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

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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.

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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.

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What are some ideas for a four paragraph essay about Toni Cade Bambara's short story "Raymond's Run"?

I cannot write an essay for you, but perhaps I can give you some guidelines to follow.

First, you have to decide what kind of essay you want to write. There are several to choose from. If you have not been given specific instructions, you will probably write an informative essay that summarizes a certain aspect of Toni Cade Bambara's "Raymond's Run." If it is up to you with regard to what you write about, I would suggest using Squeaky as your subject for the essay. In that you need specific information from the story to support your essay's topic, you will find a great deal to choose from in the character of Squeaky.

The most important step in writing your four-paragraph essay is to brainstorm and decide what the focus of your story will be so you know what details you need to support that topic. Perhaps you could write about how Squeaky changes throughout the story.

Once you choose your topic, it is important to stay focused on it. 

Your main idea will be stated in your first paragraph—the introductory paragraph. Check out How To Write an Introduction for Your Essay. It provides several examples of how to grab your reader's attention in the introduction. If you write about Squeaky, you might want to start using something she says that supports your topic—making it your first sentence. (Remember to put it in quotation marks.)

Next, identify the two most important aspects of your topic. For example, if you were writing about why you should not live on an island with a volcano, you might choose to write about your concern for safety. Another reason might be that besides being potentially dangerous, you could lose everything you own if the volcano erupted. Each reason will make up one of the two body paragraphs. The final paragraph will contain your conclusion.

For the introduction (which will be placed entirely in the first paragraph of the essay), you will need to identify your topic. You will want to state at the very beginning what your topic is. Two general statements regarding the most important aspects of your topic should follow. These two points should be placed in the order in which you intend to write about them in the body of the essay. There are many ways to organize your ideas. If I were writing this essay, I would present the least important aspect of the topic first. I would follow that with the second and most important aspect of your topic. Finally, end your introductory paragraph with a thesis statement:

When you write your thesis...make a bold and factual statement that expresses your position.

If I were to write about wanting to climb a mountain, I would start my essay by stating that seeing the world from the top of a mountain is said to be the most amazing experience one can enjoy, but that it takes a lot of work to accomplish. (This is the topic of my essay.) Then I would give two reasons (without specifics or details) about preparing. First, I would need to train with a professional climber. Next, I would have to make sure I purchased the best equipment available. This would be the order of my two body paragraphs as well. (Supporting details for these two general statements would be found only in the body paragraphs.) I would then provide my thesis statement. I would state that while difficult to accomplish, climbing a mountain would be a rewarding and exciting accomplishment.

After my introduction, the body paragraphs would contain information to convince the reader of the truth in my thesis statement. (The body paragraphs will be the only place where you provide specific details.) In the first body paragraph, I would list the specific challenges faced on that specific mountain, resources available to find a good trainer, and the grueling training regimen he or she would likely suggest. The second body paragraph would provide information regarding the most important equipment necessary for a successful climb, why these pieces are so invaluable and a note about the cost of taking on such a task. (This would convey the seriousness of the task before me.)

In the fourth and final paragraph of my essay, I would draw the conclusion (with general statements only) why climbing a mountain would be a challenge well worth the training and expense. I would restate the thesis statement and conclude that if one wants to see the world from a new an amazing perspective, climbing a mountain provides this opportunity, and having a camera would be a must.

After deciding on the specifics of your essay, do your research before you sit down to write the essay. In this case, know your story well. Don't just sit down and begin writing.

This is where most people start. Don't. If you start here, you're likely to find the process hard and the result mediocre.

Plan ahead by giving yourself plenty of time to complete the essay, not just an hour. When you rush the process, your writing may appear disorganized and haphazard.

I would suggest not only that you organize your essay in a similar fashion to that noted above, but also that you concentrate of the aspects of your topic that you are most interested in, in order to convey your enthusiasm to your reader. The story may not be your favorite, but it is hard not to respect Squeaky for being a person of actions rather than words. This is something with which most people can identify.

Use concise (carefully selected) language: avoid using boring and overused words like great, awesomefun, exciting, etc. Go more for "emotionally charged" words like magnificentexcellentawe-inspiringentertaining, etc. If you're not certain what word to use, make use of the synonym feature in Word or look up synonyms online. Try to avoid using the same words over and over again.

Choose vivid language.

Why use horse when you can choose stallion?

If you use carefully chosen details to create a precise image of the focus your topic, it will be easier to sway your reader to come to your point of view. The most important thing you will be doing with this assignment is bringing your ideas to life on paper! Learning how to be an effective writer makes you a stand out from other writers, and it can be an amazing advantage in the workplace where many people are unable to write well.

Be organized. Failing to collect your ideas before your write can make the process frustrating, resulting in a paper that is uninspiring for you and your reader. So brainstorm your ideas on paper, index cards or on the computer. Number them so they follow a logical sequence. Forget using complete sentences for now: in the draft, just get it written down. If you find information in the story to support your thesis, write down the first couple of words of the quote and the page number, or place sticky notes in the appropriate places, numbering the order in which you want to present them. Sticky notes can be moved if you change your mind. This will make the process SO much easier for you.

If working on the computer, save constantly in case you lose power, the program crashes or you accidentally deleted a part or the whole of your work. Nothing is more frustrating than having to begin again from scratch. If you look for ideas somewhere else (e.g., critical analyses, etc.), do not plagiarize. If you copy something, put it in quotation marks. If you paraphrase, it is not enough to change one or two words: plagiarism includes copying the structure of a sentence or a paragraph. Read the information you have discovered, grasp the overall concept and then put it into your own words.

Finally, proofread, proofread and do it again. Have someone you know who is a good writer read your piece to find things your eye may miss. If you plan ahead, you can do this. After proofing a couple of times, get up and go have a snack: when you return, you may see errors you missed or things you want to clarify.

It is a process that you can fine tune with practice and attention to detail. The author of "Raymond's Run" pays excellent attention to describing Squeaky so that she becomes a real and believable character. You can do the same thing!

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