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

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"Raymond's Run" is a first-person narrative, told from the perspective of a girl named Hazel, nicknamed Squeaky. The tone of the story, therefore, coincides with Hazel's personality and her reactions to her surroundings. It quickly becomes apparent that Hazel is a streetwise young girl ("I don't . . . believe in standing around with somebody in my face . . . I much rather just knock you down . . . And, if things get too rough, I run") and also that she is very protective of her younger brother Raymond ("he needs looking after cause he's not quite right"). When talking about her brother, and the difficulties he sometimes gets her into, she has a very matter-of-fact tone:

if you don’t watch him he’ll dash across traffic to the island in the middle of Broadway and give the pigeons a fit. Then I have to go behind him apologizing to all the old people sitting around trying to get some sun.

Hazel also has a rather dismissive, exasperated tone when talking about some of the other children in her neighborhood. Rosie, for example, is described as "too stupid to know that there is not a big deal of difference between herself and Raymond and that she can’t afford to throw stones." And, as for the gang of girls that Rosie is a part of, Hazel decides that there's "no use wasting my breath talking to shadows."

Toward the middle of the story, Hazel's tone becomes somewhat aggressive as the confrontation with the gang of girls escalates. When Hazel defends her brother from the gang and is asked sarcastically if she is his mother, she responds with, “That’s right, Fatso. And the next word out of anybody and I’ll be their mother too.”

Much of the story is also infused with a humorous tone—specifically, the wry humor that is part of Hazel's streetwise persona. For example,

the man on the loudspeaker has just announced the fifty-yard dash, although he might just as well be giving a recipe for angel food cake cause you can hardly make out what he’s sayin' for the static.

In the build-up to the race (the fifty-yard dash), the tone, mirroring Hazel's emotions, is at once nervous and excited:

I am solid again and am telling myself, Squeaky you must win, you must win, you are the fastest thing in the world, you can even beat your father up Amsterdam if you really try.

At the end of the story, Hazel's tone, and so the tone of the story, is contented and happy, and this is because she realizes that what she really cares about is not the race that the story has been building up to, but her brother. She realizes that a better, more fulfilling kind of happiness can be had if she puts her brother before herself:

So I stand there with my new plans, laughing out loud by this time as Raymond jumps down from the fence and runs over with his teeth showing . . . by the time he comes over I’m jumping up and down, so glad to see him—my brother Raymond.

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The tone of Toni Cade Bambara’s story “Raymond’s Run” goes through a metamorphosis as the feelings of the protagonist change from the beginning to the end. Throughout much of the story the tone is antagonistic as Hazel Elizabeth Deborah Parker, better known as Squeaky, defends both her brother Raymond and herself in their Harlem neighborhood. Squeaky defends the two of them physically and emotionally. Although Raymond is older than Squeaky, he is disabled, and as a result he is looked upon as her younger brother. The other children in the neighborhood are mean to Raymond, but Squeaky defends him. Squeaky’s antagonistic attitude spills over into her life both at school and in her friendships. She shows her distain for people, such as Cynthia Proctor, who she feels are fake and challenge her running ability.

During the resolution of the story, an introspective tone surfaces. When Squeaky wins the May Day race, she is more focused on seeing her brother in a different light. He was able to run stride for stride with her, so she sees him as a person who is able to accomplish things in spite of his disabilities. In addition, she faced a challenge from Gretchen P. Lewis in the race. Squeaky begins to think of others instead of focusing only on herself and her pursuits.

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