Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, choose a washing machine, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose a three-piece suit on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing gameshows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked-up brats you spawned to replace yourselves. Choose your future. Choose life... But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose somethin' else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you've got heroin?
This quote illustrates that one root of Renton's discontent is a disdain for what is perceived as a normal life. He implies that this life is something into which most people stumble blindly, simply out of a societal expectation or desire for certain material comforts, until they lose their individuality. He ties together material comforts with larger life events and important relationships (family, friends), thus turning such values into commodities. Though he finishes the monologue by claiming there are “no reasons” that he chose heroin, the monologue indicates that he may have done so out of a desire simply to reject everything about his society, and live as an outcast. This quote defines Renton’s desire to rebel, which will remain important throughout the film. It also characterizes his apathy and outlook at the start of the film, which we will see gradually change as the film unfolds and his character matures.
Living like this is a full-time business.
Renton explains that a drug addiction is not something that can be supported while living a normal life. There would be no time. Renton's life is a twenty-four hour cycle of buying drugs, injecting heroin, coming down, stupor, needing money, stealing money and buying drugs. The frenzied imagery overlaying this quote support the idea that a drug addiction completely controls and dominates your life. There is no time to work, to socialize with friends who are not fellow addicts, or to pay attention to anything that is not part of the cycle of drug use.
Take the best orgasm you’ve had, multiply it by 1000, and you’re still nowhere near it.
Renton says this as part of his opening narration, describing why he and his friends do heroin. He claims that a central reason they do it is because of the pleasure of heroin, and he relates this pleasure to sex. A connection between sex and drug use runs throughout the film: the comparison to orgasm is made repeatedly, Renton and his friends seek sex when they quit heroin, and their bad sexual experiences turn them back on to heroin. This line will come back when Tommy is trying to convince Renton to buy him drugs; Tommy has lost his girlfriend and is no longer having sex (because Renton stole his sex tape), and he wants to try the thing that Renton has repeatedly claimed is better than sex. The relationship between sex and heroin use is further drawn out by the film’s addressing of HIV—both heroin use and unsafe sex can spread this illness, and Tommy, the focus point of the sex-heroin connection in the film, contracts the disease.
No way would I poison my body with that shite.
Begbie says this to Renton to try to convince him to quit drugs. However, Begbie is smoking a cigarette and drinking whisky while he says it, which undermines his point (alcohol and tobacco also have “poisoning” effects on one’s body). Renton uses this image of Begbie as he says this line in order to draw out the hypocrisy of Begbie’s disdain for heroin, in an attempt to justify his own choices by discounting the opinions of his critics. Begbie’s contempt for heroin use becomes a key part of Renton’s dismissal of the ideas of his non-addicted friends and family throughout the film. Begbie is an easy target for such dismissal—his violent demeanor is clearly far more “toxic” for society and for Renton than anything that Renton would put in his body.
The downside of coming off junk was that I knew I would need to mix with my friends again in a state of full consciousness.
This quote is the first indication that, more than addiction, Renton’s biggest problem is his friends. Renton hates his friends, each one for different reasons. He is most irritated by Sick Boy and Begbie, who have the most negative influence on him. The quote indicates that his disdain for his friends might be at the root of his addiction, because he can only tolerate them when high. Further, it will later turn out that they directly contribute to his addiction by encouraging him to use drugs use even when he does not want to.
A couple days later I got the truth from Tommy. It was one of his major weaknesses: he never told lies, never took drugs, and never cheated.
This line indicates Renton’s sense of morality, at least early on in the film. His contempt for mainstream society also extends to mainstream morality: he has no problem with lying and cheating, and thinks that avoiding them demonstrates weakness. This quote is also important for setting up Tommy’s characterization to create a stark contrast between his behavior at the start of the film and after he has become addicted to drugs.
He is a fucking psycho, but he’s a mate, you know, so what can you do?
Tommy says this line about Begbie after he commits an act of violence, and Renton repeats it immediately, as Begbie starts to commit another act of violence. It comes back later in the film as well, when Begbie interrupts Renton’s life in London, and begins to ruin Renton’s newfound happiness there. It draws out the negative influence that Renton’s circle of friends have on each other, and draws into question the purpose of friendship; why are they friends with someone who only harms them? It gets at an underlying problem with Renton’s friend group, which is that they seem to have some sense of obligation to be friends, either out of history or necessity (Begbie and Sick Boy, in particular, use their friends), despite the harmful consequences.
It’s shite being Scottish! We’re the lowest of the fucking low, the scum of the earth, the most wretched, servile, miserable, pathetic trash that was ever shat into civilization. Some people hate the English, but I don’t. They’re just wankers. We, on the other hand, are colonized by wankers. We can’t even pick a decent culture to be colonized by. We are ruled by effete arseholes. It’s a shite state of affairs, and all the fresh air in the world will not make a fucking difference.
Here, Renton rejects another ideal considered valuable by his society: national pride. The quote comes after a particularly unpleasant experience for Renton—he has just found out that the girl he slept with the night before was a minor. He channels his self-loathing after this experience into a general self-loathing for being Scottish. This experience and the self-hatred that comes across in this quote are what lead him back to heroin after being sober for a short time.
Something inside Sick Boy was lost and never returned. It seemed he had no theory with which to explain a moment like this.
This quote comes after the death of Baby Dawn, and the revelation that Sick Boy was her father. Though Sick Boy is a contemptible character and an incredibly negative force in Renton’s life, this scene helps us empathize with Sick Boy’s emotional side (something which Begbie, the other most negative character, lacks). It also identifies a change in characterization for Sick Boy, which lasts for the rest of the movie: he becomes more desperate, more criminal, and more selfish.
I am going to be just like you.
Renton’s assertion at the end of the film, seemingly directed at the viewer, abrasively forces the viewer to identify with Renton. The viewer has been identifying with Renton somewhat throughout the film because of Renton’s role as the narrator and his control of the story-telling, yet we also distance ourselves from him when he does something reprehensible (which happens frequently). This quote forces the viewer to consider more directly our identification with Renton, and whether we would act differently if we were put in the same situations as him. It also recalls his earlier “choose life” statement, because he is telling the viewer—likely a “normal” member of society—that he will begin to follow the same path as us and make the same choices as us.
Trainspotting (Film) Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Trainspotting (Film) is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.