“Raymond’s Run” Themes
The main themes in “Raymond’s Run” are sibling relationships, rivalries between girls, and what matters more than winning.
- Sibling relationships: While Squeaky initially considers looking after her brother a chore, at the end of the story she realizes how important Raymond is to her.
- Rivalries between girls: Squeaky is very competitive, and her main rival is Gretchen, against whom she races at the May Day celebration.
- What matters more than winning: By the end of the race, Squeaky has realized that her connections with others are more important than winning.
Last Updated on January 11, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 810
At the beginning of the story, Squeaky makes it clear that looking after Raymond is both a chore and a duty for her. She does not have to get a part-time job or help out around the house, because her time is occupied in caring for her big brother. Apart from this, she feels obliged to protect Raymond’s honor as a matter of personal and family prestige. If anyone insults his intelligence or the size of his head, she is ready to knock them down, as she repeatedly tells the reader.
Although she is protective of her brother, Squeaky shows no affection for him until the end of the story, after she sees him running. This is when it finally occurs to her to think of Raymond as a person in his own right and consider what his life must be like. Squeaky reflects that she has an impressive reputation and a room full of trophies celebrating her victories: “But what has Raymond got to call his own?”
By the time Raymond jumps down from the fence and comes to see his sister, she is quite literally jumping for joy, excited to think of the life she will share with Raymond from this point on, helping him and training him to run. There have been various hints throughout the narrative that Raymond loves and respects Squeaky. He continually imitates her, breathing in counts of seven at the dinner table as he emulates her training regime. However, it is only when he runs alongside her that she notices this devotion and begins to reciprocate.
Rivalries Between Girls
Although the story is called “Raymond’s Run,” Squeaky shows little interest in Raymond until the closing paragraphs. For most of the story, she is obsessed with her own achievements. Although Squeaky will compete with anyone she considers a worthy opponent, including her father, she is particularly focused on rivalries with other girls.
The first rival Squeaky discusses in any detail is Cynthia Procter. She particularly dislikes Cynthia because she pretends that she never practices piano or studies for tests, cultivating an attitude of effortless superiority which suggests that she is so talented that she does not need to work. Squeaky says bluntly that she could kill people who behave like this, and she deeply resents Cynthia beating her in the spelling bee, for which she studied all night.
However, it is Gretchen, the new girl in school, who is Squeaky’s most serious rival. The first fact Squeaky mentions about Gretchen is that she has “put out the tale that she is going to win the first-place medal” in the fifty-yard dash. Although Squeaky dismisses this boast as absurd, her pugnacity clearly masks insecurity and concern, since so much of her identity is based on her success as a runner.
When Squeaky encounters Gretchen on Broadway, she describes the ensuing stand-off as “one of those Dodge City scenes.” The other girls with Gretchen are not friends but “sidekicks,” and Squeaky does not even speak to them, since she believes there is “no use wasting my breath talking to shadows.” All her energy is concentrated on her rivalry with Gretchen, until a sudden moment of good humor and mutual respect in the final paragraph of the story puts an end to their animosity.
What Matters More than Winning
As she begins the race, Squeaky tells herself: “Squeaky you must win, you must win, you are the fastest thing in the world.” This is a mantra she repeats in various forms throughout the story. Squeaky is “the fastest thing on two feet,” the older children call her Mercury, no one can beat her, “and that’s all there is to it.” Her attitude to the rest of the world is one of constant competition, in which she is always striving for success.
Squeaky does win the race, but by the time this becomes clear, she no longer cares. Even before the race is over, her focus changes, and she almost stops to watch her brother as he runs beside her. Throughout the story, Raymond has been a burden, a distraction that stops her concentrating all her energy on her running and other competitive activities. Now she realizes that she loves her brother, feels proud of him, and wants to help him develop his talents.
At the same time that she feels love for her brother, Squeaky realizes that she no longer feels any hatred for Gretchen. She does not care which of them won the race and sees Gretchen as a potential friend, who might help her to train Raymond and develop his talent for running. In this moment, Squeaky experiences a revelation of shared humanity, which encompasses not only her brother but also her former enemy, and this gives her more satisfaction than any of her many victories has ever done.