Robert Newton

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Themes and Colors
Money, Class, and Community  Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Grief  Theme Icon
Ambition Theme Icon
Crime Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Runner, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Grief  Theme Icon

Throughout Runner, the death of Charlie’s father, Mr. Feehan, weighs heavily on Charlie and his mother. Charlie feels his father’s absence throughout the story; he repeatedly encounters situations that remind him of memories with his father and faces challenges that he wishes Mr. Feehan could guide him through. Mr. Feehan’s constant presence in Charlie’s thoughts is painful for Charlie, but it also helps him come to terms with his father’s death, as he realizes that Mr. Feehan shaped his life too much to ever really be gone. Some of Mr. Feehan’s lingering influence is tangible: his death left the family in poverty, but he was such a popular man that the Feehans still use his connections to get occasional favors from people around town. Charlie initially runs in his father’s boots, which helps Charlie feel closer to his father. When he starts working for Squizzy Taylor, Dolly gives Charlie a new pair of boots, but Charlie still holds on to his father’s. He puts his father’s boots back on when he quits his job with Squizzy, symbolizing his return to the life his father would have wanted for him. At the Ballarat Mile, when Charlie takes off his father’s boots to put on his new running shoes, he imagines that his father gave him the boots as a way to be with Charlie “when [Charlie] needed him most.”

Charlie’s memory of Mr. Feehan also helps him comfort his mother in her grief. Mr. and Mrs. Feehan used to dance together all the time, but after Mr. Feehan died, Mrs. Feehan stopped dancing. Since Mr. Feehan imparted the importance of dancing to Charlie, he decides to lift his mother’s spirits by dancing with her. He succeeds, and Mrs. Feehan smiles for the first time in a long time. After the song is over, she hugs Charlie and confesses she misses his father. This scene highlights another lesson Charlie learns about grief: Mr. Feehan’s death does not erase all opportunities for joy because joy and grief can coexist. Charlie’s relationship to his father’s boots mirrors his relationship to his grief. At the end of the story, he takes the boots off, which marks his acceptance of his father’s loss. At the same time, though, Charlie taking off the boots signifies his revelation that he does not need to cling to Mr. Feehan’s memory, because Charlie can keep that memory alive by living the life his father would have wanted for him.

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Grief Quotes in Runner

Below you will find the important quotes in Runner related to the theme of Grief .
Chapter 3 Quotes

It was quick, my father’s death […]. As soon as he took his last breath, Ma and I were forced to think of the future. Even in death, the poor were denied the luxury of grieving. There just wasn’t time […]. [W]hen the undertakes came to wheel my father’s lifeless body out to the hearse, it was as if they took my childhood with them.

Related Characters: Charlie Feehan (speaker), Mrs. Feehan, Mr. Feehan, Jack Feehan
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

Slowly [Dolly] opened the lid and removed a pair of shiny black boots […]. Although I was excited, nothing came from my mouth […]. Next thing I knew, Dolly was bent down untying the laces on my father’s boots […].

Standing with her arms fully stretched, she held the boots away from her as if she was handling something unspeakable. Suddenly I found my voice.

“I might keep ‘em if ya don’t mind, Dolly […]. They were my father’s,” I said softly.

Related Characters: Charlie Feehan (speaker), Dolly, Squizzy Taylor
Related Symbols: Mr. Feehan’s Boots
Page Number: 43-44
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

I ran during the day and I ran at night. In fact, I ran so much that I didn’t bother changing into my father’s old boots anymore. Ma and I both had our secrets now […]. I avoided her as best I could, preferring to spend my time with Nostrils or Squizzy or Dolly. At least with them I didn’t have to pretend.

Related Symbols: Mr. Feehan’s Boots
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

True, I had been wearing my father’s boots for some months now. Wearing them was easy […]. Any mug who knew the art of tying laces could do that. But filling them, now that was a different story altogether.

Related Characters: Charlie Feehan (speaker), Mr. Feehan, Mrs. Redmond
Related Symbols: Mr. Feehan’s Boots
Page Number: 75
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 18 Quotes

“Did ya ‘appen to know, Charlie,” [Ma] said, pouring the tea, “that me and Alice ‘ave somethin’ in common? […] It just so ‘appens that Alice loves to dance.”

Right then, the strangest thing happened. A vision of my father appeared in the living room as clear as Ma was sitting in the chair opposite […]. He raised his eyebrows, then smiled.

“Giddyup, Charlie.” He winked.

Then he was gone.

Related Characters: Mrs. Feehan (speaker), Charlie Feehan (speaker), Alice Cornwall, Mr. Feehan, Kenneth Cornwall
Related Symbols: Mr. Feehan’s Boots
Page Number: 146-147
Explanation and Analysis:

Full of rage, I dropped by eyes to the ground and saw my shiny black boots. Right then, something clicked inside my head. Everything became clear. Silently I left the office and made my way to the laundry. After changing into my father’s old boots, I strode back down the hall. I […] placed the boots on the table, right under Squizzy’s nose.

Related Symbols: Mr. Feehan’s Boots
Page Number: 155
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 19 Quotes

As I sat against the bed, the stash reminded me of the play money my father used to make me, and how I’d pile it into neat rows, always asking for more […]. But this was no longer a game, and I was no longer a boy.

Related Characters: Charlie Feehan (speaker), Mr. Feehan, Squizzy Taylor
Page Number: 165
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 21 Quotes

[… I] began untying the laces on my father’s boots. For a moment I was back sitting on his bed again. I remembered his skeleton arms and how they’d struggled with the weight of the boots as he passed them to me […]. Maybe he’d planned all along to be here with me––here when the stakes were high, when I needed him most.

Related Characters: Charlie Feehan (speaker), Mr. Feehan
Related Symbols: Mr. Feehan’s Boots
Page Number: 182-183
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 23 Quotes

As I turned the knob, Ma appeared behind me.

“Where are ya goin’, Charlie?” she asked.

“I’m goin’ runnin’, Ma.”

“Runnin’? Where to?”

I dropped my eyes to my father’s boots, then looked up and smiled.

“Who knows, Ma. Who knows.”

Related Characters: Mrs. Feehan (speaker), Charlie Feehan (speaker), Mr. Feehan
Related Symbols: Mr. Feehan’s Boots
Page Number: 201
Explanation and Analysis: