradeship. But when it comes to the characters' intelligence, Schulz still seems to go by the pre-established age order: in cases where characters are arguing, the correctness hierarchy, highest to lowest, is Patty, Charlie Brown, Violet, then Lucy. (Schroeder's sphere is specialized knowledge so he trumps them in his area of interest, Shermy doesn't appear very often, and Linus and Snoopy don't talk.)
The first strip comments on the plight of the working artist.
The second, the artist's quest for respect.
It is easy to see the Schroeder strips as a metaphor for Schulz's own desire to be taken seriously. Maybe this is why he often uses Schroeder as an audience for Charlie Brown's efforts at cartooning, in which we can just as easily imagine Schulz poking fun at himself.
This strip, if your only experience with Peanuts is the later era, is striking in how it treats Snoopy like just a dog. No abundant imagination, no literary pretensions, no "world famous" anything, no Woodstock, no "Happiness is" smarm, no walking on his back legs, and no thought bubbles.
This strip is, I think, padded out a bit. Particularly Schroeder's line "We can't.. we just can't" and Lucy's "You don't understand," both of which seem kind of hollow; the only reason they don't just say "We can't because he's sitting in the sprinkler" is because that would spoil the reveal. Probably panels seven and eight could be removed and the rest rearranged to make the point in fewer panels. Remove the top line of three panels and just four remain, exactly the length of a classic Peanuts daily strip.
Still not a bad strip though. It is a funny joke in the end. Snoopy's smiling expression sells it for me.
The various characters are picking up quirks that help to differentiate them. In the near future:
Lucy is a reader, but also gets facts wrong readily and laughs off suggestions that she might be wrong. Charlie Brown, on the other hand, when he gets something wrong he's very self-conscious about it, and Lucy's continued willful ignorance will give him ulcers. Linus, even when he starts really talking, is pretty quiet. Patty and Violet aren't that different, but Violet is more antagonistic, cold, sometimes even hostile to Charlie Brown. Schroeder, well, is obvious. Snoopy has problems with inanimate objects.
I think it's obvious that Shermy is in the pool in the first panel, but it's less evident that the kid he's with is Schroeder. It probably is, but that's mostly because I don't think Schulz would throw an extra in there just to have one.
This is another version of the "Can I put my hand in your glass of milk" strip from some time back. There are a number of jokes that are repeated enough to take on the status of running gags, but this one isn't repeated too often.
A scene from the midpoint of the arc of Charlie Brown's personality, on his way towards the lovable sad sack we all know. I'd say it's only partway there because there's actually a bit of egotism in this, that CB assumes the girls must be talking about him, that he lacks in later strips.
Lucy has quickly become the most frequent female character, and second only to Charlie Brown in recent appearances. Patty and Violet are nearly interchangeable now. Although Violet joined the cast as a "young" kid character, she was never as naive as Lucy can be.
Lucy is especially unique because she can combine her naivety, somehow, with sarcasm. That combination sticks to the character for quite some time.
We've seen one-use animals other than Snoopy before (a dog and two birds), and we had one strip in which we saw other kids from a distance. But this here is the first time in Peanuts we've seen entirely non-regular character designs as throwaways. Also included: the first kid with glasses, and a kid with a "Jughead" hat.
Note: of all the extras in that sandbox, only two of them are girls, and both are cast members. Also, Violet wears her hair down this time; she's got it in a bob most appearances now.
The tiers of Peanuts characters:
"Cast" characters are the main guys. There are some characters who, once they arrive, are frequently seen for a while. Some of these are long-term characters (like Charlie Brown, who was in the first strip and the last).
We might call "understudy" characters those who join for a little while, like Frieda, but then digress into occasional appearances, usually disappearing completely some time later. Eudora is also one of these, I'd say.
Some never seem to progress beyond being bit characters. These guys are usually introduced as part of a story, and sometimes get used as extras in group scenes. Roy is a good example; he's not quite an extra, and in fact has an important place in Peanuts history for introducing Charlie Brown to "Peppermint" Patty, but he never really joins the main cast. I think "5" and his sisters, the twins "3" and "4," are also in this category. (The digit kids aren't much remembered now, but are notable for appearing in the dance scenes in A Charlie Brown Christmas.)
This is the first time the two have actually seemed to be "together" in anything. Fellow-feeling is a remarkably uncommon trait for the Peanuts characters to have; most of them are loners at heart. Exceptions: Snoopy and Woodstock, "Peppermint" Patty and Marcie. Maybe Patty and Violet, although we haven't seen much of that yet.
At some point Lucy's problems with outfielding become more the result of her fussiness and ill-temper than more personable factors. At least her absence from play doesn't see to have caused Charlie Brown's team any problems this time.
When Rerun joins the cast much later, in a way it's almost like these early strips with Linus return. Rerun looks so much like Linus, even if his personality is a little different, that it's hard to escape the conclusion that Schulz named him as a self-referential joke.
When I read this strip, I have a strong sense that we are now firmly in the era of classic Peanuts. The characters are solidly of that style, as opposed to the early or modern styles. There's still some evolution left to occur within the style, everything becomes just a little simpler over time and the characters get slightly more realistically proportioned, but we're mostly there now I think.
Two things that really drive this sense home for me. First, the theme and writing of the strip are solidly of the classic versions of the characters. We haven't really seen a crabby Lucy yet, but Lucy was never an entirely angry little girl, she has good days even in her tyrant years. And second, Charlie Brown's eyes when facing the reader, here, seem to be closer together than we've seen recently, which was the major thing about him that still harkened back to the old style.
Being thoughts, this doesn't count as Linus' first words. I'm not even sure this counts as Linus' first thought balloons, but I can't find the strip in the archives in which he complains about "big kids," which is the prior use I remember so maybe that comes later. But I think it is the first example of Linus' voice really coming through clearly to the reader, even if it isn't audible to other characters.
Linus is interesting because we first get a few strips with him thinking before he actually starts talking. Sally also does this when she shows up. I think Rerun gets it too.
A different strip would have Snoopy bite down on the bone, have a sight gag of his reaction, and then maybe him chasing Charlie Brown. In fact, Peanuts itself wouldn't really be above that kind of joke right now.
But where this strip shows growth is that Schulz purposely passed up the chance to draw a funny picture of Snoopy biting a rubber bone to make a strip where he's embarrassed because he expected treachery and didn't find it.
Schulz also avoided Talking Head Syndrome (where a strip's joke is entirely dialogue, using art pretty much solely to attribute speech) by giving us good drawings of mortified Snoopy, laughing Charlie Brown and thoughtful Patty.
Charlie Brown isn't a very nice kid in these two comics.
June 13, 1953
Patty and Violet's reaction at the end here (including off-screen violence) is a bit exaggerated. I mean, they didn't have to follow CB's suggestions.
Sunday, June 14, 1953
This one is actually a little disturbing, considering that Schulz actually drew the flashbacks of Charlie Brown's antisocial behavior. Violet's reaction here seems quite justified. We can accept Charlie Brown's rueful chagrimace at the end as due to regret over personal failings rather than a "that's the way it goes" kind of resignation.
Is that how Violet fell off her tricycle? Because CB pushed her?
Who really throws lumps of sod at people? Did Schulz choose a clump of earth because it's less injurious than, say, a rock?
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