The Art of Racing in the Rain

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Destiny and Spirituality Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
 What It Means to Be Human  Theme Icon
 Language and Storytelling  Theme Icon
 Love and Family  Theme Icon
 Illness and Death  Theme Icon
 Destiny and Spirituality  Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Art of Racing in the Rain, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
 Destiny and Spirituality  Theme Icon

For Denny and Enzo, racing is not just a hobby or a profession—it's a way of life, and takes on spiritual meaning for Enzo especially. The strategy involved and many racing sayings are treated as a sort of holy text for Enzo, as he uses these words and concepts to form a blueprint for how he sees the world.

After he first hears Denny say the phrase "that which we manifest is before us," Enzo develops a major belief in the idea of destiny and creating one's own future. Enzo applies this idea everywhere. He attempts to manifest a better relationship with Eve by choosing to spend more time with her, and he sees Eve's acceptance of her own death sentence as her manifesting her own death. He also sees this play out where it originated, as Denny experiences success on the track. In addition to this idea of manifesting one's future, Enzo also has a firm belief in what's meant to be, particularly in regards to his own death and near-death experiences. Enzo expands these ideas outward as well, and uses these opposing ideas to both make sense of the events that take place after Eve's death and flesh out Denny's character as a driver and as a person: calculating, dedicated, and in the game for the long haul. The juxtaposition of these ideas—one force that comes from within an individual, one that is an outside force—asks the reader to question how much control we have over our lives, versus how much is up to chance or fate.

Spirituality is also explored through two opposing forces: Zoë's zebra toy, which symbolizes evil and the devil, and past car racing greats, Ayrton Senna in particular, which are held up by Enzo as gods of sorts. The zebra pops up whenever bad things are happening or have the potential to take place. While Enzo initially sees the zebra as the bringer of evil and the initiator of bad events, he eventually realizes that the zebra is actually symbolic of a force within all of us. This understanding that evil is something inside all of us shatters the dichotomy of good versus evil into shades of gray. The zebra becomes a personification of fear and self-destruction, and this realization allows Enzo to effectively do battle with the zebra and allow good to prevail. Enzo's journey to understand the role of the zebra, and then fight it, raises many questions about the role of evil in our lives and where it exists—and it becomes even more nuanced when one considers how different people view individuals, things, or events that may be considered evil. While Enzo sees the zebra only as evil, the zebra is Zoë's favorite toy and provides her with security and comfort.

On the flip side, much of the television that Denny and Enzo watch is old race footage, so Enzo knows all about the big names in racing. He particularly admires Ayrton Senna, and works Senna into his own conception of spirituality. Enzo consistently compares Denny to Senna, which can be read in several ways. First, Enzo can be said to be manifesting Denny's Senna-like success, which culminates in the final chapter of the book when Denny has just won a prestigious race on the same track on which Senna died. Then, as Denny is portrayed as the purest good Enzo can conceive of, Denny and Senna become symbols of the good in the world. Enzo believes they are such forces for good because of the qualities that make them good drivers, such as perseverance, the ability to think ahead, and love. It's these qualities that both bring about Enzo's realization that the zebra is a force within people, and then allows him and Denny to vanquish it by not accepting a settlement offer from Trish and Maxwell that doesn't give Denny full custody of Zoë.

Racing, destiny, and spirituality are brought full circle in the final pages of the novel, when Denny meets a five-year-old Italian boy named Enzo. The child Enzo is representative of a reincarnated dog Enzo, out to fulfill his destiny as a racing champion. This underscores the power and the truth of Enzo's belief system, as Enzo essentially manifested his reincarnation as a human child destined for racing greatness.

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Destiny and Spirituality Quotes in The Art of Racing in the Rain

Below you will find the important quotes in The Art of Racing in the Rain related to the theme of Destiny and Spirituality .
Chapter 1 Quotes

After the 1993 Grand Prix, the best thing I've ever seen on TV is a documentary that explained everything to me, made it all clear, told the whole truth: when a dog is finished living his lifetimes as a dog, his next incarnation will be as a man.

Related Characters: Enzo (speaker)
Related Symbols: Television , Ayrton Senna
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:

Enzo is lying on the floor in a puddle of his own urine, waiting for Denny to come home. The purpose of this staged spectacle is for Enzo to impress upon Denny that he can let Enzo go and put him down. Enzo is addressing the reader and explaining why he's okay with dying: he'll be reincarnated as a man.

Throughout the text, Enzo offers ranked lists of things, whether it be the relative intelligence of other animals or his favorite actors. In this very short list, he offers several important ideas that make up his understanding of spirituality and destiny. Ayrton Senna, Enzo's favorite racecar driver, won the 1993 Grand Prix, and is notable in that Enzo idolizes him and would like to be as much like Senna as possible. Then we're provided with the genesis of Enzo's belief in reincarnation, and why it is so important to him. Enzo is very upfront about the fact that he feels very human and he tries to behave in ways that he feels are more human-like, and he has this documentary to thank for giving him this idea.

Also important, however, is the fact that Enzo's relationship with Senna and his belief in reincarnation come from television. Television is often referred to as Enzo's method of education, and we see here how fully he embraces the ideas he comes across during his hours of viewing.

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Chapter 8 Quotes

That which you manifest is before you.

Related Characters: Denny (speaker)
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:

Denny, Enzo, and Eve are watching a video of a race Denny drove in Portland in the rain. Eve is questioning how Denny is able to drive so well in the rain, and he replies with this statement.

In this moment and later in the text, Denny explains that this phrase means not only that a driver must be fully in tune with his car and therefore able to anticipate its actions, but also that it implies a sense of control over one's life and destiny. Upon hearing Denny's explanation, Enzo is struck by the simple truth of the phrase, and he goes on to build his entire idea of spirituality and destiny around it. Enzo applies it to actions that he himself takes as well as the actions of other characters. He uses this idea of "manifesting" to understand others' thoughts and actions, and by doing so absolves himself of control over their decisions. Additionally, by returning to this idea, Enzo takes responsibility for his own reactions to others.

The phrase is repeated many times throughout the text, and serves as a touchstone for Enzo to return to. It reminds both him and the reader of the importance of taking responsibility for one's actions, and that we all have the power to influence change in our lives.

I had always wanted to love Eve as Denny loved her, but I never had because I was afraid. She was my rain. She was my unpredictable element. She was my fear. But a racer should not be afraid of rain; a racer should embrace the rain.

Related Characters: Enzo (speaker), Denny, Eve
Related Symbols: Rain
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:

After first hearing Denny's explanation of how one must drive in the rain and the phrase "that which you manifest is before you," Enzo immediately applies what he's learned to his own life. He turns first to his rocky relationship with Eve, seeing that it is his own actions and his own fear of the change brought about by Eve that created their less-than-perfect relationship. This point of the novel, then, becomes the point at which Enzo decides to do what he can to change his relationship with Eve for the better.

Further, Enzo's thoughts crystallize how rain functions throughout the novel. Rain becomes a symbol for strife and challenge and later often appears during times of struggle.

Chapter 12 Quotes

Demon. Gremlin. Poltergeist. Ghost. Phantom. Spirit. Shadow. Ghoul. Devil. People are afraid of them so they relegate their existence to stories, volumes of books that can be closed and put on the shelf or left behind at a bed and breakfast; they clench their eyes shut so they will see no evil. But trust me when I tell you that the zebra is real. Somewhere, the zebra is dancing.

Related Characters: Enzo (speaker)
Related Symbols: Zoë's Zebra, the Demon
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:

Eve's episodes are becoming more frequent and getting worse, and Enzo is describing how she explains the pain to him. He turns her pain from simply an intangible idea into a real object or a creature by conflating it with the zebra, as well as this list of other scary entities from stories. He indicates that humans fear these beings and as such try to turn them into stories to minimize the power they hold. This further supports the novel's proposal that stories are a method of exacting power and control. However, Enzo sees through this story with his belief that the zebra cannot be truly controlled by turning it into a scary story. It exists within all of us and there's no containing it, as hard as humans might try.

Chapter 18 Quotes

Not all dogs return as men, they say; only those who are ready.
I am ready.

Related Characters: Enzo (speaker)
Related Symbols: Television
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:

In a pause in the narration, Enzo details the documentary he saw on Mongolia that states that dogs will be reincarnated as men. This documentary provides Enzo with the roadmap for how he sees his life as a dog and how he understands what will happen to his soul in the future. Enzo sees his soul as more human than dog, which provides him with evidence for the fact that he's ready to be reincarnated as a man. Further, since seeing this documentary, he's spent his life as a dog studying human behavior by both observing the humans around him as well as watching television in the hopes that his soul will retain what it's learned about humanity and will therefore be an even better human when it finally resides in a human body. By holding this belief so strongly in his mind, Enzo can be said to be manifesting his soul's future, adding another layer to his conception of destiny and spirituality by giving him the control to dictate his reincarnation.

Chapter 30 Quotes

Racing is about discipline and intelligence, not about who has the heavier foot. The one who drives smart will always win in the end.

Related Characters: Enzo (speaker), Denny
Related Symbols: Ayrton Senna
Page Number: 178
Explanation and Analysis:

This is part of one of Enzo's deviations from the narrative to discuss racing strategy. These asides serve the purpose of providing a way for the reader to connect racing and racing strategy to the overarching narrative. Here, Maxwell and Trish have just sued Denny for Zoë's custody. This aside, then, sets the stage for the ensuing battle between Denny and Trish and Maxwell. By stating that a smart driver will always win, and making it clear that the fight of a race is about discipline rather than just speed, Enzo makes it clear that the fight for Zoë is going to be fought with intelligence rather than brute strength. Further, the reader is also encouraged to see Denny as the disciplined, smart driver, essentially alluding to his ultimate “win.”

Chapter 32 Quotes

I didn't care for the sensation, yet I realized it was possibly a natural progression of my evolving soul, and therefore I tried my best to embrace it.

Related Characters: Enzo (speaker), Denny
Page Number: 188
Explanation and Analysis:

The day after Eve's death, Enzo is at the garage with Denny, and he feels uncharacteristically anxious. Despite Enzo's attempt to explain away this anxiety, the reader is forced to question if there's a better reason for it than the one that Enzo offers. Again, we also see how Enzo conceptualizes being human. He connects feeling anxiety in this particular way with humanity, which provides further insight into how Enzo believes dogs and humans differ. Notice too that he uses the fact that he's experiencing this anxiety to further support his belief that his soul is more human than dog. Essentially, Enzo is continually on the lookout for instances like this that support his theory, and rather than attribute his anxiety to the fact that there may indeed be something to be anxious about, he chooses to interpret it in this very specific manner that supports his beliefs.

Chapter 33 Quotes

My intent, here, is to tell our story in a dramatically truthful way. While the facts may be less than accurate, please understand that the emotion is true. The intent is true. And, dramatically speaking, intention is everything.

Related Characters: Enzo (speaker)
Page Number: 196
Explanation and Analysis:

Denny has just been arrested for rape, and Enzo is explaining to the reader how he will go about telling the story of what happened in the three years following Eve's death. Because Enzo is a dog and therefore didn't get to witness much of what happened firsthand, he sets out to use his knowledge of legal proceedings gleaned from courtroom dramas to tell the story. With this admission, Enzo is once again set up as an unreliable narrator. Essentially, the reader can't truly know what is fact and what is fiction from this point until Denny wins his case. This does several things, and first underscores Enzo's love for the dramatic. By unapologetically fabricating drama, Enzo is able to feed his need for dramatic storytelling, which in turn makes for a more enjoyable reading experience. However, the reader is then asked to question the truth of Enzo's statement that intention is everything. Is the story more successful when it contains the exact truth and nothing but, or does it matter that the story is embellished?

Chapter 37 Quotes

I thought of Eve and how quickly she embraced her death once the people around her agreed to it; I considered the foretelling of my own end, which was to be full of suffering and pain, as death is believed to be by most of the world, and I tried to look away.

Related Characters: Enzo (speaker), Eve
Page Number: 218
Explanation and Analysis:

Enzo has just received his diagnosis of hip dysplasia and is considering how he will handle his diagnosis. In this moment, it becomes very clear how Enzo uses his belief of destiny and "manifesting" to make sense of what's happening around him. He sees that the people around Eve essentially manifested her death, and she had no choice but to follow that belief and die as expected. Seeing this and understanding how it happened, Enzo applies what he learned watching it play out with Eve and then vows to do the exact opposite. He's pitting the manifesting of his vet and of Denny that he's going to die a painful death against his own manifesting that he can try to avoid that at all costs.

Chapter 47 Quotes

He died that day because his body had served its purpose. His soul had done what it came to do, learned what it came to learn, and then was free to leave. And I knew, as Denny sped me toward the doctor who would fix me, that if I had already accomplished what I set out to accomplish here on earth, if I had already learned what I was meant to learn, I would have left the curb one second later than I had, and I would have been killed instantly by that car.

Related Characters: Enzo (speaker), Denny
Related Symbols: Ayrton Senna
Page Number: 257
Explanation and Analysis:

Enzo is in the back of Denny's car heading for the vet after being hit by a car. While he lies there, he tells the reader about the mystery surrounding Ayrton Senna's death. Enzo's belief in destiny and the idea that things and events are meant to be is apparent. Rather than simply believing in chance or accidents, he tries to make sense of events by relating them to racing and the mysterious lives of those he admires. Essentially, Enzo uses what he knows about Senna's death to inform his own beliefs about how death, and the timing of death, works in his own life. While Enzo doesn't say specifically what he still has to learn before he can die, the suggestion that he still has more to do or learn makes the reader look for that lesson throughout the rest of the novel.

Chapter 49 Quotes

When it rained, it never rained on Senna.

Related Characters: Enzo (speaker)
Related Symbols: Rain , Ayrton Senna
Page Number: 268
Explanation and Analysis:

After Enzo keeps Denny from signing a sub-par legal settlement, the two later watch the 1984 Grand Prix of Monaco race tape. It was a rainy day and Senna was doing very well, but the race was canceled due to the rain. Remember that rain symbolizes struggle and challenges, while Senna is explored as a mythical figure and conflated with Denny.

At this point in the text, Denny is nearing the end of his legal battles, and he's come away from not signing the settlement renewed and reinvigorated. When Enzo's statement is applied to Denny's situation, it creates a sense that Denny is of course going to be victorious, because he's so much like Senna and the rain, or his challenges, can't truly touch him. Enzo, the dramatist, plays these moments of true hope and certainty of Denny's success off of descriptions of the extremely low points that Denny experiences. This serves to create drama, as Enzo certainly knows, as well as leading the reader to question the power of Enzo's belief system. Will Denny truly come out victorious, when his challenges are as great as they are?

Chapter 56 Quotes

But sometimes the truth is hidden in a hall of mirrors. Sometimes we believe we are viewing the real thing, when in fact we are viewing a facsimile, a distortion. As I listen to this trial, I am reminded of the climactic scene of a James Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun. James Bond escaped his hall of mirrors by breaking the glass, shattering the illusions, until only the true villain stood before him. We, too, must shatter the mirrors. We must look into ourselves and root out the distortions until that thing which we know in our hearts is perfect and true, stands before us. Only then will justice be served.

Related Characters: Enzo (speaker)
Related Symbols: Television
Page Number: 301
Explanation and Analysis:

Enzo and Tony are sitting outside the courthouse on Denny's final day in court, and Enzo has fallen asleep. He dreams that he gets to testify, and this is his opening statement to the jury. By using the James Bond film as a metaphor, it becomes obvious how much Enzo's television viewing has influenced his worldview. Further, even though this is a dream, the reader gets a glimpse of what Enzo might say if he were given a way to speak. While Enzo often replies to statements and questions spoken by others, they're usually short and quippy rather than long and poetic as this monologue is. Notice as well that as Enzo is encouraging the jury to look within themselves to find what is perfect and true, Enzo is also looking within himself to find the part of himself that is human and capable of speech. This suggests that the "human" parts of Enzo are the parts of him that are the most true, further supporting his belief that he's more human than dog.