Robert Newton

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Runner: Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

Charlie and Nostrils progress carefully toward Fitzroy. They reach their destination safely, deliver the liquor, and return to Richmond, much to their shared relief. But on their way home, the boys run into Jimmy Barlow and his friends. Barlow and the others charge at Charlie and Nostrils. The two boys run away, but Nostrils slips and falls. Nostrils screams at Charlie to run away, and Charlie does. 
Charlie’s decision to leave Nostrils behind mirrors the time Barlow tried to attack the boys while they were playing football. That time, Charlie told Nostrils to run without him, but Nostrils waited for his friend. Now that the tables are turned, Charlie does not repay Nostrils’s bravery.
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Charlie runs to safety. He considers going for help, but he can’t leave his best friend. He runs back to the garden, where Barlow is brutally beating Nostrils. Nostrils responds by mocking Barlow, who then orders his friends to hold Nostrils down on a cart. Charlie wishes he had gone for help, because he can’t make himself move as Barlow slams a metal bar into Nostrils’s kneecaps. Charlie falls to the ground and stays there until Barlow’s gang departs. He is no longer afraid, but he still cannot move––he is paralyzed by shame. Only when Nostrils calls for Charlie does Charlie go to him.
Charlie is torn between his loyalty to Nostrils and his instinct for self-preservation. Since the start of the story, Charlie’s motivations have largely been selfish––he wants excitement, power, and wealth––but he has also prioritized taking care of his loved ones. After his conversation with Daisy, Charlie wants to be more selfless. When that involves putting himself in harm’s way, however, he is too afraid, even though he hates himself for that cowardice.
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Nostrils is badly beaten. Charlie pushes him on the cart to the hospital, running desperately through the streets. When he gets to the hospital, a doctor takes Nostrils away, and Charlie is forced to wait. The experience reminds him of when his father was ill. A constable questions Charlie about the assault. Charlie lies about what the boys were doing out at night. He tells the constable that six people attacked him, but he pretends that the night was too dark to make any of them out. The doctor comes out and assures Charlie that Nostrils will be alright.
Charlie puts his running to use for the sake of his friend as he rushes Nostrils to the hospital. His shame and worry merge with his grief as waiting in the hospital reminds him of Mr. Feehan’s last days of life. Charlie’s refusal to report Jimmy Barlow to the police also speaks to an element of class solidarity among the boys, as well as a more childish instinct not to be a tattletale.
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