Raymond’s Run Summary

Toni Cade Bambara

Raymond’s Run

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Raymond’s Run Summary

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The short story “Raymond’s Run” by Toni Cade Bambara was published in the collection Gorilla, My Love in 1990. The story centers around and is narrated by Squeaky—real name Hazel Elizabeth Deborah Parker—a young girl growing up in Harlem. There are two things that define Squeaky—her ability to run and the way in which she takes care of her handicapped older brother, Raymond.

Squeaky—nicknamed that because of her high-pitched voice—is an incredibly confident runner. She knows what she’s doing and is completely okay telling anyone who will ask that she’s the fastest person around (except for her father). This is combined with her love for her brother who, despite being older, is viewed by Squeaky as younger because of his diminished capacity. She takes great pride in caring for him and defending him when others taunt or make fun of him.

The major event of the story is the May Day Festival, which has both track meet and May Pole dancing components. People want Squeaky to participate in the May Pole dancing, but she defers, telling everyone that her feet are made for running, not dancing. She isn’t confident in her ability to complete the dancing task before her and instead sticks with wanting to run, which she knows she can do.

The day before the festival, Squeaky runs into her main competition, Gretchen, and Gretchen’s two friends, who make fun of Raymond. The girls have had other encounters before. Then, before the race, the organizer of the festival, a teacher named Mr. Pearson, tries to get Squeaky to throw the race and let Gretchen win because of Squeaky’s already-great record. The young girl scoffs at this request and instead chooses to run her heart out during the race. She does not want to compromise her own victory, despite a room full of medals and ribbons, for someone else, especially Gretchen.

As they line up for the race, Squeaky sees Raymond line up on the side of the race, as if he is running, too. She’s reminded of when he would keep up with her when she practiced. She also thinks about how he could make a good runner with the right amount of practice and the right coach. The gun goes off and Squeaky takes off, the entire time watching her brother running alongside the race.

The race ends and even though Squeaky thinks she has won, the judges have to have a conference to determine the winner. In the meantime, Raymond climbs over the fence that had separated him from his sister to join her. While they wait for an announcement, Squeaky thinks about how she’s going to change her ways a little bit, and spend more time focusing on helping her brother by coaching him, since the race was really his, not hers. She also decides to dedicate herself more to her schoolwork.

Squeaky is announced as the winner and Gretchen congratulates her, which Squeaky finally perceives as real. The girl wonders if Gretchen, too, would be interested in helping coach her brother. In response to Gretchen, Squeaky returns the smile.

One of the major themes that develops in this story is the platonic connections people can have when they are not connected by blood. While the connection between Squeaky and Raymond is certainly a strong through line in this piece, a major relationship that develops is that between rivals Squeaky and Gretchen. Through a mutual passion for the sport of running, a friendship develops, even though it may not seem that way at first. In the end, their differences are resolved and they are finally able to share a smile that is true and meaningful, unlike any other point in the story.

Another idea explored in this story is feminism, and how different people express this. In the story, people want Squeaky to dress in a nice dress and shoes and engage in dancing around the May Pole. She is resolute, however, and refuses, stating that she knows what she is good at and what she believes she can do. She chooses not to conform just because everyone says that she should.