Characters

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Last Updated on August 20, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 353

Gretchen P. Lewis
Gretchen is a newcomer to Hazel’s neighborhood. She has attracted Mary Louise and Rosie, once friends of Hazel, to be her friends instead. Gretchen and Hazel meet and size each other up, but do not come to open conflict, although Mary Louise tries to make fun of Raymond and is put down by Hazel instead. The smile that Gretchen and Hazel give each other on this occasion is ‘‘really not a smile’’ because ‘‘girls never really smile at each other.’’ On the day of the race, Gretchen competes well with Hazel and comes in second. Gretchen’s dedication to running and her abilities impress Hazel, and the two exchange real smiles of beginning friendship and respect.

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Hazel Elizabeth Deborah Parker
The narrator and main character of the story, Hazel Parker describes herself as ‘‘a little girl with skinny arms,’’ whose voice had earned her the nickname ‘‘Squeaky.’’ She is known to be the fastest runner in her school. Contrasting her appearance, however, is the strength of her character. Hazel’s narration conveys to the reader a spirited self-assurance. She takes care of her mentally challenged brother, Raymond, with both pride and compassion. She is ready to use her fists or her sharp tongue if anyone has ‘‘anything to say about his big head.’’ Moreover, her striving to be an athlete conveys to the reader her determination to make something of herself. By the end of the story, Hazel is able to recognize that same potential in her brother as well as in her rival, Gretchen.

Raymond Parker
Raymond is Hazel’s brother; she feels she has to take care of him because he is mentally challenged. Under his sister’s watchful and caring eye, Raymond is happy in his own world in which he imagines himself as a circus performer or stagecoach driver. He is vulnerable to teasing by others, but he can depend on Hazel to defend him, even with her fists if necessary. By the end of the story, Raymond is no longer a burden to Hazel and has become a catalyst.

Squeaky
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Themes and Characters

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 916

From the beginning, Hazel strongly voices her identity as an athlete—"Miss Quicksilver herself"—and establishes her outspoken assertiveness: "no one can beat me and that's all there is to it." At the same time, the story shows that Hazel's identity has been and continues to be hard won. To become a good runner, she has had to practice relentlessly, sometimes carving time for herself out of the hours she spends looking after her mentally challenged brother, Raymond. Caring for her brother is no easy task either, and in some ways sets her apart from others. Her confrontation with Gretchen's "sidekicks" demonstrates her loyalty to her brother and her readiness to challenge those who would tease or belittle him. Although she scorns girls who dress up in white organdy for the May Pole dancing, it is also true that Hazel "can't afford to buy shoes and a new dress you wear only once in a lifetime."

Nevertheless, Hazel's belief in herself and her refusal to accept less than the respect she deserves is reflected throughout the story: in her willingness to strive to become an athlete despite the risk of failure or ridicule—"I'm serious about my running and I don't care who knows it"; in her. refusal to let anyone "get smart" with Raymond; in her insistence that Mr. Pearson address her by her full name instead of the nickname "Squeaky"; and, ultimately, in her success. The story suggests that a self-respecting identity, like the ability to run, involves persistence and dedication.

While the story dramatizes the importance of identity, it also reflects on a particular moment of growth and change for both Hazel and Raymond. As the title suggests, not only Hazel's but Raymond's run has implications for both characters. The title points not only to Raymond's own potential as an athlete, but also to Hazel's intuitive recognition of his possibilities, a recognition that redefines her. Up until that moment, which occurs, interestingly, while Hazel is in the process of fulfilling a goal, Hazel has led a somewhat lonely existence, despite her vivacious style and tone. Her closeness to her family is evident, both in her father's support for her running and in her mention of her mother, brother, and grandfather.

Nevertheless, Raymond has been a burden as well as a companion, and a girl like Gretchen, with whom she shares a passion for running, is a rival rather than a friend. The distance Hazel feels between them is marked by their inability to smile sincerely at each other. According to Hazel, girls "never really smile at each other because they don't know how . . . and there's probably no one to teach us how." When Hazel, in that meditative state that running induces in her, looks over and sees Raymond running parallel to her, she is suddenly able to see him afresh, not just copying or following her, but "running in his very own style." Through him, her difficult and somewhat lonely struggle to define herself suddenly widens to include a connection that empowers them both. The realization of Raymond's potential, something that has always been there, enriches Hazel's sense of her own possibilities. What Raymond has taught her is marked by her new response to Gretchen: "And I look over at Gretchen.... And I smile. Cause she's good, no doubt about it. Maybe she'd like to help me coach Raymond."

The narrator and main character of the story, Hazel Parker describes herself as "a little girl with skinny arms" whose voice had earned her the nickname "Squeaky." She is known to be the fastest runner in her school. Contrasting her appearance, however, is the strength of her character. Hazel's narration conveys to the reader a spirited self-assurance. She takes care of her mentally challenged brother, Raymond, with both pride and compassion. She is ready to use her fists or her sharp tongue if anyone has "anything to say about his big head." Moreover, her striving to be an athlete conveys to the reader her determination to make something of herself. By the end of the story, Hazel is able to recognize that same potential in her brother as well as in her rival, Gretchen P. Lewis.

Gretchen is a newcomer to Hazel's neighborhood. She has attracted Mary Louise and Rosie, once friends of Hazel, to be her friends instead. Gretchen and Hazel meet and size each other up, but do not come to open conflict, although Mary Louise tries to make fun of Raymond and is put down by Hazel instead. On the day of the race, Gretchen competes well with Hazel and comes in second. Gretchen's dedication to running and her abilities impress Hazel, and the two exchange smiles of respect and a beginning friendship.

Raymond Parker is Hazel's brother; she feels she has to take care of him because he is mentally challenged. Under his sister's watchful and caring eye, Raymond is happy in his own world in which he imagines himself as a circus performer or stagecoach driver. He is vulnerable to teasing by others, but he can depend on Hazel to defend him, even with her fists if necessary. By the end of the story, Raymond is no longer a burden to Hazel and has become a catalyst. Raymond's "run" alongside Hazel, "with his arms down to his side and his palms tucked up behind him . . . in his very own style," reveals his individuality and potential. Hazel considers becoming her brother's coach so that he can become an accomplished runner.

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