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In the first line of "Raymond's Run" by Toni Cade Bambara, we learn that "Squeaky" Parker is not like the other girls in her class.
First of all, she does not have to do any household chores; instead she takes care of her older, mentally challenged brother, Raymond. This certainly sets her apart from her classmates because she has learned to be more responsible than other girls her age, and that maturity shows in her contempt for the ridiculous conversational games so many other girls want to play.
Second, unlike some of the other girls in her class who pretend they are naturally good at things but actually have to practice very hard to be so good, Squeaky is not afraid to let everyone know how hard she is working to be the fastest runner in town--which she claims she is. This makes her bold and confident rather than simpering and coy, like Cynthia Proctor. Squeaky is bold and unafraid to be herself.
Finally, Squeaky does not care to participate in the foolish activities other girls in her class see as very important. Things like pageants where girls dress up in finery that they will never wear the rest of the year seems like a terrible waste of time and money to her, though many of the others just live for those opportunities to show off. For example, Squeaky never participates in the May Day activities, preferring to prepare herself for the race instead of participating in a ridiculous festival.
All of these things shape and color how Squeaky interacts with people. For example, she does not allow anyone to talk to Raymond disrespectfully. When she and Raymond encounter the girls when they are all walking downtown, one of them tries to torment Raymond a bit, and Squeaky shuts that down immediately.
“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.” So they just stand there and Gretchen shifts from one leg to the other and so do they. Then Gretchen puts her hands on her hips and is about to say something with her freckle-face self but doesn’t. Then she walks around me looking me up and down but keeps walking up Broadway, and her sidekicks follow her.
Clearly Squeaky is neither embarrassed of Raymond or afraid to tell her classmates exactly what she thinks. Her job is to take care of him and, in part, this is how she does it.
When Mr. Pearson is about to write her name down as "Squeaky" before the race, she smartly says,
“Hazel Elizabeth Deborah Parker,” I correct him and tell him to write it down on his board.
This is an assertion of who she is as well as her sense of fairness; if she cannot call Mr. Pearson by his nickname, he should not be calling her by hers.
Squeaky does not lack for confidence or opinions. She makes it clear that she has no time for idle, sarcastic, or threatening chatter, something she has undoubtedly seen and heard plenty of as she has been out and around with Raymond.
I much rather just knock you down and take my chances even if I am a little girl with skinny arms and a squeaky voice, which is how I got the name Squeaky. And if things get too rough, I run. And as anybody can tell you, I’m the fastest thing on two feet.
Squeaky faces the world with confidence and sass; one of them she learns from the things she does in life and the other is just part of who she is.
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