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Last Updated September 6, 2023.

But now, if anybody has anything to say to Raymond, anything to say about his big head, they have to come by me. And I don’t play the dozens or believe in standing around with somebody in my face doing a lot of talking. 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.

This passage in the second paragraph of the story displays Squeaky’s pugnacious, aggressive attitude to the rest of the world. She does not show any affection for or interest in Raymond, but she is fiercely protective of him because he is her responsibility. If anyone insults Raymond, they also insult Squeaky and her family, and insults must be avenged if one is to achieve and maintain respect. Since she is a little girl who does not look or sound intimidating, Squeaky has to work extra hard to gain the respect of those around her. She even uses the second person in her threat of violence, as though the reader might be thinking of showing disrespect to her or to Raymond and must be convinced to think twice before doing so.

Now you take Cynthia Procter for instance. She’s just the opposite. If there’s a test tomorrow, she’ll say something like, “Oh, I guess I’ll play handball this afternoon and watch television tonight,” just to let you know she ain’t thinking about the test. Or like last week when she won the spelling bee for the millionth time, “A good thing you got ‘receive,’ Squeaky, cause I would have got it wrong. I completely forgot about the spelling bee.” And she’ll clutch the lace on her blouse like it was a narrow escape.

Squeaky is ultra-competitive and makes no attempt to disguise how important winning is to her. Defeat is always bitter, but it is particularly galling when it comes at the hands of an adversary who pretends not to care and not to have made any effort. Squeaky has to fight hard for her achievements and is angry to think of success being easy, or even appearing to be easy, since this seems to decrease its value. Her disdain for Cynthia is therefore even more intense than her dislike of Gretchen, who at least does not exhibit this particular irritating quirk. Her sarcastic imitations show the intensity of her chagrin.

Gretchen smiles, but it’s not a smile, and I’m thinking that girls never really smile at each other because they don’t know how and don’t want to know how and there’s probably no one to teach us how, cause grown-up girls don’t know either.

This sentence achieves its effect through its simple structure and repetition of the most significant words. Squeaky suggests that relationships between girls and women are much more hostile than they appear and that this hostility is passed on from generation to generation. This is a big idea to derive from the fact that she sees malice and insincerity in Gretchen’s smile and gives the reader an insight into how hard and lonely Squeaky’s life must often have been. It is significant that she does not mention having other girls as friends, except Mary Louise, who left her and joined Gretchen’s retinue. She also seems to have no role models among “grown-up girls” or women and assumes their smiles must be false.

I dream I’m flying over a sandy beach in the early morning sun, kissing the leaves of the trees as I fly by. And there’s always the smell...

(This entire section contains 961 words.)

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of apples, just like in the country when I was little and used to think I was a choo-choo train, running through the fields of corn and chugging up the hill to the orchard. And all the time I’m dreaming this, I get lighter and lighter until I’m flying over the beach again, getting blown through the sky like a feather that weighs nothing at all.

Just before the race, Squeaky falls into a reverie. This is completely at odds with the tough, pugnacious character she displays to the world. There is lyricism in the descriptions of kissing the leaves and flying through the sky like a feather but also a childish quality in the memory of acting like a “choo-choo train.” This was a time when Squeaky used to run purely for the joy of running, not in order to prove herself and vanquish her enemies. The passage is imbued with the wistfulness of a child who had to grow up too fast, learning to hide her feelings in the process.

We stand there with this big smile of respect between us. It’s about as real a smile as girls can do for each other, considering we don’t practice real smiling every day, you know, cause maybe we’re too busy being flowers or fairies or strawberries instead of something honest and worthy of respect . . . you know . . . like being people.

The sentences that conclude the story refer back to several previous passages, including the one in which Squeaky meets Gretchen on Broadway and says that her smile is “not a smile” and that “girls never really smile at each other because they don’t know how.” It is a testament to the revelatory nature of her experience at this point that she instantly learns how and immediately feels that Gretchen’s smile is genuine. Squeaky’s feelings for her brother extend outward to her former rival, Gretchen, and by implication, to all people who are prepared to forget about their petty preoccupations and acknowledge their common humanity.




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