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The Art of Racing in The Rain Christina Futterknecht

Summary of The Art of Racing in The Rain

Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver. Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn't simply about going fast. Using the techniques needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life's ordeals. On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through: the sacrifices Denny has made to succeed professionally; the unexpected loss of Eve, Denny's wife; the three-year battle over their daughter, Zoë, whose maternal grandparents pulled every string to gain custody. In the end, despite what he sees as his own limitations, Enzo comes through heroically to preserve the Swift family, holding in his heart the dream that Denny will become a racing champion with Zoë at his side. Having learned what it takes to be a compassionate and successful person, the wise canine can barely wait until his next lifetime, when he is sure he will return as a man. A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life . . . as only a dog could tell it

The Art of Racing in The Rain Book Cover

Enzo, Parables and Pop Culture, and Theology

The Art of Racing in The Rain written by Garth Stein relates and connects with books and ideas discussed in Parables and Pop Culture. I took this course at The University of Scranton in the Spring of 2018.

First Person Peripheral Narrator

This type of narration reminds us of the God and human relationship. The readers are interpreting the text and what the narrator is describing. This is exactly what humans do with messages from God. In the book Seeing the World & Knowing God it states that, "the hiddenness of meaning in the world prompts a search for meaning, and summons the observer to interpret the signs of the world" (Fiddes, 2013, p. 284). God is said to be the author of the world (Fiddes, 2013) like Enzo is the author of his story. Enzo tells the readers a story and in return the readers must interpret what he is saying especially when he uses racing similes and metaphors to explain life. The readers in this case, humans, need to interpret the signs that God sends us.

This wisdom of interpretation is what connects heaven and earth. This hidden wisdom comes from heaven and tries to find its place on earth, so the wisdom from heaven is given to the individuals on earth and only those who are loyal to God understand (Fiddes, 2013, p. 175) just as only those who read this novel could understand the lessons and symbols fully.

Interpretation of Symbols and Metaphors

As depicted above interpretation is a part of the God and human relationship and a big aspect of this novel. Animals are used as symbols and interpreted throughout the novel such as crows and zebras. Metaphors about racing in the rain and racing in general are placed throughout the novel and readers need to interpret this and place the meaning in their own lives.

Crows

The first animal used in the story are crows and this creature represents evil in this book. Enzo does not chase crows because he thinks they are smart. The symbolism here is that Enzo is not chasing the evil present in his life. The crows are strategic when they attack, and they do this without warning, just as evil and bad experiences or events usually occur without warning as well. In Greek and Australian Mythology, crows are often evil creatures. In Greek Mythology, Athena's companion before the owl was a crow. The crow betrayed her when she places her son in the hands of other caretakers to protect him. However, her crow tells the caretaker the true identity of the baby and Athena banishes her bird (Kelly, 2014). In Australian mythology, the crow was originally a white color and was cohorts with the eagle. The two birds would hunt together to find food and one day they made a deal stating they would share their catches with each other. The crow did not uphold his promise and when this was revealed the eagle threw the crow into the fire he had built to cook his food and his feathers were burned by the ashes. The crow could not get the black off his feathers and the crow changed colors because of greed (Kelly, 2014).

Zebra

Zebras are also very prominent in the novel and in Enzo's understanding of life. At the end of the novel after Enzo has seen the Zebra in many different scenarios he comes to an understanding what the zebra truly represents in life. The scene that depicts his realization is when Denny is giving up his battle for his daughter and releasing custody to Zoe's grandparents. Enzo being as observant as he is sees a plastic zebra on top of the pen steals the papers from Denny, and pees all over them. Enzo realizes that if Denny was in his right mind he would not have given up this fight, so he protects him. In this moment Enzo states, "I suddenly realized. The zebra. Is not something outside of us. The zebra is inside of us. Our fears. Our own self-destructive natures. The zebra is the worst part of us when we are face-to-face with our own worst times" (Stein, 2009, p. 264).

Animals in the Bible

The most well-known example of an animal that embodies evil is the serpent in the Garden of Eden. In the Book of Genesis, the serpent taunts and convinces Adam and Eve to eat from the forbidden tree which is a direct violation of what God tells them to do. Ultimately, they are tempted by the serpent and Adam and Eve eat the fruit. Once the fruit was eaten Adam and Eve gained knowledge of good and evil in the world and they were sent from the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:4- 3:24). The serpent is the antagonist in this story and is considered the evil symbol just like the crow and the zebra are in The Art of Racing in The Rain. The serpent taunts and commits evil acts just like the crows mock Enzo and the Zebra is the demons inside Enzo that's makes him act badly.

Using animals is an interesting way to represent evil but is important because a visual representation makes it easier to understand an abstract concept.

Racing In The Rain Metaphor

racing in the rain

Denny is a professional race car driver and this influences Enzo in many ways because racing is used throughout the novel to connect and interpret life. These references and metaphors in the book are translated in different ways by the readers and where they want to incorporate the metaphor in their life. The title The Art of Racing in The Rain is relevant to life because driving in the rain is an art form in a way. You need to be more careful and pay attention just like in life when the road ahead gets more complicated.

As depicted, interpretation of metaphors, signs, and symbols is relevant throughout the novel just like in life. What is astonishing about interpretation is whether its signs from God or in literature, individuals translate the signs differently depending on where they are in their lives.

Memory

The book begins at the end of Enzo's life when he is lying on the floor waiting for Denny to come home and help him. Memory forces individuals to reflect and this is exactly what Enzo is doing at the end of his life. He is reflecting on all the lessons and experiences he has gone through with his family while he was here on earth.

Memory and Identity

Memory and identity are closely related. This is proven through other class material such as The Complete Persepolis. Marjane Stratapi being impacted by the memory of her grandmother years after her death proves this point. In the story, Marjane remembers the night before she was departing for Austria and the advice her grandmother gave her. The advice to Marjane was to always keep your dignity and be true to yourself, even though there are going to be a lot of people who are going to hurt you in life (Stratapi, 2013). This advice stayed with Marjane years after her grandma passed away. Marjane's grandmother helped shaped her into the person she is today and her memory is the core reason why she remembers her grandmother's advice. It shaped her identity and allows Marjane to be herself after trying to be someone she was not in a confusing period in her life.

The Complete Persepolis p. 150

Enzo's identity is also affected by his memory as well. He remembers not being able to talk to Denny and comforting him in a human way when bad experiences occur. Enzo cannot comfort Denny when Eve passes away, when there are sexual harassment charges against Denny, or when his daughter is taken from his home (Stein, 2009). The lessons he learned throughout his life impacted him and at the end of his life was ready to be reincarnated as a human.

Memory and Theology

Memory is not always reliable. For example, the first time the zebra appeared in the story Enzo claims that the zebra destroyed all of Zoe's stuffed animals when he was left home alone for a long period of time. As readers, we can infer that Enzo was the one to destroy the toys, but his memory was altered, and he did not remember committing this act. Motivated forgetting is an explanation for this and it is a psychological defense mechanism used to cope with unwanted memories by suppressing them into the unconscious (Dalton & Liu, 2014).

Trying to remember memories as they happened is important because as Mirasolf Volf explains untruthful memories is an unjust memory (Smith, 2015). This is important when it comes to relationships because remembering a memory wrong can be detrimental especially when there are two different sides to one story. Mirasof Volf explains that it is important to remember because justice without memory is unjust and we live "under the obligation to remember because we live under the cross" (Smith, 2015). Memory is important when it comes to justice because if there is no memory connected with justice then the injustice is going to keep occurring because the memory is not there. If individuals remember their injustice, then they can purify themselves and begin to heal (Smith, 2015). If Enzo had realized he was the one to destroy the toys he could have come to terms with this sooner rather than years after the act was committed.

The idea of memory is a concept that is beyond the human's realm of understanding. Augustine mentions memory in his book Confessions. A quote that is written by Augustine and translated by Sarah Ruden in Book X says, "The power of memory that I'm writing about is tremendous, my God--intimidatingly great: an extensive, a boundless innermost recess. Who has ever gotten to the bottom of it?" (Augustine & Ruden, 2017). Here Augustine and Ruden state that God is intertwined within our memories this why it is so complicated to understand. This idea may be too comprehensive for humans to understand on earth with the limited knowledge we are given from God.

Augustine explains that memory is the mind's way to God and that forgetfulness is a consequence of the fall from Paradise (Augustine & Ruden, 2017). This concept of forgetfulness is what separates humans from God as a punishment for the sins of Adam and Eve. This is a very interesting idea because memory is complex and often is not understood by humans just as a lot of other abstract ideas and causes humans to be disconnected from God.

Enzo's Epiphany

Throughout the whole book, Enzo thinks race car drivers have to be selfish if they want to win. They must only think of themselves when they are on the track because if they are selfless they will be taken advantage of and lose the race. However, this is not the case. As a race car driver knowing that the car is an extension of yourself and the track is crucial. The driver must not think of themselves as the center of attention, but they must realize that they are a part of something greater than themselves. This connects to humans because we need to realize that we are not the only ones on this planet. There are other humans and cultures and being selfish is not going to allow us to achieve our full potential here on earth. Realizing that we are a part of a bigger universe and are only a small extension of that is important to remember. We are images of God (Genesis 1:26-30) and once we realize this we can begin to succeed.

References

A., & Ruden, S. (2017). Confessions. New York: The Modern Library.

BibleGateway. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis 2:4-3:24&version=NIV

BibleGateway. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis 1:26-30,Genesis 2:16-25&version=NIV

Dalton, A., & Huang, L. (2014). Motivated Forgetting in Response to Social Identity Threat. Journal Of Consumer Research, 40(6), 1017-1038. doi:10.1086/674198

Fiddes, P. S. (2013). Seeing the world and knowing God: Hebrew wisdom and Christian doctrine in a late-modern context. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kelly, D. (2014, October 31). 10 Crows And Ravens From World Religion. Retrieved from https://listverse.com/2014/11/01/10-crows-and-ravens-from-world-religion/

McClanahan, R. (1999). Word painting. Cincinnati, OH: Writers Digest.

Satrapi, M. (2013). The Complete Persepolis. St. Albert, AB: SAPL.

Stein, G. (2009). The art of racing in the rain: A novel. New York: Harper.

Smith, J. K. (n.d.). The Justice of Memory, the Grace of Forgetting: A Conversation with Miroslav Volf. Retrieved from https://www.cardus.ca/comment/article/the-justice-of-memory-the-grace-of-forgetting-a-conversation-with-miroslav-volf/

Credits:

Created with images by freddie marriage - "Clear Umbrella Rain Liverpool" • Natalia_Kollegova - "field meadow glade" • Mike Enerio - "untitled image"

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