Persistence, Communication, Inspiration
The true hero is flawed. The true test of a champion is not whether he can triumph, but whether he can overcome obstacles.
~Garth Stein in The Art of Racing in the Rain
You wake up to the emphatic, deafening sound of a Ferrari 250 Pontoon Testa roaring down your quiet street. You press your face against the window, as the car swerves out of control. The driver demonstrates great poise, and grit as he redirects the vehicle, and drives off into the distance. In the book, The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein, Denny approaches his seemingly unmanageable life with the moxie and persistence it takes to find balance during hardship. The power of perseverance and the intricacies of communication are well established, and profound intellectual motifs in the book that inspire me to reassess the themes in my life.
The Art of Racing in the Rain, is set in a ten year time span, during the 1990s, in the Seattle area. The story’s protagonists are a dog named Enzo, who hopes to be reincarnated as a human, and his owner Denny. The story’s antagonist is the evil that lurks within many aspects of life. The story begins by introducing Enzo, and Denny, who is a semi-professional race car driver. Denny meets a woman named Eve, and they get married and have a child, Zoë. Denny and Enzo are confronted with their first of a long line of challenges, when it is revealed that Eve has a serious illness. Denny and Enzo’s battle with life’s hardships is the story’s conflict. The crisis starts to build when Eve's diagnosis is revealed. Eve fights her illness, but is overcome, and eventually dies. Upon the news of her death, Eve’s parents sue Denny for custody of Zoë. This is a tremendous challenge for Denny, because he cannot compete with his in-laws financially to win the case. This difficulty is exacerbated when Denny is falsely accused of child rape. There were no third party human witnesesses to the alleged rape, although Enzo was present. Enzo, with the help of a machine, testifies in court, and reveals his owner Denny to be innocent. This is the climax of the story. As a result of Enzo’s testimony, Denny wins custody of his daughter. Enzo, who by this time has suffered injury, and aged, sadly passes away. In the closing pages, after time has fast-forwarded, Enzo gets his wish to be reincarnated, and returns to Denny, as a human boy. This book was written to show readers that even in a life of hardship, dreams can be reached through perseverance.
Don’t give up on life in the way that Denny refuses to give up on his life as he perseveres through challenges in order to achieve his goals; moreover, after the death of his wife, Denny battles with his in-laws for custody of his daughter, but he doesn’t allow this challenge to beat him down. When Denny is tempted to give in to his in-law’s ruthless lawsuit, he regains his courage with Enzo’s help.
“Screw them,” Denny said. “I’m going to win this thing or I’m going to run out of fuel on the last lap. But I’m not going to quit. I promised Zoë. I’m not going to quit.” (The Art of Racing in the Rain, Chapter 49, Page 267)
Denny is not one to back down from challenges. Denny is a fighter. As Enzo describes him, Denny is “a formidable foe to anyone challenging him.” (Page 237). He learned through experience that you cannot avoid the struggle and pain of life. Denny persevered through hardship, and emerged victorious, with custody of his daughter, and the racing opportunity of his dreams. Ultimately, there is no way around hardship. In order to get through life, you must face challenges head on.
Language is powerful, and Enzo, through his observation of people, details the complexity of communication; furthermore, Enzo sees that messages can be conveyed through simple phrases or gestures. Enzo overhears a conversation between Denny and his in-laws about the future of the family. Enzo observes the nuances of communication, and the emotional impact subtle language adjustments can have.
So much of language is unspoken. So much of language is comprised of looks and gestures and sounds that are not words. People are ignorant of the vast complexity of their own communication. Trish’s robotic repeating of the single word “until” revealed everything about her state of mind. (The Art of Racing in the Rain, Chapter 23, Page 119)
The power of language and communication is overlooked, even by the people who utilize it everyday. Enzo, being a dog, is forced to listen to humans, and observe the ways they communicate. Through Enzo’s point of view, the readers’ eyes are opened to the benefits and subtleties of language, but also its consequences. If Enzo could speak, he would tell Trish that her use of repetition further deepened Denny’s anger and sadness. Enzo insightfully notes that seemingly simple language choices and gestures can have complicated, and even unintended effects. It takes a dog to understand human language.
Inspiration comes in many forms. The Art of Racing in the Rain inspired me to reflect deeply on my life. The endless list of inspirational quotes contained in the book helped me to realize that I can take control of my life, if it ever feels out of control in the future. The novel’s deep and complex themes encouraged me to explore how I can apply them in my life. I realized that I can pull inspiration from anywhere. At first, the task of reading The Art of Racing in the Rain was an assignment I was neither looking forward to, nor dreading. In assignments prior to reading this book, I found highlighting and annotating difficult to do, while also trying to understand what I was reading. The act of searching through the book distracted me from dwelling on the inspirational themes. As I launched into this book, however, the inspirational themes stood out to me immediately, making for a more meaningful read. I was able to read the book, and even without enjoying it, find bits and pieces of inspiration that made my experience worthwhile. Even though the story didn’t come together for me, I was still able to discover themes within the story that resonated with me. I witnessed, through my reading, the hardship that Denny, and Enzo, had to overcome. Their story inspired me to not hide from adversity. I learned that even in the darkest of difficult times, you can turn to your passions to help you through. In the novel, Enzo and Denny turn to their passion for racing to help them. I was inspired to look to my passions, to help me reach the checkered flag in my personal race.
How will you finish your personal race?