What is the theme of the novel, The Loneliness of the Long- Distance Runner?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Isolation, individuality and rebellion are the interconnecting themes of Alan Sillitoe's British novel, The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner. A native of Nottingham, Smith has grown up on the streets and has been sent to a juvenile prison in Borstal to serve his sentence for theft. While there, he is selected to represent the school in a long-distance race. Smith finds solace in the solitude of the training, but he is proud of his roots: He will always remain an outlaw in a world of "in-laws." In the end, he deliberately loses the race after running to a big lead, since the "in-law" governor will receive the greatest accolades.

By losing the race, Smith maintains his individuality in what will be a continually rebellious life. Although he is most happy while running by himself, he looks forward to completing his sentence only so he can return to a life of crime--an outlaw to the end.

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