Contention: To what extent does Charlie grow throughout the novel? Runner, by Robert Newton is the telling of a gusty young boy named Charlie Feehan, set in the Slums of the Richmond streets, in 1919. Many events and decisions occur throughout the novel that causes Charlie to grow up a little too fast. . In other words, Charlie grows and changes throughout the novel in many different ways, especially from start to finish. Charlie started off as a confused boy living in poverty. After Charlie’s fathers passing he was unsure about his role as man of the house. With his mother slowly withering away, and his brother only a baby, he felt he had to take all the responsibility, in order for his family to survive. “…so confused sometimes (he) didn’t know who it was (he) was supposed to be.” He was still at the grieving stage from his father’s passing, and was forced with the expectation of filling his father’s shoes. “Wearing them was easy’ but ‘filling them was a different story altogether.”
Throughout this novel, Charlie’s father’s boots are used as a metaphor to link Charlie to his father. “He had given me the boots as I sat for the last time on his bed and listened to the wheeze and crackle in his chest.” Charlie escapes and numbs his pain by running; this is how he later gets involved with Squizzy Taylor. “When I felt the cold dull ache in my bones, I headed out into the dark damp streets of Richmond, and… I ran’. Charlie is doing anything he can to survive at the moment. Survival is the main theme throughout the book. Charlie knew that it was getting to the point where he and his family would be unable to cope. “No. We can’t keep scroungin’ off the neighbours, Charlie. It ain’t right.” For these reasons it is obvious that it would be scarce to find happiness living within people so poor. ‘True, (he) lived in a city that was home to every imaginable evil, but for (Charlie), there was always something else. For (him) there was hope.” As Charlie progresses through this novel he grows and changes his attitude due to the dramatic changes he goes through.
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Charlie went through many changes throughout the novel, many that should not be experienced by a boy his age. Some of these changes also affected the people close to him. The loss of Charlie’s father is not something that a boy his age should have to go through. Charlie rarely commented on his father, but when he did, it was special. “(He) missed (his) father the most. (He) wanted him back. Not for them, but for (himself).”Charlie had realised that he would never be able to have that father, son companionship ever again. “….Never again, I realised, would I experience my father’s touch.” Charlie knew that his family’s welfare was now in his hands. He had realised what an easy target his family had become and how he had to step up and take charge. An example of this would be when Charlie had to injure My Peacock after he abused his mother. “That night I turned sixteen years old.” Even though many of these changes that forced Charlie to grow were very significant, some were little changes that helped Charlie grow just as much.
An example is when Charlie agrees to run the Ballarat Mile. He is very strong-minded and determined; we see this in his keenness to start training for this prestigious race. These attributes were not evident towards the start of the novel. Another example would be when Charlie gets a girlfriend. “Alice Cornwall threw (Charlie) a smile and (he) melted.” Alice was Charlies first love; this is something that would impact the life of any teenager. Charlie also found Nostrils, who was one of the main characters that impacted Charlie’s life. “Nostrils was (his) best friend (he) couldn’t leave him.” At the start of the novel Charlie did not seem like a very sociable person. Once he found Alice and Nostrils, he grew more mature and generally happier. Charlie as a teenager underwent many life changing events, which forced him to make quick and important decisions.
Charlie is forced to make many decisions, some right and some wrong. These decisions influenced his growth tremendously. For instance; Charlie becomes involved with Squizzy Taylor. Initially, the reader would suggest that this is a bad idea because Squizzy is an illegal gangster. Charlie knew the only way his family was going to survive was with money, so he had to work for Mr Taylor. “It’s me who’d gotta think about the family now. We ain’t got any money comin’ in. This is all we got.” In the result of Charlie’s personal growth, Charlie sees Squizzy’s true character and decides to stop working for him. “It’s yer boots, Mr Taylor….Ya know, it’s funny, but they never really fit (Charlie) in the first place.” Towards the start of the novel it was evident that Charlie would never be able to stand up to Squizzy Taylor like that.
The scene where Jimmy Barlow and his mates start bashing Norman, Charlie is forced to make the decision to stay in the bush or go and help Norman. ‘Should I return to Nostrils, or go for help? He was my best friend, I couldn’t leave him.” Charlie also runs the Ballarat Mile. He knows that the footrace is way out of his league, but he still bets all of his earnings on it. This decision would probably not have been made by someone like Mr Redmond because he knew what a risk it was, but Charlie, being only sixteen, would take the chance. “…with the total prize money an’all, yer’ve a grand total in yer kitty of one thousand, two hundred pound.” Charlie responsibly uses this money to buy his own company. Charlie has managed to set up a bright future for his friends, family and himself.
Every sequence throughout this novel helped Charlie to grow. By the end, Charlie is successfully fulfilling his role as man of the house. He has set up a future for his friends and family, at only sixteen. There had also been mistakes made throughout the novel, however it was evident that Charlie grew from them. Charlie was able to transform from a poor, miserable boy, into a determined, optimistic, young man with his whole life set out for him.