What did Squeaky mean when she said: "I'm not a strawberry" in "Raymond's Run" by Toni Cade Bambara? 

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Squeaky is the protagonist and narrator in Toni Cade Bambara's short story "Raymond's Run." She is a strong young lady who regularly does two things: she takes care of her mentally challenged brother and she runs.

One of the things which Squeaky detests in her classmates is that they hide the fact that they work hard to accomplish their goals--and then act dramatically surprised when people praise them for their seemingly effortless efforts. Squeaky has no trouble letting everyone know she works hard at her running; in fact, she is proud of it.

Another thing Squeaky despises is showy displays which make the girls, anyway, look silly and foolish, as if they are trying to be something they are not. Every year, the big race in her class happens after all the girls dance in their finest clothing around a May Pole. Squeaky disdains this activity (and therefore does not participate in it) not only because they get ridiculously sweaty but because it makes girls try to be someone besides themselves when they "should be trying to be [themselves], whatever that is." 

Squeaky goes on to describe an incident that happened when she was in preschool Hansel and Gretel program, when she says she 

didn’t have no better sense than to dance on tiptoe with my arms in a circle over my head doing umbrella steps and being a perfect fool just so my mother and father could come dressed up and clap. You’d think they’d know better than to encourage that kind of nonsense. I am not a strawberry. I do not dance on my toes. I run. That is what I am all about.

Of course what Squeaky means when she says she is not a strawberry is that she is not willing to be something she is not just to make other people happy. She is an individual and will be a strawberry only if it suits her and makes her happy. As it stands, though, she is a runner and has no interest in being anything else.