How did Squeaky change throughout the story "Raymond's Run?"
At the beginning of the story, Squeaky comes across as a strong, no-nonsense kind of girl. She is able to fend for herself and also takes care of her older brother, Raymond, who is mentally challenged. This should be quite a big responsibility for Squeaky considering her age, yet she is able to take this in stride. For instance, she says that anybody who wants to be unkind to Raymond has her to contend with and that she’d most likely just “knock down” whoever it was.
She is also highly independent and does not fear to live in her own skin. Because of this, she is disdainful of people who “act like things come easily for them," like Cynthia Proctor, and of events such as the May Pole dance, where she’d have to dress up and act all girly just to please her mother. She knows her capabilities on the track and is contemptuous of the new girl Gretchen, who thinks that she is a better runner than her. In fact, she is so confident of her racing skills that she is not afraid to tell everybody that Gretchen is no competition to her.
Towards the end of the story, Squeaky learns that Raymond too is quite a runner. This is after Raymond runs on the other side of the fence, during her race. For the first time in her life, she does not worry about whether she has won the race or not, rather she thinks about how later on she can work on coaching Raymond to be a better runner, to have some of the glory she too has had in life. The fact that Gretchen could have just as easily won the race, teaches her empathy for Raymond and others, even for Gretchen herself. She realizes that Gretchen is a great athlete and smiles at her. This is her first friendly gesture towards Gretchen. Squeaky describes the smiles that pass between her and Gretchen, as “smiles of respect.”
At the beginning of the story, Squeaky sees her job as being the sole protector of her little brother, Raymond. Raymond is mentally challenged and Squeaky is willing to take on anyone who challenges or makes fun of him but she also sees her brother as somewhat of a burden. She does not see Raymond's potential as a runner. However, during the May Day race, she notices something for the first time. She writes, "it occurred to me that Raymond would make a very fine runner. Doesn’t he always keep up with me on my trots? And he surely knows how to breathe in counts of seven cause he’s always doing it at the dinner table, which drives my brother George up the wall." Squeaky realizes that even if she doesn't win the race, she can always coach Raymond and do other things herself. The realization allows Squeaky to also recognize the good qualities in her rival, Gretchen, and the two girls smile at each other. This implies a future friendship between the two girls and a realization that her brother also possesses talents. So Squeaky is freed to become both a friend to Gretchen and less of a protector and more of a coach to Raymond.
When the story begins, Squeaky is very eager to prove herself by winning every race she runs in, and she also devotes herself to protecting her brother Raymond, who is developmentally disabled, by threatening anyone who menaces him. She spends a great deal of time practicing her stride and her running so she can be the best, and she sees Raymond as someone to protect and other girls as people to keep up her guard around.
However, by the end of the story, she realizes that Raymond has his own capacities as a runner and that she can coach him to be a runner. She comes to understand that he is more capable than she had thought and that her role is not merely to defend him as one would defend a child but also to nurture him and encourage him to get some glory. In addition, she realizes that she and her running rival, Gretchen, can be friends and partners rather than merely rivals. In recognizing the new relationship that she might have with Gretchen, Squeaky comes to understand that girls can help each other rather than just be rivals.