What is the mood and tone of "Raymond's Run"?

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liesljohnson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Mood" and "tone" get defined in lots of different ways, and sometimes they even overlap! But the point of understanding either of these is that you can pin down what kind of feeling the author or narrator creates throughout the story, and also what kind feeling you as the reader experience as a result.

Let's define "mood" as the entire emotional atmosphere in a story. In that case, "Raymond's Run" has a tense mood full of strife. Because the story is told in the first person by Squeaky, the narrator who's entering the race and recounting her life as a young, scrappy defender of her brother, we're pulled into her mind and her struggle. And that mood of tension consumes us and keeps us reading quickly to see how Squeaky will react to every surprise that comes her way. She sees every person who interacts with her as a threat, or something to be criticized or dismissed--and staying with her through all her tense memories and through the defensive way she speaks to her peers is exhausting.

That tense mood gets expressed through the author's highly specific word choice; through the snappy, colloquial, sassy dialogue; through the nearly-chaotic setting and the swiftly moving plot; and of course, through the tone of the piece, too.

If we define "tone" as the attitude that the writer expresses toward the subject matter, then we can say that "Raymond's Run" starts out with a harsh, matter-of-fact tone, and then softens into a tone of excitement and joy toward the end of the story.

Look at how the story starts out with Squeaky's tough, down-to-earth, defensive internal comments about everything she hears and sees, like "A dumb question like that doesn’t deserve an answer" and "he’s got no right to call me Squeaky, if I can’t call him Beanstalk." These create that harsh tone throughout the beginning and middle of the story.

But toward the end, as Squeaky pays more attention to her brother and less to winning the race, note how the tone changes into one of excitement and joy. "Squeaky you must win, you must win, you are the fastest thing in the world," she tells herself. "So I stand there with my new plans, laughing out loud by this time," she thinks. The tone has gone from harsh and tough to joyful and happy.