Healing didn't reach him
Stuart does come across people or environments that were genuinely caring and healing -- this in the midst of much of the inadequate un-joined-up work that is called 'care' in our society.
- HMP Grendon, a prison for the mentally ill that is uniquely therapeutic: he manages to get himself sent there (there's a waiting list), but then ships out, unable to face or bear the regime, even though they seemed perhaps to be getting to the roots of his chaotic behaviour
- A girlfriend, who seemed to offer genuine love: his response simply was to take everything she offered, then disappear and get high on drink or drugs for a few weeks
- The Emmaus community outside Cambridge, which offers a simple, working community, which he turns his back on.
The book describes the joy of solvents: amazing hallucinations from almost anything containing solvents: glue, Tipp-Ex, nail varnish, car paint and on and on. The typical gluehead is an adolescent,lower-class male with low interest and motivation, whose father left or died when the child was young, who is excluded or rejected by his peers, and short of stature' (p172) -- all of which is true of Stuart.
How it happened
The book seems to blame two things for Stuart's destruction:
- Child abuse at the hands of his brother and his babysitter; then by some of those in the care system, including some of the most popular and respected social workers
- Choosing violence and madness as a way to get respect when he was bullied and mocked for his physical handicaps as a small boy.
"You know, Alexander, I don't know meself how I got to be like this ... sometimes I think I'm the child of the Devil. Honestly, I do believe that. I've invited the Devil in, and now I can't get him out. I've tried burning him out and cutting him out and he don't take no notice. Why should he? He doesn't want to be homeless. He's got me. Little, skinny, violent me." (p 284).