Robert Newton

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Money, Class, and Community Theme Analysis

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.
Money, Class, and Community  Theme Icon

Runner takes place in the impoverished slums of Richmond, Australia, and Charlie Feehan, the protagonist, is keenly aware of how poverty disadvantages him and his neighbors. The Feehans are too poor to afford necessities like firewood and too focused on scraping by to dedicate time to grieve Charlie’s father, the late Mr. Feehan. Their neighbors, Mr. Redmond and Mrs. Redmond, are slightly better off, but they still cannot afford dental care for Mrs. Redmond’s rotting teeth. Poverty degrades the characters’ quality of living and exposes them to further dangers; for instance, Mrs. Feehan is vulnerable to Mr. Peacock’s sexual coercion and abuse because the Feehans are dependent on his offerings from the timber yard. At the beginning of the story, Charlie’s main goal is to escape poverty and let his family live comfortably. That desire is why he takes up running, a skill that allows him to work for local criminal Squizzy Taylor. Over the course of the novel, however, he learns that people can fight poverty’s harshest effects by supporting one another as a community.

Charlie ultimately earns the money that he dreamed of, but he does not do it alone. Mr. Redmond’s training and the support of his loved ones enable Charlie to compete in the Ballarat Mile race in the first place. The Redmonds bring food to the Feehans when they are starving, Nostrils helps Charlie on jobs and protects him from local bully Jimmy Barlow, and Mrs. Feehan perseveres through her own struggles to care for Charlie and allow him time and energy to pursue his passion for running. Though Charlie’s training helps him win the Ballarat Mile, it’s imagining his loved ones cheering for him that gets him to the finish line. And when he comes in first place and wins his prize, he invests his wealth in his community, giving back to the people who helped him to succeed in the first place, buying the local timber yard to help support Richmond residents who are struggling. The love and solidarity among Charlie’s friends and family show how community efforts can empower poor and disenfranchised people to improve their lives in the face of obstacles that would be insurmountable alone.

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Money, Class, and Community ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Money, Class, and Community appears in each chapter of Runner. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Money, Class, and Community Quotes in Runner

Below you will find the important quotes in Runner related to the theme of Money, Class, and Community .
Chapter 1 Quotes

Warmth. That was what the poor craved most in the winter months, but without money we seldom found it […]. To be poor was to be cold. The two were the same. But me, I refused to let it take me. So one day I plotted a course––a simple rectangle of main streets it was, covering only a few miles in distance. And that very night, when I felt the cold, dull ache in my bones, I headed out into the dark, damp streets of Richmond, and […] I ran.

Related Characters: Charlie Feehan (speaker)
Page Number: 2-3
Explanation and Analysis:

True, it was the warmth I sought each night I headed out. It was the prickle of skin and the sweat on my brow. But soon there was something more. The sleazy streets seduced me, and, like a moth to the flame, I gladly surrendered.

Related Characters: Charlie Feehan (speaker)
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2  Quotes

I’d heard that [Squizzy Taylor] was a man not to be trusted––a scheming blaggard who’d squeal on his mother to save his own skin. But already I liked him. There was something about him I admired. Pint-sized and snappily dressed, Squizzy Taylor commanded respect. And what’s more, he got it.

Related Characters: Charlie Feehan (speaker), Squizzy Taylor
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

That night in my sleep, I dreamt of a house with pink walls […].All three of us were there, Ma, Jack, and me, sitting in front of a crackling fire. Beside the hearth, stacked neatly in rows, was a pile of wood stacked so high it reached the top of the mantelpiece. We sat smiling, faces aglow, dunking bits of bread into steaming soup […].

Next morning, it was the cold that woke me early. When I opened my eyes, the pink walls in my dream had turned a moldy gray and black.

Related Characters: Charlie Feehan (speaker), Mrs. Feehan, Jack Feehan
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

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 4 Quotes

I was proud of my legs. Before the running, they’d been nothing more than two slender sticks […]. But now with the miles in them, they were steely and strong. They were runner’s legs––legs that would one day carry me out of the slums for good.

Related Characters: Charlie Feehan (speaker)
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

I didn’t want what other people wanted. I didn’t want to be like Nostrils, sticking labels on tins of jam at Rosella’s, or like my father, who’d busted his gut down on the wharf for years. I wanted something more than that. I wanted a piece of the action. It didn’t have to be a huge helping, just a slice of it.

Enough to give Ma and Jack a better life.

Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

I stood next to Nostrils, smiling confidently, almost daring the copper to take it further. Never before would I have had the nerve, but as he looked into my eyes I held his gaze, and it was then that I realized what I loved about working for Squizzy Taylor. It was more than just the money. It was the power I loved as well.

Related Characters: Charlie Feehan (speaker), Nostrils Heath, Squizzy Taylor
Page Number: 61
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 13 Quotes

During the city runs, I’d been able to distance myself from Squizzy’s debtors. To me they were simply names on a list.

But now, after my meeting with the Cornwalls, I realized that these people were more than just names. They were real people, desperate people––people with families, people just like Ma and me.

Page Number: 106
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 15 Quotes

I’d grown accustomed to [Squizzy’s] sarcastic tongue. But tonight the tone in his voice was different. There was a viciousness in it, and it frightened me.

“What the flamin’ ‘eck d’ya think yer up ta?” he roared. “Ya thinkin’ a joinin’ the priesthood, are ya, lad? It’s charity work yer interested in, is it?” […]

“Mr. Taylor, I can explain […].”

In a flash, Squizzy jumped to his feet, gun in hand. He rushed me and stopped only a few inches from my face.

Related Characters: Charlie Feehan (speaker), Squizzy Taylor (speaker)
Page Number: 126-127
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 went back to that first time I’d ventured out––that time I plotted a course of four main streets to rid myself of the cold, dull ache in my bones. Tomorrow, however, I’d be running for something more. I’d be running for my father, for Ma, for Jack, for Alice, for Nostrils, and for Mr. Redmond. Tomorrow I’d be running the race of my life, and the stakes were high.

Page Number: 180
Explanation and Analysis: