Charlie Chaplin is most famously known for his “tramp” character – the homeless hobo that can be seen hopping from trains and lining up in the soup kitchens of the Great Depression. At a time when the whole world was struggling from economic meltdown, Charlie Chaplin made “destitute” a term of endearment.
We may laugh when we see Charlie Chaplin so broke that he has to boil his shoes and eat them, but during the worst parts of the economic collapse of the 1920s and 1930s, some people had to do just that. So, at the time, even though many would laugh at the crazy tramp’s antics, they could also relate and identify with them.
And the fact that Charlie Chaplin’s tramp character could be completely broke with his pockets turned out, sitting in a gutter with the rain pouring down, yet still be happy, gave people quite a bit of encouragement. People thought that if the homeless, wandering tramp portrayed in Chaplin’s films could get through such rough times and be all right, maybe they could too.
As goofy as some of Chaplin’s slapstick comedic moments are in his films, it was the way he just kept trundling along, even in the face of great adversity that empowered so many. It was this tantalizing glimpse of hope more than anything else, that kept them coming back for more.