Smith's Outlook On Life In Sillitoe's The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner

2185 words - 9 pages

There are two basic facts in Smith’s life: one, that he’s in a war with the “In-laws,” and two, that he’s going to fight it until the day he dies, or die fighting. From Smith’s perspective, there is an impassable line between him and the In-laws, who are out to get him, and his best method of success is beating them down. In taking revenge on the governor of Borstal, Smith thinks he has succeeded. What Smith doesn’t realize is that he, not the governor, truly loses when he loses the race. Smith needs to revise his world view to realize that there is a better way of getting what he wants, and the revenge he seeks is only a sign of his weakness and unhappiness with his own life. By focusing his energy on getting revenge, Smith compromises his opportunities and ability to succeed. Ultimately, his actions are a loss for Smith more than for the people he is fighting.
Smith sees the authority figures around him as a threat to his happiness. To Smith, the cops and the governor of Borstal block his success. This is such a strong reality for him that the idea of them being on his side is impossible: “If only ‘them’ and ‘us’ had the same ideas we’d get [along]…but they don’t see eye to eye with us and we don’t see eye to eye with them, so that’s how it stands and how it will always stand” (7-8). The “them” he refers to are people like the governor of Borstal and the cops, the “In-law blokes” who, according to him, are “all on the watch for Out-law blokes like [Smith]…waiting to ‘phone for the coppers as soon as [he makes] a false move” (10). Furthermore, his strongest truth is that he is alone: “I knew what the loneliness of the long-distance runner running across country felt like, realizing that as far as I was concerned this feeling was the only honesty and realness there was in the world and knowing it would be no different ever, no matter what I felt at odd times, and no matter what anybody else tried to tell me” (43). His feeling of loneliness heightens his belief that the cops and the governor are out to prevent his success.
Steeped in the belief that he is alone and that he can never get the governor and the cops to think the way he does, he is determined to make the best of his situation by fighting and winning the war he’s in. Smith says that “[his] own war’s all that [he’ll] ever be bothered about” (17). Smith fights his war by taking revenge on the In-laws: when the cop comes over to his house to question him about the bakery robbery a second time, and it is pouring outside, he lets him stand in the rain, because he wants the cop “to get double pneumonia and die” (36). Furthermore, he says that if he and the governor switched places, he would have the governor “in a quarry breaking rocks until he broke his back” (42); he wants to punish the governor because he think he lacks “true” honesty. He calls a cop honest for showing spite towards him by knocking at his door at 4 a.m. just to wake his mother up and ensure she would be at the court...

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