Themes of Honesty in the Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner by Alan Sillitoe

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The theme of honesty is extensively explored in The Loneliness of the Long Distant Runner, as Smith and the governor both provide their own perspectives on the meaning of honesty. According to the governor, being honest is the easiest and most common way to achieve success in the race, to escape jail, and to have a family. On the other hand, Smith’s understanding of honesty centers around individuality; being in control of oneself and liberated from the system is what constitutes an honest person, a true individual. However, the governor’s interpretation advocates for conformity, which greatly clashes with Smith’s profound sense of freedom and inner strength.

In The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, English rule is depicted as a weak, fraudulent, and imposing system that suppresses individuality. Smith’s audacious actions should not be seen as crude behavior but instead as expressions of freedom and non-conformity. Throughout the story, Smith embarks on a quest to find his true self and comprehend life’s numerous uncertainties, often finding solace in ridiculing the law and eluding its control.

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Smith is compelled to run by the governor at Borstal as a form of punishment for his offenses as a juvenile. Despite not deriving pleasure from running, he finds solace in the sense of sanctity it brings. It is the natural environment’s essence and attractiveness that captivate him while he runs. Unlike man-made laws, nature operates independently, embodying honesty, truth, and liberation. This aspect resonates with Smith’s desires to carve out his own place in society and rely on his own principles, rather than conforming to inadequate regulations that stifle uniqueness.

The act of running has a deeper meaning for Smith as it represents his escape from the law and the system. His comment about being able to run indefinitely symbolizes how running helps him distance himself from the suffocating laws of England’s juvenile detention policies and the imposed law. When Smith runs, he feels untouchable and is in his own world. Running is not about avoiding problems or the past, but rather a pursuit of freedom and independence by finding answers to life’s questions.

While training, he also reflects on life and society, adopting the role of a philosopher. Through running, he is able to have realizations, such as observing the disparity between the lower and middle-upper class individuals. Smith also deeply contemplates the concept of being alive versus being dead. He perceives himself as the only one truly alive, in contrast to those around him at Borstal and in society who appear dead. This introspection expands his self-awareness and understanding of his surroundings.

This story is abundant in symbolism. Smith’s running embodies his freedom to explore the concepts of life while also depicting the nature of man. Furthermore, running serves as his means of escapism from the constraining civilization he finds himself in, enabling him to evade the law and embrace his true nature.

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Themes of Honesty in the Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner by Alan Sillitoe. (2022, Dec 23). Retrieved from

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