Irvine Welsh

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Themes and Colors
Addiction and Society Theme Icon
Scottish Identity Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Sex, Libido, and Gender Norms Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Trainspotting, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Addiction and Society

Most of the characters in Irvine Welsh’s novel Trainspotting struggle with some form of addiction, often a dependence on heroin. The novel explores drug culture in Scotland in the late 1980s, depicting elements of it with realism and specific details, but it also explores metaphorical addictions and how these are similar to and different from physical addictions. The novel portrays addiction as both a constant state and a cycle. Some of these cycles play…

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Scottish Identity

Most of Trainspotting is set in Leith, a largely working-class neighborhood of Edinburgh. Welsh wrote most of the book in different varieties of Scottish English, which is how most of the characters in the story speak. This focus on Scottish identity helps convey pride in Scottish culture. One of the most significant elements of Scottish culture in the book is how Scotland differs from England. Although Scotland and England are both part of the UK…

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Most of the characters in Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting are part of the same loosely defined friend group. They follow a mostly unspoken code of conduct where loyalty to friends is one of the most important virtues, although not all of the characters can live up to this standard. Many of the characters genuinely like each other, at least some of the time, and their trips to pubs or concerts can be joyous. Other times, however…

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Sex, Libido, and Gender Norms

Though characters frequently put heroin above all else, sex is often nearly as important to them. Sick Boy is notorious for his ability to have sex with almost any woman, whereas Rent Boy and particularly Spud tend to be less successful in their attempts—and constantly anguish over it. Sex is so important to Johnny Swan that it’s the first thing on his mind even after he gets his leg amputated. Many sections of the novel…

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