As the protagonist in "Raymond's Run," Hazel Elizabeth Deborah Parker has several conflicts, both external and internal, with which she must deal.
Hazel, who is called Squeaky because of her voice, is a very defensive person, perceiving her contemporaries as adversaries, either to her or to her mentally-challenged brother.
Here, then, are some of her conflicts in Toni Cade Bambara's story:
- External conflicts
-Squeaky vs. Raymond
Whenever Squeaky goes running she has Raymond run on the inside of her, protecting him from the traffic on the street. But, he must not interfere with her. She narrates that Raymond is fine as "long as he doesn’t run me over or interrupt my running." She adds, "I never walk if I can trot, and shame on Raymond if he can’t keep up."
-Squeaky vs. Cynthia
She does not like Cynthia Proctor because this girl pretends that she does not practice the piano or study her spelling so that others will think she is exceptional. Squeaky remarks, "A regular prodigy. I could kill people like that."
-Squeaky vs. Mary Louise, Rosie, and Gretchen
When Squeaky and Raymond run upon the three girls as they jog down Broadway, Mary Louise asks Raymond what grade he is in now with the intention of belittling his mental abilities. This derogatory question angers Squeaky, of course, who is very defensive of her brother.
Rosie is much more blatant about her insults to Squeaky:
"I don’t think you’re going to win [the May Day race] this time,” says Rosie, trying to signify with her hands on her hips all salty, completely forgetting that I have whipped her behind many times for less salt than that.
Squeaky then looks at Gretchen, who is apparently smiling, but Squeaky suspects that her smile is disingenuous because "girls never really smile at each other because they don't know how...." She sees all three of the girls regarding Raymond and suspects them of more antagonism toward him, remarking, "And they’re about to see what trouble they can get into through him."
-Squeaky vs. Mr. Pearson
Mr. Pearson, who directs the May Day race program, approaches Squeaky and asks her if she is going to let any one else have a chance in the race. Then, he suggests that the new girl, Gretchen, may give her a real challenge. Squeaky does not like this comment, saying "I give him such a look he couldn’t finish putting that idea into words. Grown-ups got a lot of nerve sometimes."
- Internal Conflicts
-Squeaky vs. her own judgments
Squeaky is, perhaps, overly protective of Raymond and too suspicious of others. In her own mind, Squeaky has not given Raymond credit for his own running skills. But, during the May Day race she takes notice that Raymond is keeping up with her even though he has an odd way of holding his hands as he runs. Squeaky, then, delights in Raymond's ability and begins to view him in a new light.
Still competitive with Gretchen and somewhat suspicious, Squeaky mentions that as she heads to the finish line she notices "to the right, a blurred Gretchen, who’s got her chin jutting out as if it would win the race all by itself."
However, Gretchen proves that her previous smile has been genuine, after all. For, after coming in a close second to Squeaky, Gretchen smiles genuinely to congratulate Squeaky on the close victory over herself, and Squeaky realizes that her suspicions have been unfounded.
The conflicts a character faces are either external or internal. Both of these conflicts exist in "Raymond's Run", and Hazels' internal and external conflicts stem from the same sources. Hazel's internal conflicts have to do with her love of running and her love of Raymond. Hazel exudes confidence on the outside about her running, but she feels the pressure of maintaining her reputation as a fast runner. She wouldn't be human if she didn't worry about being able to continually prove herself on the track. There's no doubt that Hazel loves Raymond, but she also feels burdened by having to care for him. She must feel conflicted about the time it takes away from her running to take care of her brother.
Her external conflicts are with those who would hurt Raymond with their unkind remarks and with those who would threaten Hazel's reputation as the fastest runner. Mary Louise, Hazel's former friend, tries to make fun of Raymond, but she is no match for Hazel's caustic defense of him. Mary Louise represents all of the people who would make fun of Raymond or any other handicapped person. Hazel's external conflict about her running is with Gretchen, the new girl in school.