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Smith's Outlook on Life in Sillitoe's The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

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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...


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...ke Smith, they become ever more revengeful towards those who end up punishing them for not being something they have no real incentive to be.
Ultimately, criminals such as Smith end up wasting society’s resources (cops’ time and citizens’ money), wasting their own energy which could be better used to make them economically productive and contributing members of society, and making society less safe by reducing the mutual trust of society’s members due to thefts. The society does not seem to have a good way of dealing with criminals—Smith is not rectified in any manner by Borstal, and merely punished. Perhaps society needs to focus on increasing financial opportunities for the poor rather than trying to change values that are really an outcome of the society in which they grow up. The core problem is the society; once that is fixed, values will change automatically.


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