Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a f***ing big television. Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose a three-piece suite on hire purchase in a range of f***ing fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the f*** you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing f***ing junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pishing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, f***ed up brats you spawned to replace yourself.
Choose your future.
The ‘Choose Life’ monologue from Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting is notorious for its austere yet detailed, critical yet sensitively accurate, depiction of an attitude towards the consumerist lifestyle. Trainspotting provides a riveting and unrefined insight into the lives of young heroin addicts living in Edinburgh during the final Thatcher years. Thatcher’s Britain proved to show extensive change to society – with unskilled jobs on the way out and consumerism forced down the throats of the people with no remorse. In the ‘Choose Life’ monologue, “life” refers to the typical, consumerist existence, which eventually leads to a rather cynically described miserable death. With a f***ing big television. This monologue is so well known, it’s almost cliché – it sums up pretty well the hopelessness young people feel when they grow up in difficult social and political environments. Of course this is not to say that choosing the lifestyle of heroin addict and protagonist Mark Renton is exemplary – far from it. He experiences desperately dismal and sombre things in the novel such as the death of a best friend from HIV, excessive violence and the death of a baby.
Trainspotting resonates with many young people, not because they are heroin addicts or criminals, but because the broader ideas that the novel instills in people are relevant and relatable. I would expect that many young people harbour a little fear that they will spend their life toiling away to live the life of someone whose values they abhor. When I first read through the ‘Choose Life’ monologue I found it instilled a bit of pessimism and melancholia in me, for it translated an indirect fear of my own into literature. After reading through other people’s opinions on the monologue, I realised that there are many other aspects to a conventional lifestyle that are not addressed in it, like the happiness that can be achieved from a fulfilling job or human connection. It is true that a lot of people do not live the life described in the monologue at all – and not just heroin addicts. Choose life.
Image Credits: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/Trainspotting