What's the theme of “Raymond's Run”?

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One could argue that the main theme of “Raymond's Run” is that appearances can be deceptive. On the face of it, it doesn't seem that Raymond has what it takes to be a runner like his sister. But during the big race, Raymond shows his potential on the other side of the fence from the running track.

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I would argue that the themes of this moving short story are sibling love and priorities. Hazel Elizabeth Deborah Parker, better known as Squeaky, is committed to looking after her brother Raymond, who is described as “not quite right.” Right from the outset, we learn that Squeaky is fiercely protective of her brother. She does not allow anyone to tease Raymond “about his big head.” When she and her brother go walking around town, she ensures that he doesn’t get into any trouble and makes it clear to everyone they encounter that if anyone is thinking of messing with Raymond, they are going to have to go through her.

We learn that Squeaky is a talented runner. She is to participate in the fifty-yard dash which forms part of the May Day program, and she is determined to beat her archrival, Gretchen. At the start of the race, Squeaky notices Raymond getting into position “on the other side of the fence” as though he is going to run too. In the midst of the race, she notices Raymond running “in his very own style,” and she is so taken with the sight that she states she “almost [stopped] to watch [her] brother Raymond on his first run.” Suddenly, beating Gretchen seems less important.

Here, we see Squeaky’s priorities begin to shift from her own running career to the potential she sees in her brother. While waiting to hear whether she or Gretchen had won the race, she realizes that her talents could be put to great use if she had to retire as a runner herself and dedicate her time to training Raymond as a runner. It is her love for her brother that makes her see that while she has won many races, her brother has achieved little and has nothing “to call his own.” It is Squeaky’s love for her brother that makes her want to change her priorities and his fortunes.

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Though Raymond accompanies his sister Squeaky on her regular runs around the neighborhood, that hardly makes him a good runner. He may be able to keep up with her, but under the specific conditions of an actual race, it would almost certainly be a different matter altogether.

It comes as something of a surprise, then, to find that Raymond actually has some serious potential as a runner. We discover this on the day of the big race when Squeaky observes her brother on the other side of the fence from the track running along the sidelines.

His running style may be somewhat unorthodox, with his palms tucked up behind him, but he certainly has a lot of raw talent. So much raw talent, in fact, that Squeaky reckons she could coach him to become a successful runner like herself.

If there's one lesson to be learned from all of this, it's that you can't judge a book by its cover. No one, least of all Squeaky herself, would've taken Raymond for a talented runner. But Raymond has shown her and everyone else that appearances can so often be deceptive. All he needed was an opportunity to show what he could do.

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The universal theme of the short story “Raymond’s Run” by Toni Cade Bambara is finding your identity so that you can respect yourself and others. Hazel Elizabeth Deborah Parker, also known as Squeaky, is the protagonist in the short story. She is a young, school aged girl who bases her whole identity on her athletic prowess as the fastest runner, and one of the toughest girls in her Harlem neighborhood. She practices her running and breathing day in and day out while she tends to her disabled brother. Everywhere they go she protects her brother from the older children in the neighborhood who are cruel to him because of his disability. She sees him as Raymond, her disabled brother, not as a person. Squeaky shows her disdain for another student, Cynthia Proctor, who pretends she does not have to practice her piano lessons, study for tests or spelling bees to be successful. Squeaky’s whole existence is based on practicing her running and breathing with Raymond in tow.

The story climaxes at the annual May Day Race. Squeaky has new competition in the race from Gretchen P. Lewis who recently moved to the neighborhood. Squeaky realizes that her brother is running the race right along with her although he is on the other side of the fence because he cannot be an official race entrant. The fence is symbolic of Raymond’s situation as a person with disabilities. Raymond is as fast as she is and runs with his own style. Raymond’s run makes her realize that although she takes care of Raymond as her disabled brother, she was overlooking Raymond as a unique person. In addition, after the run and while taking in the sights at the May Day celebration she becomes introspective. She sees Gretchen as a friend, not as competition. They exchange a genuine smile, which is something that cannot be practiced. Hazel Elizabeth Deborah Parker finds her identity as a caring, compassionate person; she finally respects herself and others for their unique qualities.

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What is the theme of "Raymond's Run"? [Please cite textual evidence from the story to support the theme identified.]  

One theme of "Raymond's Run" is that disabled people should not be demeaned or underestimated. 

In this delightful short story about an independent girl and her endearing brother Raymond, the reader is provided an important insight into those who are considered mentally disabled. Throughout most of the narrative Squeaky feels that she must be concerned about her brother Raymond's physical safety; for instance, when she runs down Broadway, she keeps Raymond on the inside of her and watches that he does not chase the pigeons that could disturb the older people sitting outside. She is also protective of him since he is often the target of insults and ridicule:

But now, if anybody has anything to say to Raymond, anything to say about his big head, they have to come by me. 

On one run, Squeaky encounters some girls with whom she is familiar. One of them, named Rosie, who usually says derogatory things about Raymond asks him,“What grade you in now, Raymond?”  But, Squeaky does not allow them to demean Raymond and retorts,

“You got anything to say to my brother, you say it to me, Mary Louise Williams of Raggedy Town, Baltimore.”
“What are you, his mother?” sasses Rosie.
“That’s right, Fatso. And the next word out of anybody and I’ll be their mother too.”

While Squeaky is very protective and does not allow anyone to insult her brother, she is not, however, beyond learning something about Raymond herself. When she participates in the track meet on May Day, and, as she races down the designated path, she notices that Raymond is running with her on the outside of the fence, running in his own unique way. Nevertheless, he is keeping up with her fairly well.

And on the other side of the fence is Raymond with his arms down to his side and the palms tucked up behind him, running in his very own style, and it’s the first time I ever saw that and I almost stop to watch my brother Raymond on his first run.

After she wins the race, Squeaky is not so concerned about her own winning; she reflects,

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.

Raymond has found a new place in her heart as Squeaky realizes that she has underestimated her brother, who now has talents she has not been aware of, talents that he can develop without protection from her. She need [subjunctive mood of this verb] only stop insults and watch for his safety while he leads the charge down the track. 

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What is the theme of the story, "Raymond's Run"?

Several important themes run through Toni Cade Bambara’s gripping Raymond’s Run. The most important theme is the significance of familial relationship in life. Here it's about the selfless and intimate bonding between a brother and a sister. 

The story presents a moving tale of deep love and understanding between two siblings, Hazel Elizabeth Deborah Parker and her brother Raymond Parker. While Hazel is unusually passionate about running, Raymond is a mildly abnormal as “he’s not quite right.”

We see how the little girl is so deeply attached to his brother who is slightly mentally retarded. She never leaves him alone lest anybody may cause him trouble.

She plays the role of mother, bodyguard, friend and sister towards him. Towards the end she is all set to assume another role for herself - that of a coach to Raymond.

She knows how great it feels to top a race. She’s never tasted defeat in racing.

“And I’ve got a roomful of ribbons and medals and awards. But what has Raymond got to call his own?”

In these lines we share a sister’s discomfort seeing his brother devoid of any such achievement. She feels sorry for her brother who has almost go no identity as an individual; no accomplishment in his name. She wants to make him feel special about himself.

Today when she is jumping up and down, everybody thinks she’s glad to win the race once again. But actually they are wrong; she is jumping because she’s discovered in Raymond the potential to be “a great runner in the family tradition.” 

Moreover, though Raymond is unable to articulate his feelings for his sister, we know he loves her very much. To celebrate her victory, he climbs up the fences easily and quickly and then jumps off and comes running to congratulate her.

What we witness here is the indescribable bond of selfless love between two siblings that finds joy only in the happiness of one another. This, perhaps, is the most important and predominant theme in the story.

Second, the story is about the gradual development of the central character Hazel. Since the start of the story, we admire her for whatever she is. She is a very loving and caring sister. She is determined, fearless and bold, clear-headed and devoted and perseverant school going girl.

The development that we notice in her is that at first she remains rather aloof from others except Raymond. She doesn’t seem to be in good terms with her friends. Besides, to her Raymond has always been a sort of responsibility to look after; of course she loves him a lot.

Towards the end, she has developed further with more admirable qualities. She has grown fuller and more matured. Instead of just thinking about winning races herself, she wants to coach his brother, Raymond, as a successful runner. Moments ago she has discovered that Raymond is not merely an abnormal boy but one with enough potential to be groomed to be a great runner.

Besides, her rivalry with Gretchen seems to have transformed into a relationship of friendship and respect. She seems to have become more accommodative and more matured.

Another important theme is that true sportsmanship teaches one to respect one another. It is bereft of feelings of ill-will or malice. Nobody can doubt Hazel’s dedication for running. She’s either running or doing something to help her run better and faster.

In Gretchen, Hazel finds her true competitor but she is never jealous of her. At the end when her name is announced as the winner, Hazel and Gretchen exchange smiles out of respect for one another. Gretchen too has got true sportsman spirit.

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What is the theme of the story, "Raymond's Run"?

One important theme in the story concerns identity, how Hazel develops it with certainty and strength while at the same time being caring and loving to Raymond.  She both believes in herself, which is absolutely necessary to constructing a strong identity, yet, not at all selfish, she is always ready to defend Raymond. However, she grows in the story, which we see especially when she recognizes that Raymond is an athlete in his own right. Thus she sees herself as an individual but also understands herself in relation to others, and it is upon both of these that she bases her sense of who she is. Follow the link below for a fuller discussion of the story and its themes.

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What is the lesson in "Raymond's Run"?

The short story "Raymond's Run" is about a competitive, talented runner named Squeaky, who has a mentally challenged brother and is rivals with a new girl named Gretchen. Squeaky is depicted as an aggressive young girl who is fiercely protective of her brother, Raymond. Squeaky's tough exterior and competitive personality prevent her from forming genuine friendships with the other girls her age, and she is solely focused on winning the May Day races. During the race, Squeaky ends up looking at her brother, who is running by her side in his very own style on the other side of the fence. After the race, Squeaky remembers Raymond running and thinks about coaching him. She also smiles at Gretchen and mentions that maybe she can help her coach Raymond. Overall, one could argue that Toni Cade Bambara's lesson of the short story is that increased empathy and openness can have positive results. Another lesson addressed in the short story is that mentally challenged individuals have talents and abilities that can be fostered and facilitated. Squeaky's epiphany that she can develop her brother into a competitive runner also illustrates to readers that it can be a gratifying experience helping others achieve their potential.

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What are three major themes of the short story "Raymond's Run"?

Three themes found in "Raymond's Run" are Identification, Personal Growth and Development, and Understanding of Differences

1. Identification

Bambara's story is that of the residents of Harlem. Squeaky knows her neighborhood and feels a part of it; as she runs, she monitors Raymond, her mentally disabled brother because "he'll dash across traffic" or bother the old people who sit outside to enjoy the sunshine. She is fiercely protective of Raymond, threatening to fight anyone who bothers him. Known as "the fastest thing on two feet" in her neighborhood, Squeaky practices for the fifty-yard dash on Broadway and other streets. She perceives herself as a champion--"no one can beat me"--and differs from Cynthia who practices all the time on her piano, but then pretends that she does not know how she has played so well when she stumbles onto the piano stool and just "happens to decide to play." Squeaky disdains this pretense.

Squeaky does not engage in self-deception; she is proud of her abilities and admits that she cannot afford such luxuries as a new dress for the May Day dance. Besides, she reasons, she is a runner, not a dancer. At the race when Gretchen smiles at her, Squeaky does not trust her because "girls never really smile at each other." However, as she runs, she sees her brother racing outside the fence, and she identifies him as a runner, as well. And, after the race is over, Squeaky realizes the genuine offer of friendship from Gretchen, and identifies with her as a friend.

2. Personal Growth and Development

As she moves across her neighborhood, Squeaky is objective about what she sees and is confident of her abilities, but she views too much through the lens of her single personal perspective. Later, at the May Day Race, when Squeaky realizes that Raymond is capable of running well and Gretchen truly wants to be her friend, Squeaky extends herself more to Gretchen and to new ideas about her brother. So, she offers a "smile of respect" to Gretchen and considers asking her to assist in coaching Raymond.

3. Understanding of Differences

Another theme found of the story concerns the treatment of the mentally challenged. When children tease Raymond, Squeaky acts in his defense and threatens them or attacks them verbally whereas she should use other approaches such as explanation to people and positive views of her challenged brother. Even she misses Raymond's attributes until the race when she perceives her brother in a new light as an asset to the family who can bring them honors.

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What is the universal theme of the short story "Raymond's Run?"  

The short story "Raymond's Run" has a few universal themes in it.  One would be growth and development.  Another theme would be the theme of identity.  If I had to pick one, I would pick the theme of identity though, because I believe that the theme of growth and development fits within identity.  As Hazel matures through the story, her sense of identity changes with it.  

When the story begins, Hazel identifies herself as a runner.  

‘‘I’m serious about my running and I don’t care who knows it.’’

Hazel isn't just a naturally talented runner.  She is dedicated to her craft.  She practices all of the time and actively seeks out opportunities to make herself better.  She thinks things like dresses and May Pole dances get in the way of training, because they take time and money away from running and training.  To a certain extent, Hazel also feels that her brother, Raymond, interferes with her running too.  She fiercely defends him from bullies, but at times Hazel feels that it is an inconvenience to care for him.  

That attitude changes dramatically when Hazel sees her brother running.  Hazel sees that Raymond is a naturally gifted runner and could be quite fast with the proper training.  

"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."

Her outlook has shifted 180 degrees.  Hazel is no longer focused on herself and making herself better.  She now sees herself as a coach who gets a sense of achievement through making someone else better.  

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In "Raymond's Run," which theme is shown most clearly?

In the short story "Raymond's Run" by Toni Cade Bambara, the narrator is a girl named Hazel Elizabeth Deborah Parker, whose nickname is Squeaky. She loves to run, practices as much as she can, and wins all the local yearly races. She is responsible for taking care of her brother Raymond, who is older than her but "not quite right," meaning he is mentally disabled. Although she is slim and small, she is willing to stand up for and defend her brother, which she demonstrates when a group of girls approaches and attempts to make fun of him. Squeaky enters the May Day race for her age category and wins. However, as she runs, she notices Raymond running with her along the sideline, and she decides it will be more fun and fulfilling to coach Raymond than to keep winning races for herself.

One of the most important themes is the coming of age of Squeaky. Coming of age refers to a milestone in life when someone transitions from childhood to adulthood. This applies to Squeaky because of what happens at the end of the story. In the beginning she is caught up in herself, in her talent of running, and in her practice. Her brother Raymond is merely tagging along in her wake. Running even puts her into a wonderful dreamlike state. However, when she realizes that it might be more fulfilling to coach Raymond rather than continue pursuing her own victories, she passes into a stage of maturity in which someone else's happiness and well-being is more important than her own.

Another theme, especially in the first part of the story, is the importance of persistence when you are pursuing what you believe in. Squeaky displays this persistence in always practicing her running technique and her breathing exercises.

There is also the theme of loyalty to family. Squeaky faithfully cares for her brother Raymond and is willing to stand up to bullies and fight to protect him from harassment. Bambara later expands on the bullying incident by introducing another theme after the race concerning the desirability of reconciling with rather than fighting an enemy.

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