Trainspotting and Misanthropy

Reading Trainspotting was a strange experience.

It was strange because I kept thinking in a Scottish accent if I read it for too long. It was strange because it started to make sense after awhile. It was also strange because I couldn’t figure out what the hell was going on.

Basically, all these Scottish addicts were existing. They had psychological problems, got arrested, went to rehab, got clean, got addicted again…all sorts of stuff.

Basically, no one in Trainspotting really cares about anything. All the characters – Renton, Sick Boy, Begby, Spud, Second Prize, etc. – feel apathetic toward the world. For various reasons (though most of them involve heroin), they don’t feel like there’s any point to living or interacting with the world.

Renton is pretty much the definition of misanthropy and apathy. People suck, the world sucks, then you die. The end.

Although it is likely his heroin addiction that starts him feeling this way (he often mentions how nothing matters except heroin), Renton winds up really believing this. When his therapist tries to induce him to interact with the world again by telling him to “choose life,” he all but explodes:

“Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. . . Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortgage payments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. . . Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your moth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourselves. Choose your future. Choose life…but why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life.”

This is quite possibly one of the most depressing descriptions of life that I’ve ever read. I can feel how much Renton despises life and society and the people in it. I suppose, if anything, Irvine Welsh has the misanthropic mindset down. To be honest, it’s kind of disturbing.

And the worst part is that there isn’t much reconciliation or closure. Renton and his friends continue to despise and reject the world they are forced to live in. They don’t make many concerted efforts to find meaning in their existences, but they don’t (often) blame outside forces for their situations.

It’s kind of a depressing novel. I liked it, but it’s hard to find things to say about it.
Also, I never did understand why it had to be written in Scottish dialect. I suppose, if I had to say something about it, I’d say that it made me feel even more “inside” the characters’ heads than I would have if it was written normally. But still…

Rating: ****
Up Next: The Sea, The Sea


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