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

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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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.