What are main ideas in Toni Cade Bambara's short story "Raymond's Run"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the central themes of "Raymond's Run" is that of the main character's maturation as she broadens her viewpoint.

Initially, Squeaky suspects the motives of others; for instance, she is very defensive of her mentally challenged brother named Raymond. She is also suspicious of what motivates the other girls' actions and speech. An example of Squeaky's suspicions about the other girls occurs when she encounters Mary Louise, Rosie, and Gretchen as she runs down Broadway. After Mary Louise asks Squeaky if she will sign up for the May Day race, Rosie challenges Squeaky, "I don't think you're going to win this time." Squeaky addresses her response to only Gretchen as she retorts, "I always win cause I'm the best." Gretchen smiles but Squeaky remarks 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.

On the day of the race, however, Squeaky learns to smile when her heart teaches her. As she nears the finish line, she observes Raymond running in his "very own style" that she has not seen before. Suddenly, she considers the idea of training Raymond because he would "make a fine runner." Then, as she leans over getting her wind, Squeaky sees Gretchen and "sort of likes her for the first time." 

So, not only does Squeaky win the May Day race, but with her attention drawn to her brother's talent, she widens her viewpoint and finds an appreciation for the ability of Gretchen, as well. 

And she nods to congratulate me and then she smiles. And I smile. We stand there with this big smile of respect between us.

In her generosity toward Gretchen and with her appreciation of others, along with her joyous delight in finding new meaning in her life as Raymond's trainer, Squeaky reaches a higher level of maturity. For she realizes that her struggle need not be her own. She can help Raymond reach his potential, and Gretchen may also like to help her coach Raymond.

Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One major theme in Toni Cade Bambara's short story "Raymond's Run" concerns finding one's true identity. At first, the protagonist nicknamed Squeaky identifies herself as only a super fast runner, or as she phrases it, "Miss Quicksilver herself." Beyond being a fast runner, she identifies herself as an ambitious, devoted person, and it is due to her ambition and devotion that she truly is the fast runner she is. She practices her running all over town; she'll even "high-prance down 34th Street like a rodeo pony" to the embarrassment of her mother, just because she is extremely serious about her running. It is her running that makes her feel her own self-worth since her series of first-place medals make her feel like she has a place of honor in Harlem.

Yet, as the story progresses, Squeaky learns she can adopt a new identity. Squeaky also loves her mentally handicapped older brother Raymond, who comes along with her when she practices. While running in the race, Squeaky notices Raymond running alongside her beyond the fence. She sees that he's a very fast runner, regardless of having his own quirky style, and with training, he could be a "very fine runner." At that moment, she decides her new identity will be as Raymond's devoted trainer in order to help Raymond find his own beloved identity.