Raymond is mentally challenged, and Squeaky is his proud caretaker. While Raymond...
The protagonist of "Raymond's Run" by Toni Cade Bambara is Hazel "Squeaky" Parker, Raymond's younger sister; she undergoes a change in her thinking by the end of the story. Raymond is the catalyst for that change.
Raymond is mentally challenged, and Squeaky is his proud caretaker. While Raymond happily lives his life pretending to drive a stagecoach or be in the circus, Squeaky is protective and ready to challenge anyone who wants to taunt or tease him. In fact, we see her do just that in a confrontation with some of the girls in her class as she and Raymond are walking downtown. Squeaky leaves no doubt in the other girls' minds that she is prepared to get in a physical fight if necessary, and the girls move on without raising her ire any further. Raymond is Squeaky's burden, but it is a light load she does not mind carrying.
One thing we know about Raymond, then, is that he is oblivious to the trouble and potential trouble around him. Of course this ensures that he is a happy boy who is content to live in his own world.
We know that Raymond and Squeaky are always together and we know that she is constantly training for her passion: running. We should not be surprised, then, that Raymond is also practicing this skill, at least to some degree, if only because he has to keep up with his sister. When Squeaky takes her position on the starting line of the big May Day race, she is surprised to see that her brother is mirroring her position on the other side of the fence. She left him in a swing, but he has joined her in her passion.
During the race, Squeaky is surprised to see Raymond running along with her on the other side of the fence,
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.
Raymond has his "very own style," proving that he is capable of doing something on his own and in his own way. This is the crux of the epiphany Squeaky has. She says:
[I]t occurred to me that Raymond would make a very fine runner. Doesn’t he always keep up with me on my trots? And he surely knows how to breathe in counts of seven cause he’s always doing it at the dinner table, which drives my brother George up the wall. 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. After all, with a little more study I can beat Cynthia and her phony self at the spelling bee. And if I bugged my mother, I could get piano lessons and become a star. And I have a big rep as the baddest thing around. And I’ve got a roomful of ribbons and medals and awards. But what has Raymond got to call his own?
The last thing we learn, along with Squeaky, about Raymond is that he has the potential to be something, and when he does it will be something of his own. He, like the rest of us, is a unique individual with the capability to succeed at the things he works at doing. Squeaky thinks he might be "a great runner in the family tradition," but it is more than that. Squeaky thinks he is worth training, and he might even be worth giving up her own passion for running. Raymond can be something more than just a mentally challenged boy who has to follow someone around and be watched. He can still be happy, but he can also learn and be passionate and successful in his own unique way.