In "Raymond's Run," how do you think growing up in a city like this one has affected Squeaky's personality?   

Expert Answers
beateach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hazel Elizabeth Deborah Parker, also known as Squeaky, is growing up in Harlem, New York, in Toni Cade Bambara’s short story “Raymond’s Run.” In the story, Squeaky, describes the responsibilities of family members, and how she immediately reacts to difficult situations by fighting. She describes her reactions, and what her brother does for a living, which gives the reader clues to the inner workings of the neighborhood. There are neighborhoods where disagreements are not decided by violence but this is not one of them. She sees her life as “survival of the fittest.”

And I don’t have to earn my pocket money by hustling; George runs errands for the big boys and sells Christmas cards.

And I don’t play the dozens or believe in standing around with somebody in my face doing a lot of talking. I much rather just knock you down and take my chances even if I am a little girl with skinny arms and a squeaky voice, which is how I got the name Squeaky. And if things get too rough, I run. And as anybody can tell you, I’m the fastest thing on two feet.

She has to be tough and use her best skills to survive. Squeaky has a need to excel at something so that she has a position in the neighborhood. Other girls are good at playing the piano, or winning spelling bees. Squeaky’s talent is running. She is passionate about it, and practices her breathing routine in front of everyone as she walks down Broadway. Throughout most of the story, her ability as a runner defines her and gives her a way to be accepted in the neighborhood.

The people in her neighborhood live by the same tenets and change allegiances often. Squeaky makes friends with a new girl, Mary Louise, who becomes friends with someone else. Loyalty is at a premium is her circle of acquaintances.

Mary Louise, who used to be a friend of mine when she first moved to Harlem from Baltimore and got beat up by everybody till I took up for her on account of her mother and my mother used to sing in the same choir when they were young girls, but people ain’t grateful, so now she hangs out with the new girl Gretchen and talks about me like a dog...

Although, Squeaky’s personality is defined by her surroundings, and the people she encounters in the neighborhood, ultimately, her relationship with Raymond exerts the greatest influence on who she chooses to become.