At Astra Magazine, Elif Batuman looks at what Charles Schultz’s had to say about American values and society with a deep dive on the Peanuts character, Pig-Pen.
Pig-Pen first appears in 1954. Violet’s judgmental friend, Patty, sees him playing in the sand and asks his name. Pig-Pen replies that he doesn’t have one; people just call him “insulting things.” Patty asks for specifics. “I’ll tell you if you won’t laugh,” Pig-Pen says. His name is a punch line. For a long time, Pig-Pen’s name consistently appears in quotation marks, reminding us that it isn’t really a name — that he has, presumably, another one that he doesn’t know. From 1980 to 1997, the quotation marks disappear, blurring the line between Pig-Pen’s “true self” and a reductive description directed at him by other people, which is in effect what a name comes down to.