The Dirt On Pig-Pen

Elif Batuman in Astra:

At first glance, the world of Peanuts was a highly legible one, populated by clearly labeled types. And yet the labels kept leading into uncertainty. Snoopy, for example, was “a beagle.” He also read War and Peace and owned a typewriter. Lucy was a “fussbudget”: she was one always, in some essential way. But what was it about her that was “fussbudget”? Was there a fussbudgetness in all her words and actions or only in some of them? With Pig-Pen, it was somehow even more fundamental. Pig-Pen was dirty — visibly so. His character was scribbled over, shaded, covered with specks. He was, in the sense of a child’s drawing, “messed up,” “a mess.” That’s who and how he was. And yet — what was that dirtiness? Was it essential or incidental? How did it work?

More here.