What four events contribute to the way Squeaky views competition in "Raymond's Run"?

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hgarey71 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Four events that contribute to the way Squeaky views competition in Toni Cade Bambara's short story "Raymond's Run" are her encounter with Gretchen and her friends on the street, her encounter with Mr. Pearson before the race, when she sees Raymond run for the first time, and her exchange with Gretchen after the race is over.

The first exchange happens when Squeaky, whose real name is Hazel Elizabeth Deborah Parker, is walking down the street with her mentally challenged brother while practicing her breathing exercises for the upcoming race. Squeaky mentions that she is always practicing her running, and doesn't care who knows it. She has embarrassed her mother by high-prancing down the street to strengthen her knees. The exchange between Squeaky and Gretchen, who is her greatest competition, can be likened to the "psyching out" many athletes engage in prior to competition. Rosie, one of Gretchen's friends, tells Squeaky that she doesn't think Squeaky will win this year. Rather than making Squeaky doubtful, this exchange strengthens her resolve to win. 

“You signing up for the May Day races?" smiles Mary Louise, only it’s not a smile at all. A dumb question like that doesn’t deserve an answer. Besides, there’s just me and Gretchen standing there really, so no use wasting my breath talking to shadows. "I don’t think you’re going to win this time," says Rosie, trying to signify with her hands on her hips all salty, completely forgetting that I have whupped her behind many times for less salt than that.

"I always win cause I’m the best," I say straight at Gretchen who is, as far as I’m concerned, the only one talking in this ventrilo-quist-dummy routine. Gretchen smiles, but it’s not a smile, and I’m thinking that girls never really smile at each other because they don’t know how and don’t want to know how and there’s probably no one to teach us how, cause grown-up girls don’t know either.

The day of the race, Mr. Pearson, a race official who pins the numbers on the racers, suggests to Squeaky that maybe she should allow someone else to win the race this year. This angers Squeaky and gives her even more incentive to win. She does not view competition as a time to let others have a fair chance; she sees it as a time to give it everything she has. If she proves she is the best, she and her neighbors can take pride in her victory. 

“Well, Hazel Elizabeth Deborah Parker, going to give someone else a break this year?" I squint at him real hard to see if he is seriously thinking I should lose the race on purpose just to give someone else a break. "Only six girls running this time," he continues, shaking his head sadly like it’s my fault all of New York didn’t turn out in sneakers. "That new girl should give you a run for your money." He looks around the park for Gretchen like a periscope in a submarine movie. "Wouldn’t it be a nice gesture if you were. . . to ahhh. . ." I give him such a look he couldn’t finish putting that idea into words. Grown-ups got a lot of nerve sometimes. I pin number seven to myself and stomp away, I’m so burnt.

During the race, Squeaky sees her brother Raymond run. It's the first time she has seen him do this, and it has a profound effect on her. She thinks about the fact that she has many awards for her running, but Raymond doesn't have anything to be proud of. She thinks about giving up running to coach Raymond. 

And it occurs to me, watching how smoothly he climbs hand over hand and remembering how he looked running with his arms down to his side and with the wind pulling his mouth back and his teeth showing and all, 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. And I’m smiling to beat the band cause if I’ve lost this race, or if me and Gretchen tied, or even if I’ve won, I can always retire as a runner and begin a whole new career as a coach with Raymond as my champion.

After the race is over and it is announced that Squeaky won, her perceptions of competition have once again changed. Squeaky learns that she can have respect and possibly even a friendship with someone she views as competition. Prior to the race, Squeaky didn't have anything but confrontation on her mind when it came to Gretchen. After the race, she sees her as a worthy opponent who deserves respect. The girls smile at each other, and Squeaky's perceptions have been changed by the exchange.

And I look over at Gretchen. . . And I smile. Cause she’s good, no doubt about it. Maybe she’d like to help me coach Raymond; she obviously is serious about running, as any fool can see. And she nods to congratulate me and then she smiles. And I smile. We stand there with this big smile of respect between us. It’s about as real a smile as girls can do for each other, considering we don’t practice real smiling every day, you know, cause maybe we too busy being flowers or fairies or strawberries instead of something honest and worthy of respect. . . you know. . . like being people.