Robert Newton

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Runner: Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Charlie goes to the timber yard on Saturday morning for wood, bringing Nostrils with him for support. They pass a bandaged Mr. Peacock, and Charlie pretends not to know what happened to him. Nostrils and Charlie load two trolleys full of wood, and as they leave, Charlie writes a crude message in the dirt to Mr. Peacock. Later, he goes to Nostrils’s house. Nostrils has told his father that Charlie is learning to box, and Nostrils’s father is trying to teach Nostrils the skill despite now knowing how to box himself. Charlie teaches them what he has learned, but Nostrils’s father dismisses it as nonsense and tells Nostrils that he should focus on kicking footballs.
Charlie continues to take advantage of the power he gets from working for Squizzy. The scene of Charlie and Nostrils freely filling their trolleys with woods juxtaposes Charlie’s first visit to the timber yard, when he had to take only scraps as payment for his labor. Now he can take as much wood as he wants, and he further asserts his dominance over Mr. Peacock by leaving the man a disparaging message.
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Charlie goes with Nostrils’s parents to watch Nostrils play in his first official football game. As Nostrils walks to the changing rooms, Charlie notices that he moves with grace and class. During the game, Charlie is distracted by a red-headed girl cheering for the opposition. He brings his attention back to the players and sees that one of Nostrils’s opponents is Jimmy Barlow. Barlow punches Nostrils in the stomach, sending him off balance, and for the rest of the first half Nostrils can’t keep possession of the ball. At halftime, Nostrils’s father goes down to the field to talk to Nostrils, and he slings an arm around the boy’s shoulders. Charlie is struck with grief as he realizes he will never again experience his father’s touch. 
In addition to liking Nostrils, Charlie also respects him. That respect contrasts Charlie’s respect for Squizzy: while Squizzy intimidates people into respecting him as a leader, Nostrils earns Charlie’s respect as a peer by demonstrating that he is worthy of it. Still, Charlie envies Nostrils’s relationship to his father, and his sudden feeling of grief for Mr. Feehan underscores how grief is ever-present and can resurface at any moment.
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When the game resumes, Nostrils is revitalized and quickly scores a goal. Nostrils’s father tells Charlie that he borrowed some of his boxing advice and told Nostrils to think smart. Throughout the second half of the game, Nostrils outplays Barlow, and Richmond Hill beats the opposition with a huge lead. After the game, Charlie hovers near the opposing fans and hears that the red-headed girl is named Alice. He tries to talk to her, but he can’t think of anything to stay. Still, he is happy to know her name.
Charlie’s burgeoning romantic feelings for Alice are another aspect of him growing up. This is an age-appropriate step toward maturity that Charlie grows into in his own time, unlike his entry into the workforce and exposure to crime.
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