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Escaping has been the main focus of many pieces of literature. Escaping from an actual place, reality, or even one’s self. In each case the person who is trying to escape is in reality escaping from some sort of underlying persecution. The idea of escaping is very comparable to many people’s drug habits. The journey of finding an escape is prevalent in two major themes in Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting. In Trainspotting Welsh tells the story of a group of friends in a run down Scottish town that are addicting to heroin. Their heroin use is not only an escape from reality but also serves as a metaphor for them trying to escape from their town.
Renton, the main character in Trainspotting, (Irvine Welsh) and his group of friends wander in their neighborhood causing trouble and trying to find a fix. In their lives the trains passing was a sad reminder of them being stuck. Their dream of finally escaping is very similar to another group of people from another generation, The Merry Pranksters. Ken Kesey was the founder of the pranksters. Kesey along with friends bought a 1939 International Harvest school bus. They traveled the country experimenting with acid and video taping their journey. The Pranksters were Hippies.
Hippies came after Beatniks. Jack Kerouac, who coined the phrase “Beat Generation” (Kesey) was not on the bus. However, Beat Neal Cassady, was on the bus, in fact, he drove the bus. Timothy Leary, the Harvard professor who garnered recognition as the LSD Guru when he coined the phrase, “Turn On, Tune In Drop Out,” (Online Database) was not on the bus. Many Hells Angels were on the bus and the rock group the Grateful Dead was on the bus. The Pranksters hoped the Beatles would get on the bus, but they never showed up. Kesey and the Pranksters lived out the dream of escaping.
An escape, is how many drug users see their habit as. To get away from reality by taking one more hit. But what are they really escaping to a high that they will just come down from leading to an endless cycle of emptiness. They lie to themselves by saying that they just need one more hit. This lie just reveals an existential honesty, which is that they are trapped. This honesty is very prevalent in Irvine Welsh’s “Trainspotting”. Trainspotting was written in several separately published chapters. The book is more of a collection of related characters, motifs and schemes.
At first I thought that this might dilute the focus of the story however, it was quite the contrary. The chapters featured different points of view, which gave the book a higher-level insight. Train spotting is a British pass time where people stand around a railroad station for hours, in all kinds of weather, writing down numbers of passing railroad cars. In one part of the story, Renton and his friend Begbie are standing in an abandoned train-station. The trains are a metaphor for getting away. Just as the train station has no trains anymore, neither do Renton and his friends have a way to escape their lives.
As they are looking at the empty railroad tracks, an old wino says, “Keep up the Trainspotting. “(Welsh, 167) In other words, keep looking for an escape. This hobby of noting down numbers on trains in notebooks is another metaphor for the pointless lives of Britain’s young working class. In Trainspotting Mark Renton, the main character is addicted to heroin, which results strictly in depravity. This is Renton’s escape. His four friends Spud, Sick Boy, Tommy, and Begbie are a group of crooks, liars, and psychos. Spud, is a shy, inoffensive junkie. Sick Boy, is a vicious, duplicitous con artist who’s obsessed with Sean Connery.
Tommy, is a “virtuous” young man fighting the temptation of heroin who eventually is convinced to do it by Renton. Lastly, Begbie, is a nutcase whose escape is not drugs, but beating up other people “Begbie didn’t do drugs – he just did people” (Welsh, 32). In the end, Renton chooses life against anything else. However, during the story it’s a struggle. When Renton is on heroin it is almost like an illusion, an illusion of happiness, much like a LSD experience. Images fill the mind, sometimes images of despair and hopelessness. Especially when Renton is off of it and struggling with coming down from his high, much like a bad trip.