Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
The first-person narrator, Hazel Elizabeth Deborah Parker, known as Squeaky, is a young girl growing up in the Harlem section of New York City. Squeaky prides herself on her performance on the track and her ability to care for her mildly retarded brother Raymond.
A little girl with skinny arms and a high-pitched voice, Squeaky is a self-confident, cocky youngster who boasts that everyone knows she is the fastest thing on two feet. Squeaky takes her running seriously; she is not afraid to practice high stepping out on the street where anyone can see her. She is also a responsible and caring child. Although Raymond is actually older, Squeaky thinks of him as her little brother because he is less bright than she is. She is proud of her ability to care for him, protecting him from the taunts and threats of other children.
The May Day celebration in the park includes a race, but the most important event is the maypole dancing. Squeaky has refused to participate because she is uncomfortable getting all dressed up in a white dress and shoes to dance. She is a practical girl who describes herself as “a poor Black girl who really can’t afford to buy shoes and a new dress you only wear once.” She is there to compete in the track meet. Secure in her identity as a runner, she explains that she uses her feet for running, not dancing.
Squeaky’s main competition is a new girl, Gretchen Lewis, whom Squeaky has tried to size up on the basis...
(The entire section is 613 words.)
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Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
“Raymond’s Run” appears in the collection Gorilla, My Love and has been published independently as a work of young-adult fiction. The story features twelve-year-old Hazel Elizabeth Deborah Parker, who narrates the story. Nicknamed Squeaky for her high-pitched voice, she is a competitive runner, as is her older brother, Raymond, her unofficial training partner. Because he has Down syndrome, neither the community nor his family expects him to succeed in life. The Parkers seem to have accepted Raymond’s limitations, but Squeaky is cognizant of her parents’ embarrassment over her tomboyish activities. A connection is implied between Raymond’s developmental disability and Squeaky’s supposed gender deviance, both apparently aberrations of nature.
Squeaky’s independent spirit refuses to bow to social constraints, however, and she ignores maternal advice that would retard her pace. Recalling how she danced in a school pageant, Squeaky critiques her parents and the social norms they attempted to enforce: “You’d think they’d know better than to encourage that kind of nonsense. I am not a strawberry. I do not dance on my toes. I run. That is what I am all about.” Confident in her self-knowledge, Squeaky pushes the boundaries of socially prescribed norms.
Readers are privy to the thoughts, emotions, and attitudes of the unabashed Squeaky, a skinny black girl whose sole ambition is to cross the finish line first. Among the...
(The entire section is 437 words.)
Bambara has long been admired for her short stories. "Temperamentally, I move toward the short story," Bambara once said, defining herself, like her protagonist Hazel Parker, as "a sprinter rather than a long distance runner." In "Raymond's Run" the young Hazel Parker relates the events of two days in her life in which she prepares for and runs a race. The story first appeared in 1971 in an anthology edited by Bambara, Tales and Short Stories for Black Folks. A year later it appeared in her first collection of short stories, Gorilla, My Love.
Bambara's story of Hazel's race against the newcomer Gretchen, during which Hazel comes to a turning point in her relationship with her mentally challenged brother, Raymond, has been seen as a ground-breaking initiation story. Along with others in the collection Gorilla, My Love, it has been classed as among the first to place a young black female as a central character in the tradition of the bildungsroman (a novel about the moral and psychological growth of the main character).
Critics have also praised Bambara's compassionate portrayal of the African-American community, a community in which Hazel Parker takes center stage and speaks with her own voice. The vibrant, idiomatic language and upbeat tempo, which are compelling features of the story, are characteristic of Bambara's style. Her ability to capture, translate, and play in and out of the voices and idioms of black...
(The entire section is 1099 words.)
Setting the Scene
‘‘Raymond’s Run’’ plunges its readers immediately into the world of its narrator Hazel, known in her neighborhood as ‘‘Squeaky,’’ a young black girl verging on adolescence. We meet Hazel walking down a street in Harlem with her older—but mentally younger— brother, Raymond. While she guards her mentally challenged brother from dashing into the traffic or soaking himself in the gutters, Hazel resolutely keeps up breathing exercises to train herself as a runner. Known in the neighborhood as ‘‘the fastest thing on two feet’’ she is determined to maintain her reputation by winning the fifty-yard dash at the school May Day track meet the following day. Unlike her schoolmate Cynthia, who pretends to be nonchalant about her abilities, Hazel works hard to be the best and does not care who knows it.
Suddenly Hazel and Raymond come face-toface with Gretchen and her followers. Gretchen is a newcomer to the neighborhood and a potential rival of Hazel’s for the fifty-yard dash. She is a rival in other ways as well: Gretchen’s followers Mary Louise and Rosie were once friends of Hazel. Mary Louise attempts to tease Raymond, but is no match for Hazel’s razor-sharp wit. Hazel and Gretchen size each other up, but decide against a confrontation. Hazel notes that Gretchen’s smile at her is ‘‘really not a smile’’ because ‘‘girls never really smile at each other.’’
The May Day...
(The entire section is 857 words.)