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Hazel Elizabeth Deborah Parker, also known as Squeaky, is the protagonist of "Raymond's Run" by Toni Cade Bambara. One of the hallmarks of a protagonist that she undergoes a change, and that is true for Squeaky in this story.
What is most notable about Squeaky is that she is committed to running. It is the thing she does best, and she is not afraid to tell everyone just how good she is at it.
There is no track meet that I don’t win the first-place medal. I used to win the twenty-yard dash when I was a little kid in kindergarten. Nowadays, it’s the fifty-yard dash. And tomorrow I’m subject to run the quarter-meter relay all by myself and come in first, second, and third. The big kids call me Mercury cause I’m the swiftest thing in the neighborhood. Everybody knows that....
Unlike the people who pretend they never practice or work hard to get better at whatever it is that they do (the kind of people Squeaky despises), Squeaky works hard and publicly, practicing some aspect of running no matter what else she may be doing. She dismisses even the thought of anyone else who thinks they might possibly beat her, confident that she will win because that is what she has decided to do. The characteristic she most consistently displays, then is the desire to win races. It is her obsession.
When the day of the race arrives, Squeaky sets her mentally challenged brother Raymond in a nearby swing and begins her pre-race rituals. When she finally stands at the starting line with her next-fastest rival Gretchen Lewis, Squeaky has no doubts about the eventual outcome of this race. When the race begins, it is as if she is in a kind of trance and the race is mostly a blur; however, today she sees that Raymond is running the race with her on the other side of the fence. After the race is over, she thinks about seeing Raymond running so well next to her and thinks that maybe Raymond could learn to be a runner. She says:
And I’m smiling to beat the band cause if I’ve lost this race, or if me and Gretchen tied, or even if I’ve won, I can always retire as a runner and begin a whole new career as a coach with Raymond as my champion.
Over the course of her short race, something in Squeaky changes. Instead of thinking only about herself, she begins to think about her brother running next to her and about how she can make him successful. She also, remarkably, does not see winning as being quite as important as it was just a few minutes ago--though she is certainly happy to hear her name, Hazel Elizabeth Deborah Parker, called as the winner.
In case we think that Squeaky will no longer be interested in winning, however, Squeaky tells us she can always beat Cynthia, the best speller, at the spelling bee or learn how to become the best pianist in the school. She is still determined to win, but seeing Raymond changes her thinking about running. She knows she can win races, so now she will stop to help Raymond be successful at something. The last line of the story is indicative of Squeaky's willingness to think about more about others than herself; she has ribbons and trophies, "[b]ut what has Raymond got to call his own?"
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