Irvine Welsh

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Trainspotting can help.
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.
Friendship Theme Icon

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, characters have ulterior reasons for maintaining friendships. Rent Boy’s relationship with dealers like Johnny Swan and Mike Forrestor, for example, is mostly transactional, since Rent Boy just uses them to fuel his heroin addiction—in fact, he doesn’t even like Forrestor as a person.

Many events in the story test the limits of friendship, questioning where the limit should be. Rent Boy, for example, gives Tommy heroin when Tommy requests it for the first time after his breakup with Lizzy, which ultimately starts a chain of events that leads to Tommy getting HIV. Rent Boy wonders how much guilt he bears for what happens to Tommy and whether it was his responsibility as a friend to set limits for Tommy or whether Tommy is simply suffering the consequences of his own decisions. Begbie, meanwhile, remains friends with most of the main characters in the story despite the fact that most of them don’t like him and make fun of him behind his back. Begbie is more violent than Rent Boy, Sick Boy, Spud, and the others, but they only occasionally try to stop him and more often are complicit in his violence. Begbie takes advantage of their loyalty, pushing the whole group to do things that make them uncomfortable. Ultimately, the only way Rent Boy can imagine escaping Begbie’s influence is by leaving Scotland for good, which he does at the very end of the novel. Trainspotting depicts the power of friendship and how it can help people endure hardship but also how loyalty to friends can be harmful and force people to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do.

Related Themes from Other Texts
Compare and contrast themes from other texts to this theme…

Friendship ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Friendship appears in each chapter of Trainspotting. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
How often theme appears:
chapter length:
Get the entire Trainspotting LitChart as a printable PDF.
Trainspotting PDF

Friendship Quotes in Trainspotting

Below you will find the important quotes in Trainspotting related to the theme of Friendship.
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:

An unspoken contract was forged between them in a split–second. Jackie’s screams reverberated around the stairwell, as they booted and dragged him from landing to landing. He vainly tried to protect himself and, through his fear and pain, hoped that there would be something left of him to move out of Leith, when the ordeal was over.

Related Characters: Jackie , Lenny , Granty , Fiona , Billy , Rent Boy
Page Number: 104
Explanation and Analysis:
Kicking Again Quotes

Rents picks up a stane and flings it at the squirrel. Ah feel likes, sick, ma hert misses a beat as it whizzes past the wee gadge. He goes tae pick up another, laughin like a maniac, but ab stoap um.

Related Characters: Spud (speaker), Rent Boy, Sick Boy, Begbie
Page Number: 159
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:

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:
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

No. He had to stay in control, There was too much at stake. There was everything at stake. There is nobody looking at Begbie though. Those who are not oblivious to him, can feel the vibes he is giving out. They employ that special talent people have: Pretending nutters are invisible. Even his companions won’t meet his gaze.

Related Characters: Begbie, Rent Boy
Related Symbols: Heroin
Page Number: 326
Explanation and Analysis:

Ironically, it was Begbie who was the key. Ripping off your mates was the highest offence in his book, and he would demand the severest penalty. Renton had used Begbie, used him to burn his boats completely and utterly. It was Begbie who ensured he could never return.

Related Characters: Rent Boy, Begbie
Related Symbols: Heroin, Trains
Page Number: 343
Explanation and Analysis:

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: