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Hazel Elizabeth Deborah Parker, better known as Squeaky, is the protagonist of Toni Cade Bambara's short story "Raymond's Run," and she is a young lady who knows what she wants.
From the first lines of the story, we know that Squeaky is different than the other girls because she does not have to spend her time on chores like they do. That is probably because she has an older brother who is mentally challenged, and it is clear that she spends a lot of time with him. We also know she spends a lot of time training to run rather than doing silly or foolish things like the other girls her age, and it is her attitude about Raymond and about herself which most reveal how Squeaky views the world.
subject to fits of fantasy and starts thinking he’s a circus performer and that the curb is a tightrope strung high in the air. And sometimes after a rain he likes to step down off his tightrope right into the gutter and slosh around getting his shoes and cuffs wet.
Despite her brother's unusual behavior, Squeaky is very matter-of-fact as she deals with him and very protective of him when others try to make fun of him.
One day she and Raymond are walking when they are stopped by several of Squeaky's classmates. Though they smile and make small talk for a moment, it is clear the girls are not friends and their intentions are anything but friendly. One of the girls starts this conversation, trying to goad Raymond into talking so she can make fun of him:
“What grade you in now, Raymond?”
“You got anything to say to my brother, you say it to me, Mary Louise Williams of Raggedy Town, Baltimore.”
“What are you, his mother?” sasses Rosie.
“That’s right, Fatso. And the next word out of anybody and I’ll be their mother too.”
This bit of dialogue represents exactly how Squeaky views her world: it is her job to protect Raymond and she intends to do it. Anyone who tries to make fun of him is going to have to deal with her, and she wants to make sure the experience is an unpleasant one--for the other person, anyway.
We also have many, many examples of Squeaky's self confidence, claiming that she is the best and the fastest runner, that she does not care if everyone knows she wants to win and is willing to work hard to do it, and that she has no time for the foolishness she sees in the other girls. It is a bit arrogant-sounding, but she is the fastest runner and she does work hard and the other girls are a bit foolish, so we will call it confidence.
One other apt piece of dialogue happens when Squeaky goes to sign up for the race. She does not arrive all dressed up, like the other girls, and go
out there prancing around a May Pole getting the new clothes all dirty and sweaty and trying to act like a fairy or a flower or whatever you’re supposed to be when you should be trying to be yourself.
Instead, she shows up just for the race, settles Raymond into the swings, and concentrates on the race. When Mr. Pearson comes to record her name, "Squeaky," on his clipboard, she says,
“Hazel Elizabeth Deborah Parker,” I correct him and tell him to write it down on his board.
This quote speaks to her determination to be herself, not someone others want her to be. We see several other examples of this, but this one is a short, powerful assertion of her independence and identity.
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