Raymond's Run Questions and Answers
by Toni Cade Bambara

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What are three major themes of the short story "Raymond's Run"?

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Three themes found in "Raymond's Run" are Identification, Personal Growth and Development, and Understanding of Differences

1. Identification

Bambara's story is that of the residents of Harlem. Squeaky knows her neighborhood and feels a part of it; as she runs, she monitors Raymond, her mentally disabled brother because "he'll dash across traffic" or bother the old people who sit outside to enjoy the sunshine. She is fiercely protective of Raymond, threatening to fight anyone who bothers him. Known as "the fastest thing on two feet" in her neighborhood, Squeaky practices for the fifty-yard dash on Broadway and other streets. She perceives herself as a champion--"no one can beat me"--and differs from Cynthia who practices all the time on her piano, but then pretends that she does not know how she has played so well when she stumbles onto the piano stool and just "happens to decide to play." Squeaky disdains this pretense.

Squeaky does not engage in self-deception; she is proud of her abilities and admits that she cannot afford such luxuries as a new dress for the May Day dance. Besides, she reasons, she is a runner, not a dancer. At the race when Gretchen smiles at her, Squeaky does not trust her because "girls never really smile at each other." However, as she runs, she sees her brother racing outside the fence, and she identifies him as a runner, as well. And, after the race is over, Squeaky realizes the genuine offer of friendship from Gretchen, and identifies with her as a friend.

2. Personal Growth and Development

As she moves across her neighborhood, Squeaky is objective about what she sees and is confident of her abilities, but she views too much through the lens of her single personal perspective. Later, at the May Day Race, when Squeaky realizes that Raymond is capable of running well and Gretchen truly wants to be her friend, Squeaky extends herself more to Gretchen and to new ideas about her brother. So, she offers a "smile of respect" to Gretchen and considers asking her to assist in coaching Raymond.

3. Understanding of Differences

Another theme found of the story concerns the treatment of the mentally challenged. When children tease Raymond, Squeaky acts in his defense and threatens them or attacks them verbally whereas she should use other approaches such as explanation to people and positive views of her challenged brother. Even she misses Raymond's attributes until the race when she perceives her brother in a new light as an asset to the family who can bring them honors.

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