Reader Response Criticism: An Essay – Literary Theory …

Snoopy could always be counted on to nap, fantasize and wonder when his next meal would arrive. Charlie Brown, the round-headed blockhead (named after one of Mr. Schulz's childhood friends, not after the cartoonist himself), could always be counted on to persevere despite constant failure. He once held onto the string of a kite that was stuck in a tree for eight days running, until the rain made him stop. At the time it was the longest run of immobility for any cartoon character. His first home run came after nearly 43 years of strike outs, on March 30, 1993.

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After the war he tried various odd jobs: lettering the comics at a Catholic magazine called Timeless Topix; drawing a weekly cartoon called ''Li'l Folks,'' the precursor to ''Peanuts,'' for the St. Paul Pioneer Press; and selling occasional spot cartoons to The Saturday Evening Post.


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The 1960's brought animated ''Peanuts'' television specials. The first was ''A Charlie Brown Christmas,'' which Mr. Schulz wrote in one weekend with Lee Mendelson. Accompanied by Vince Guaraldi's jazz piano, animated by Bill Melendez and unassisted by any laugh track, ''A Charlie Brown Christmas'' was shown on CBS in 1965 (and still runs every winter). It won an Emmy and a Peabody. Many more television specials followed, including ''It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.'' Five of the specials won Emmys. There were also ''Peanuts'' feature films, including ''A Boy Named Charlie Brown.''

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Many pundits tried to put their finger on the ''Peanuts'' spell and they generally rambled on in a vaguely philosophical vein. Umberto Eco, who wrote the introduction to the first Italian ''Peanuts'' book, referred to Mr. Schulz's work as ''poesie interrompue,'' or interrupted poetry, and, using Freud, Beckett, Adler and Thomas Mann to back him up, said, ''These children affect us because in a certain sense they are monsters; they are the monstrous infantile reductions of all the neuroses of a modern citizen of the industrial civilization.''

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Eventually ''Peanuts'' was translated into Serbo-Croatian, Malay, Chinese, Tlingit, Catalan and 15 other languages. Books came out with titles like, ''Het Grote Snoopy Winterspelletjes-Boek'' and ''Du Bist Sub, Charlie Braun.''

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In an essay called ''Peanuts: The Americanization of Augustine,'' Arthur Asa Berger, a scholar of popular culture, observed that Mr. Schulz was ''a mirthful moralist'' and a master of Freudian humor, humor that ''serves to mask aggression.''