Squeaky is a very no-nonsense, confident young girl with a lot of spunk and attitude. She works hard, and isn’t afraid to let everyone see she works hard, studying all night for the spelling bee and doing breathing exercises and knee exercises up and down the sidewalk. Everyone knows she’s...
Squeaky is a very no-nonsense, confident young girl with a lot of spunk and attitude. She works hard, and isn’t afraid to let everyone see she works hard, studying all night for the spelling bee and doing breathing exercises and knee exercises up and down the sidewalk. Everyone knows she’s the best runner in Harlem and is she dedicated to remaining the best runner in Harlem. In addition, she must take care of her brother Raymond, a role which requires her to be sharp-witted and protective. Wearing dresses and acting innocent like little girls are supposed to be compromises her ability to protect her brother -- anyone making fun of him wouldn't think twice about their actions if Squeaky were a sweet thing. She has to be strong and sassy to keep them in line.
In addition to having “a reputation to consider” that involves being tough and not at all girly, it’s clear that Squeaky is gifted with a very adult sense of responsibility, coupled with a very child-like ignorance of gender norms. She states that she is “a poor black girl who really can’t afford to buy shoes and a new dress you only wear once a lifetime cause it won’t fit next year.” This practicality feeds very well into Squeaky’s no-nonsense perception of herself as a runner, and nothing but a runner, and there is no place for costumes or dresses in running. She recalls a pageant in which she dressed as a strawberry with disdain: “I am not a strawberry. I do not dance on my toes. I run. That is what I am all about.”
Squeaky is a realist – she knows that wearing dresses and dancing about the maypole would get any dress she wore dirty, and sees no use in it, despite the fact, she says, that her
“mother thinks it’s a shame I don’t take part and act like a girl for a change. You’d think my mother’d be grateful not to have to make me a white organdy dress with a big satin sash and buy me new white baby-doll shoes that can’t be taken out of the box till the big day.”
Squeaky’s mother wants her to play by the rules of society, but Squeaky simply does not see the point in denying who she is – a runner who sweats and works hard all day to be the best – by covering it all up in pretty sashes and pointless, impractical dresses.