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In the short story “Raymond’s Run” by Toni Cade Bambara, figurative language is used to further our understanding of how the characters and plot in the story develop and helps us get a better picture using our senses. Without this literary device some older readers could not get the nostalgic feel of the big city as Squeaky walks through the New York, nor can we truly understand the excited, but nervous thoughts before, during, and after the race in Squeaky’s mind. The ending where Squeaky changes her attitude is able to happen because of figurative language. Whether it be a metaphor, simile, symbolism, or any of the lesser known figurative language types, Bambara uses these all to their greatest extent in order for the reader to comprehend her story.
Before the race begins, Squeaky is doing everything she can to prepare herself for it, but she has a responsibility to fill while doing it, taking care of her bigger brother Raymond who kept along on her exercises and runs. Although it seems easier enough the task is more than enough to keep Squeaky occupied, sometimes he will go into the middle island on Broadway and disturb the peace. Picking up after Raymond only distracts her a bit as her main focus for the day were the May Day Races. The older kids called her Mercury which is a metaphor, because she was “the swiftest thing in the neighborhood,” Mercury was also the Roman messenger god and was the fastest of the gods. She had won every race before, but this year there was some greater competition a child prodigy that thought she could beat Squeaky. An allusion is also an example of figurative language, an encounter occurred between Squeaky, Raymond and Gretchen’s little posse of friends that Squeaky related to a famous movie, “I see right away that it’s going to be one of those Dodge City scenes,” in which cowboys faced off with guns. She had prepared and worked too hard to let these people get in her way of winning her race, so she gets them out of her path and continues her exercises and goes to the races.
At the race figurative language is used to give us more detail on the race. Squeaky is all business and has no time to watch the May Pole dancing. She thinks she is above all that nonsense and arrives late on purpose to miss the dancing. The races are set to start last in the event. She pins on the number seven which symbolizes perfection in the Bible, many other religions also make use of this number and in it is considered a lucky number by many in the real world. In order for us to know how Squeaky to concentrates before the race, imagery is used to describe her dream, “Every time, just before I take off in a race, I always feel like I’m in a dream, the kind of dream you have when you’re sick with fever and feel all hot and weightless…” A hyperbole is also used when she runs, she is the “fastest thing in the world” and that beating her father was possible. Finishing the race in first the rest of the kids dogpile on top of her and she assures that the rest of 151st can walk tall again, an idiom meaning to be brave or confident.
After the race Squeaky’s thoughts on both Raymond and Gretchen change. She realizes that Gretchen isn’t that bad and uses a simile to compare her to a pro, “breathing in steady time like a real pro and I sort of like her a little for the first time.” On top of that Gretchen could possibly help her train and coach Raymond, who Squeaky had also changed her thoughts on. In the beginning of the story she thinks of him as a burden and just a person who gets in her way of preparing for the race. Now looking at him again she sees something else, “he keeps rattling the fence like a gorilla in a cage like in them gorilla movies, but then like a dancer or something he starts climbing up nice and easy but very fast.” She sees plenty of potential, remembering that he keeps up with her during her trots and his unique running form. And seeing that Gretchen is also serious about running she thinks to herself that maybe she can help train Raymond.
In conclusion, this short story “Raymond’s Run,” by Toni Cade Bambara would not read the same without figurative language. Throughout the story figurative language assists the reader in understanding the development of plot and characters. This literary device is used in a majority of short stories too, and in this one the author has used many types of it to show us the thoughts of Squeaky, before, during, after the race. The feeling of the city cannot be felt and many other aspects would be lost. Figurative language is a key component to the success of the story.
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