Irvine Welsh

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Addiction and Society Theme Analysis

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 Theme Icon

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 out in the short term, like how Sick Boy’s name reflects that he (and the other heroin-using characters) experience extreme withdrawal—a literal sickness—if they go too long without using heroin. Other cycles play out over a longer time frame, like Rent Boy’s seemingly endless cycle of quitting heroin, trying to get his life together, then relapsing again.

As Rent Boy sees it, however, addiction is often about more than drugs—rather, it’s an attempt to deal with the emptiness of the world they see around them. Unemployment is high in Scotland during the time when the story is set, and the jobs that are available are often so unfulfilling that Rent Boy and Spud learn how to specifically fail at job interviews in a way that will allow them to keep their unemployment benefits. Rent Boy’s depression (which gets worse during withdrawal periods) leads him to despise all politicians in all parties and reject consumerist culture around him, raising the question of whether Rent Boy’s drug use causes his dissatisfaction with society, or whether the pain of living in a flawed, dissatisfying society has contributed to his drug use. While other characters are generally less pessimistic than Rent Boy, they too often feel alienated from the mainstream, which they sometimes express through their alternative taste in clothes (the all-black-wearing Nina) and music (such as the musicians Lou Reed and Iggy Pop). Trainspotting offers a bleak depiction of drug addiction, but it also suggests that perhaps the most important part of drug culture is understanding the social conditions that make drugs seem like an appealing option in the first place.

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Addiction and Society ThemeTracker

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

Below you will find the important quotes in Trainspotting related to the theme of Addiction and Society.
Kicking Quotes

The sweat wis lashing oafay Sick Boy; he wis trembling. Ah wis jist sitting thair, focusing oan the telly, tryin no tae notice the cunt. He wis bringing me doon. Ah tried tae keep ma attention oan the Jean–Claude Van Damme video.

Related Characters: Rent Boy (speaker), Sick Boy, Johnny Swan
Related Symbols: Heroin
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

Ah never wanted anything mair in ma life than fir her tae stoap screamin.— The bairn’s away . . . the bairn’s away. . . Dawn. . . oh my god. . . oh fuckin god, wis aboot aw ah could pick ootay the horrible sound. She collapses oantae the threadbare couch.

Related Characters: Rent Boy (speaker), Lesley (speaker), Dawn , Sick Boy
Related Symbols: Heroin
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:
Relapsing Quotes

Ah sing out, a twisting, pogo–ing mass of rubber. Iggy Pop looks right at me as he sings the line: ‘America takes drugs in psychic defence’; only he changes ‘America’ for ‘Scatlin’, and defines us mair accurately in a single sentence than all the others have ever done.

Related Characters: Tommy (speaker), Lizzy
Related Symbols: Heroin
Page Number: 75
Explanation and Analysis:

Myth: Begbie’s mates like him.

Reality: Begbie’s mates fear him.

Related Characters: Rent Boy (speaker), Begbie
Related Symbols: Heroin
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:

—It’s also a fuckin good kick.

Tommy looks at us. —Gies a go. Gies a hit.

—Fuck off Tommy.

—Ye sais it’s a good kick. Ah pure wantae try it.

Related Characters: Rent Boy (speaker), Tommy (speaker)
Related Symbols: Heroin
Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:
Blowing It Quotes

Ah walk tae freedom; perr auld Spud gits taken doon.

A polisman gestures tae him tae move.

—Sorry mate, ah sais, feelin cuntish.

Related Characters: Rent Boy (speaker), Spud
Page Number: 167
Explanation and Analysis:

Ah have an unresolved relationship wi ma deid brother, Davie, as ah huv been unable tae work oot or express ma feelings about his catatonic life and subsequent death.

Related Characters: Rent Boy (speaker), Davie Renton , Dr. Forbes
Related Symbols: Heroin
Page Number: 184
Explanation and Analysis:

Funny thing wis, jist before this, ah remembered boastin thit ah’d niver OD’d in ma puff. Thir’s a first time fir everything. It wis Swanney’s fault. His gear’s normally cut tae fuck, so ye always bung that wee bit mair intae the cooking spoon tae compensate. Then whit does the cunt dae?

Related Characters: Rent Boy (speaker), Johnny Swan , Alison
Related Symbols: Heroin
Page Number: 188
Explanation and Analysis:
Exile Quotes

“I always find the term ‘opportunistic infection’ amusing. In our culture, it seems to invoke some admirable quality. I think of the ‘opportunism’ of the entrepreneur who spots a gap in the market, or that of the striker in the penalty box. Tricky buggers, those opportunistic infections.”

Related Characters: Davie Mitchell (speaker), Venters , Tommy, Rent Boy
Related Symbols: Heroin
Page Number: 239
Explanation and Analysis:
Home Quotes

It aw started tae go wrong fir the perr bastard whin we came back up here. It nivir stoaped gaun wrong eftir that. Perr Matty.

Related Characters: Rent Boy (speaker), Matty
Page Number: 288
Explanation and Analysis:

—Ah well, ah’ll leave yis tae it. Keep up the trainspottin mind! He staggered oaf, his rasping, drunkard’s cackles filling the desolate barn. Ah noticed that Begbie seemed strangely subdued and uncomfortable. He wis turned away fae us.

It wis only then ah realised thit the auld wino wis Begbie’s faither.

Related Characters: Rent Boy (speaker), Begbie
Related Symbols: Trains
Page Number: 309
Explanation and Analysis:

—It’s the fuckin best. You ken the Mother Superior, Rents. Ah believe in the free market whin it comes tae drugs. Ah’ve goat tae gic the NHS its due though. Since ah hud this pin oaf n went oan the maintenance therapy ah’ve started tae believe thit the state kin compete wi private enterprise in oor industry, n produce a satisfyin product at low cost tae the consumer.

Related Characters: Johnny Swan (speaker), Rent Boy
Related Symbols: Heroin
Page Number: 310
Explanation and Analysis:

Tommy looks well. It’s terrifying. He’s gaunny die. Sometime between the next few weeks and next fifteen years, Tommy will be no more. The chances are that ah’ll be exactly the same. The difference is, we ken this wi Tommy.

Related Characters: Rent Boy (speaker), Tommy
Related Symbols: Heroin
Page Number: 314
Explanation and Analysis:
Exit Quotes

Now, free from them all, for good, he could be what he wanted to be. He’d stand or fall alone. This thought both terrified and excited him as he contemplated life in Amsterdam.

Related Characters: Rent Boy, Spud
Related Symbols: Heroin
Page Number: 344
Explanation and Analysis: