What are the differences and similarities between Squeaky and Gretchen?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Toni Bambara's "Raymond's Run," Hazel Elizabeth Deborah Parker (Squeaky) and Gretchen are competitors who live in the same neighborhood. They start their relationship as rivals but later begin a friendship.

Gretchen is the "new girl" in the neighborhood who has generated a rumor that she is going to win the first-place medal in the May Day race. This rumor stirs the competitive Squeaky to strive even harder to be able to beat her. Another motivator for Squeaky to want to defeat Gretchen is the fact that Mary Louise, a girl that Squeaky defended from beatings by others in Harlem when she first moved from Baltimore, has now decided to befriend Gretchen, and "talks about me [Squeaky] like a dog." Consequently, Squeaky thinks of Gretchen as a foe.

Despite the defection of her friends and Gretchen's confidence in winning the upcoming race, when they meet on Broadway, Squeaky causes Gretchen to back down. When Rosie makes derogatory remarks about Raymond and Gretchen puts her hands on her hips and is "about to say something," she hesitates and then says nothing. Previously, however, Gretchen has confidently issued "a smile, but not a smile" as a challenge to Squeaky. 

When Squeaky arrives at the park on May Day, she immediately looks around for Gretchen. As the race is about to begin, Squeaky sees Gretchen at the starting line, stretching and kicking her legs out in the manner of a professional runner. Undeterred by such a display of confidence similar to her own, Squeaky, nevertheless, runs past Gretchen who has her chin jutted out "as if it would win the race all by itself." The finish is close between Squeaky and Gretchen, but after the times are verified, Squeaky emerges as the winner. Afterward, Squeaky sees Gretchen who has also overshot the finish line in her supreme effort to win. As Gretchen walks back with her hands on her hips "like a real pro," Squeaky acquires respect for Gretchen because she realizes that she and Gretchen are not that different: "...she's good, no doubt about it." Gretchen nods to congratulate Squeaky and she gives the winner "as real a smile as girls can do for each other." Seeing this genuine smile, Squeaky realizes that Gretchen has good qualities. In her newly acquired admiration for the girl, Squeaky then wonders if Gretchen would like to help her coach Raymond who has run outside the fence alongside Squeaky and demonstrated that he, too, can run fast.  

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Both Squeaky and Gretchen are similar in the sense that both are competitive girls who are focused on winning the race.

In the beginning, both are wary of each other. Squeaky dislikes Gretchen because a former friend has now taken up with the new girl. Mary Louise used to be Squeaky's friend, but she's now taken to gossiping about Squeaky behind her back. From the text, we can see that none of what Mary Louise says to Gretchen about Squeaky is complimentary. Gretchen's other side-kick isn't much better: Rosie is loud and often insensitive in her remarks about Raymond, Squeaky's mentally-handicapped brother.

However, one thing different between Gretchen and Squeaky is the way both girls relate to Raymond. Squeaky, being Raymond's sister, is very aware of her brother's presence in the background, whether before, during, or after the race. Even when she wins, Squeaky's thoughts center on Raymond; she thinks about coaching him and helping him to win medals. After all, she's won more than her fair share, but Raymond has none to his name. To Gretchen, however, Raymond is just another girl's brother. He doesn't figure much into her thoughts. The only thing she knows about Raymond is that Squeaky is extremely protective of him; she understands that Squeaky will never tolerate her treating Raymond badly (intentionally or unintentionally), so she keeps her distance from the boy.

So, Squeaky and Gretchen are similar in the way they approach winning but dissimilar in the way they relate to Raymond.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are the similarities between Gretchen and Squeaky?

Gretchen P. Lewis is Squeaky's main competitor at the upcoming May Day races and is also considered a talented runner. Like Squeaky, Gretchen is also confident in her racing abilities. At the beginning of the story, Squeaky mentions that Gretchen has been telling everyone that she will win the first-place medal in the May Day fifty-yard dash. However, Squeaky believes that she will beat Gretchen because she considers herself to be the "fastest thing on two feet."

Squeaky mentions numerous times throughout the story that she is not interested in trading insults with other girls and would much rather fight someone than verbally spar with another person. Similarly, Gretchen is depicted as a rather reserved girl, who is more concerned about her actions than insults. In the scene where Gretchen and her friends approach Squeaky and Raymond on the street, Gretchen is the only person who does not speak. As her friends make rude comments toward Squeaky, Gretchen simply crosses her arms and listens.

Gretchen is also a talented runner and is a formidable opponent. When Squeaky arrives at the May Day races, Mr. Pearson mentions that Gretchen should give Squeaky a run for her money. Squeaky also recognizes Gretchen's talent and continually shows her concern about beating Gretchen. After the two girls race, the judges argue over who won. The close finish highlights Gretchen's athletic ability and confirms that she is as good as everyone thought. Also, Squeaky mentions that Gretchen smiles back at her after the race and hopes that Gretchen will be interested in helping coach Raymond. Both girls are serious about running and share a mutual respect for each other. Overall, Squeaky and Gretchen seem to have more in common than one would assume judging by Squeaky's initial point of view.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on