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In Allan Sillitoe’s The Loneliness of a Long Distance Runner, we are introduced to Smith, a man with his own standards, beliefs, values, and battles. As we are taken through the story of a period of his live, we come to understand what Smith really stands for. He is a diehard rebel that is destined to always stick to his beliefs, and is willing to sacrifice all in a battle against his greatest enemy and opressor, society.
Throughout the book Smith gives us a chance to get to know him. He willingly shares his thoughts with the reader, and often times his thoughts develop as he is telling his story giving us an up-close look at the inner workings of Smith’s mind and personality. Smith belongs to a group of people he calls the Out-Laws. It is the underprivileged lower class poor street criminals. Crime runs in Smith’s family, and being born into poverty he nether sees, nor is even willing to contemplate a life without crime. At a point he hints on having some communist views, and perhaps suggests that his father had communist friends, if he wasn’t one himself. Fatally inflicted by cancer, Smith’s father died a painful death. We later find out that it was Smith who found his father breathless in a pool of his own blood, and to this day has a great deal of respect for him. The first time Smith’s family gets a taste of a financially comfortable life is when the factory his father worked in gave them a lump of cash upon his father’s death. “…a wad of crisp blue-back fivers ain’t a sight of good” (Sillitoe, 20) says Smith as the one break his family got was only due to his father’s death. Smith is not money hungry, he steels simply to get by. He knows exactly where he stands in the world- in direct opposition of the In-laws, the “pig-faced snotty-nosed dukes and ladies"”(Sillitoe, 8). He realizes that he is a poor nobody, a petty criminal, an outcast of society.
Smith by nature is a rebel. He puts himself and his fellow Out-laws in direct opposition of the rest; for him it’s “us versus them”. As we are getting to know Smith, he is spending his time in a Borstal after having been caught for a bakery robbery. He has no regrets about doing what he did in the bakery shop, and has a big enough heart to be happy for his accomplice, Mike for getting off.
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"The Quintessential Rebel." 123HelpMe.com. 24 Apr 2019
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While at the Borstal Smith is made a long distance runner in Governor’s hopes to finally win the Borstal Blue Ribbon Prize Cup with the use of Smith’s ability to run. The imprisoned Out-law realizes that he is greatly outnumbered in his rebellious war. It is him, backed by a number of inactive others, against all of ruling society. He realizes that to those who keep him captive he means nothing more then a race horse with a high chance of winning. He trains daily in undermining conditions, but has no complaints. The Governor promises him a worry-free remainder of his sentence if he wins the All England Borstal race, and is to be released an honest man. If it is honesty the Governor wants, then that is what Smith is planning on delivering, but in his own terms. “I’m not going to win because the only way I’d see I came in first would be if winning meant that I was going to escape the coppers after doing the biggest bank job of my life,” (Sillitoe, 45). Alone, in a greatly disadvantaged position, Smith is willing to give up all promised luxuries and instead be punished for the sake of his rebellion. He is prepared to defy his opposition the only way he can, but he’ll be getting them where it hurts. Perfectly capable of winning the race Smith purposely looses, depriving the Governor of his long desired Blue Ribbon Prize Cup.
Smith may not be a very educated man. He may not have even considered possible alternatives for his life: “it might be possible to do such a thing, run for money” (Sillitoe, 39). He simply and faithfully stands by the position in life that he’d been granted, the only thing he knows. A good and honest man in his own perception of the world, Smith is ready to sacrifice all rather then conforming the his greatest enemy- society. At the end of the book Smith mentions that he entrusted his story into the hands of a friend, that would attempt to get it published in the event that he gets caught in his greatest robbery yet. This goes only to suggest that Smith does get caught, inevitably loosing his self-proclaimed rebellious war. But for a true rebel, it was the war itself that counts.