The Art of Racing in the Rain

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Language and Storytelling 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.
 Language and Storytelling  Theme Icon

Enzo's preoccupation with language, as well as the setup of the story as embellished memories told to the reader, situate language and storytelling as integral elements to understanding the novel as a whole. Storytelling and language are portrayed as immensely powerful, with the power to reveal one's true thoughts on a subject, to tear families apart, and even to lead individuals to their deaths.

As a narrator, Enzo is very upfront about the fact that he has a flair for the dramatic. He also notes at various points that he doesn't know the full truth of what happened in the events he describes, being a dog who doesn't get to attend meetings or sit in a courtroom. Instead, he's recreated what he thinks happened for the reader. Enzo uses what he's learned from watching television to recreate events. For example, since he's watched a lot of Law and Order and other courtroom dramas, he's certain of how Denny's court cases unfolded. In this way, he uses the stories of others as source material for the story he tells. However, Enzo's admission that parts of the story may or may not be true turns him into somewhat of an unreliable narrator. Some of his untruths are obvious, as when his story verges into the supernatural with Zoë's zebra toy, but others are harder or impossible to pick out.

Enzo's story is not the only one; many other characters tell stories of their own over the course of the novel. These stories, for the most part, are purpose-built to either harm or help. Annika's claim that Denny assaulted her is treated as a mean story meant to help The Twins with their custody case for Zoë. Enzo also believes that Eve died because she had no choice but to believe the stories the doctors told her in which she died of her disease. In these cases, the stories are immensely powerful. They have the power to destroy a man's life and lead a woman to her death, if they're believed. Enzo is adamant that had these stories not been told or believed, events could have turned out very differently. On the other hand, Denny uses stories to protect himself and Zoë. He refuses to accept Eve's death until he finds out she has actually died, telling himself as well as Zoë that Eve will recover and everyone will come home. Later, when a restraining order keeps him from seeing Zoë, he and Enzo write her letters from a fictional trip to Europe to avoid telling her the truth of the situation.

Throughout the course of the text, Enzo implores the reader to listen, both to the nuances of spoken language and the stories of others. Since he's not capable of speech, Enzo spends his time either listening or trying to communicate via gestures or facial expressions. As speech is something unavailable to him but highly coveted, Enzo has an elevated sense of the importance of language and storytelling. This encourages the reader to read deeply into the words of the text and question not just what's being said, but what isn't being said. This emphasis on the importance of language can be expanded outwards to our own lives, as Enzo gives us tools and advice to more effectively use and engage critically with language and storytelling.

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Language and Storytelling 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 Language and Storytelling .
Chapter 1 Quotes

Gestures are all that I have; sometimes they must be grand in nature. And while I occasionally step over the line and into the melodramatic, it is what I must do in order to communicate clearly and effectively. In order to make my point understood without question. I have no words I can rely on because, much to my dismay, my tongue was designed long and flat and loose, and therefore, is a horribly ineffective tool for pushing food around my mouth while chewing, and an even less effective tool for making clever and complicated polysyllabic sounds that can be linked together to form sentences.

Related Characters: Enzo (speaker)
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

This text opens the novel and introduces the reader to the narrator, Enzo, and several of his most important interests and concerns. The text first makes it clear that Enzo is a dedicated student of communication. He mentions how he must communicate (via sometimes grand and melodramatic gestures), and then how he cannot communicate using human language. This leads to an understanding by the reader that Enzo is not human. Further, we see too that Enzo sees this difference as very much a physical one by the way he discusses his tongue and what it isn't capable of doing.

By making these concerns of Enzo's very clear from the absolute beginning, it underscores how essential these ideas are to understanding the novel as a whole, as well as understanding Enzo and how he sees the world. As Enzo is a dog and therefore sees the world differently than a human might, through his insights the reader is encouraged to consider the characteristics that make humans human and consider as well how communication and language work.


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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.

Chapter 7 Quotes

But I hadn't a facile tongue. So all I could do was watch and feel empty inside; Eve had assigned me to protect Zoë no matter what, but no one had been assigned to protect Eve. And there was nothing I could do to help her.

Related Characters: Enzo (speaker), Eve, Zoë
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:

Enzo has just told the reader that he didn't play rough with Zoë as to not worry Eve unnecessarily, because Enzo smells that there's something wrong in Eve's head. The fact that the reader and Enzo know this so early, well before Eve even begins experiencing symptoms of illness, creates a sense of dramatic irony. This leads the reader to begin looking for clues as to what exactly is going on with Eve, and how and when Eve's illness is going to manifest.

Enzo's preoccupation with communication and the physical characteristics of humans is also brought into play here. His lack of "a facile tongue" means that he's unable to do anything to help or warn them of what's to come. However, this leads to more questions about what it means to be human versus what it means to be a dog. While Enzo never voices the hypothetical situation himself, the reader is forced to consider the fact that if Enzo were human, even though he would've had the physical traits that would allow him to voice his concerns, he in theory also wouldn't have a way to know that Eve was ill.

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 11 Quotes

I've always found great pleasure in the narrative tease. But then, I'm a dramatist. For me, a good story is all about setting up expectations and delivering on them in an exciting and surprising way.

Related Characters: Enzo (speaker), Denny
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:

Denny has returned from a race and is telling Enzo about his win in a particularly dramatic way, which Enzo loves. Enzo's love for the dramatic is indicative of several things. First, remember Enzo's constant refrain that gestures are all that he has, and that in order to communicate effectively his gestures often have to err on the side of the more dramatic. Thus, it follows logically that the methods to create good drama are not just known, but interesting to Enzo. Knowing this, the idea can be expanded to encompass the entirety of the novel. Enzo, as the narrator, has several hundred pages in which to set up expectations and then deliver on them in an exciting manner. This also further supports the idea that Enzo is an unreliable narrator, as he also states explicitly that he cares more for drama than for cold, hard facts.

"Sometimes I think you actually understand me," he said. "It's like there's a person inside there. Like you know everything."

I do, I said to myself. I do.

Related Characters: Enzo (speaker), Denny (speaker)
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

Denny, drunk, has finished telling Enzo about his recent win and has told Enzo that he loves him. Despite Denny's drunkenness, Enzo feels very loved. This exchange encapsulates Denny and Enzo's relationship, as the love and trust between them is obvious. Denny frequently speaks candidly to Enzo, as he does here, and Enzo often answers him, even though he knows that Denny can't hear or understand him. This candid style of speech simultaneously reinforces Enzo's state of being as a dog, as humans around him don't censor themselves while talking around him, while also giving a nod to his internal sense of humanity. It also reinforces Enzo's position as a narrator that, while not all-knowing, has a very different set of knowledge given his position as a dog.

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 15 Quotes

She rarely called me by my name. They do that in prisoner of war camps, I've heard. Depersonalization.

Related Characters: Enzo (speaker), Trish (speaker)
Page Number: 85
Explanation and Analysis:

Enzo is at Trish and Maxwell's house, and Trish has just referred to Enzo as simply "the dog." Enzo finds this very offensive, given that he believes himself to be almost a human in a dog's body. He wants to be treated like a person, since he feels so human, and here he ties being a person to being named. On the flipside, however, Enzo often neglects using Trish and Maxwell's names, referring to them instead as the Twins or the Evil Twins. Essentially, he co-opts this idea of not using someone's name as a method of depersonalization and turns it back on Trish and Maxwell. By doing this, Trish and Maxwell are able to escape having any sort of relationship with Enzo, and Enzo is able to turn Trish and Maxwell into nameless villains who are therefore easier to hate.

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 19 Quotes

Here's why I will be a good person. Because I listen. I cannot speak, so I listen very well. I never interrupt, I never deflect the course of the conversation with a comment of my own.

Related Characters: Enzo (speaker)
Page Number: 101
Explanation and Analysis:

Denny, Mike, and Enzo are sitting in the parking lot of the hospital where Eve has been taken after getting a concussion. Enzo is listening to Denny and Mike's conversation, and he addresses the reader directly to implore them to listen. Enzo's respect for the power of language is apparent, and he sees conversation between two people with this power as essentially a power struggle. Despite wanting desperately to be able to speak and therefore engage in this struggle himself, Enzo understands how important it is to share power by listening. In this way, a person can learn and become involved with those around them in a more meaningful way, as listening is one way to create a sense of love and caring.

Chapter 23 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Enzo (speaker)
Page Number: 119
Explanation and Analysis:

Eve has just been moved to Trish and Maxwell's house after being released from the hospital, and Trish, Maxwell, and Denny are talking in the kitchen about the situation going forward while Enzo looks on. Enzo notes here that while gestures are all that he has, as a mute dog, human communication is composed of a much more complex symphony of language and non-verbal gestures. Here, he indicates that as someone who relies on gestures because he cannot rely on the verbal aspect of communication, he's more in tune with the gestures and non-verbal elements of human communication. While this causes the reader to consider how this non-verbal communication works, it also sets up an expectation and a desire to look for these non-verbal communications throughout the rest of the novel.

Chapter 25 Quotes

The true hero is flawed. The true test of a champion is not whether he can triumph, but whether he can overcome obstacles—preferably of his own making—in order to triumph. A hero without a flaw is of no interest to an audience or to the universe, which, after all, is based on conflict and opposition, the irresistible force meeting the unmovable object.

Related Characters: Enzo (speaker)
Page Number: 135
Explanation and Analysis:

Denny, Zoë, and Enzo are in the mountains visiting Eve's family, and Enzo is gearing up to share what happened that week between Denny and Annika. In this analysis of what makes a hero, Enzo's love for storytelling and television shine. By proposing that a hero can't be a hero without flaws or self-made obstacles, Enzo begins to humanize Denny and set up key elements of the story to follow. This discussion creates dramatic tension, as it becomes apparent that Denny, our hero, is about to face a flaw or an obstacle of his own making. However, it also makes it clear that Denny, as the hero of the story, is going to triumph. Knowing this now, this allows Enzo to take dramatic liberties with the telling of the story without sacrificing or jeopardizing the reader's knowledge that Denny is a true hero who will triumph in the end.

"But I love you!" she howled, and then she was in an all-out crying fit, her eyes squeezed shut, her mouth contorted. "I love you!" she kept saying over and over. "I love you!"

Related Characters: Annika (speaker), Denny
Page Number: 145
Explanation and Analysis:

Denny has just rejected Annika's sexual advances after their harrowing drive over the mountains to Seattle. Annika's love for Denny motivates first these advances, and then what Enzo later perceives as a desire for revenge when she goes on to accuse and sue Denny for rape. However, this statement supports the idea that all the characters in the novel, whether Enzo perceives them as good or bad, are mostly motivated by love for another character. Trish and Maxwell sue for Zoë's custody because they love and care for her future, and Denny fights them because he feels the same way. Enzo likewise sends his imaginary friend to torment Trish and Maxwell because he loves Denny and Zoë and sees Trish and Maxwell as trying to tear them apart.

Chapter 28 Quotes

I needed to feel myself, understand myself and this horrible world we are all trapped in, where bugs and tumors and viruses worm their way into our brains and lay their putrid eggs that hatch and eat us alive from the inside out.

Related Characters: Enzo (speaker), Eve
Page Number: 164
Explanation and Analysis:

Denny and Enzo have just learned of Eve's death and Enzo, overcome with grief and emotion, is running wild through the woods. As he runs, he's looking for some way to understand and make sense of Eve's death. He sees the world as a trap or as a prison, and turns inside himself to try to find a way out. This is also one place where Enzo's characterization of disease as a true living thing is most apparent. Illness and death are not just abstract ideas or actions; they're egg-laying bugs, tumors, and viruses. By turning illness and death into concrete entities, Enzo is better able to understand how they work and how to avoid death. We also see how in this time of heightened emotion, Enzo returns fully to being a dog and doesn't try to be human. In order to obtain some sense of understanding, he must be what he truly is.

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 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 53 Quotes

Tears ran down Denny's mother's cheeks during the entire encounter, raindrops spotting Zoë's flower-print dress.

Related Characters: Enzo (speaker), Denny, Zoë, Denny's Mother
Related Symbols: Rain
Page Number: 287
Explanation and Analysis:

Enzo is describing Denny's mother, who is blind, meeting Zoë, her granddaughter, for the first time. Denny's parents agreed to help Denny pay for his lawsuit in exchange for finally getting to meet their granddaughter. Rain in this instance alludes to not only challenges and strife, but the idea that hope and renewal are able to exist after a cleansing rain—and Denny's mother herself represents this idea of cleansing rain. With her visit, she effects positive change in the course of Denny's legal struggles, essentially helping to clear the more negative rain with her tears and the hope her tears offer.

This instance also suggests just how vitally important family is to the novel. The prospect of getting to meet her granddaughter causes Denny's mother to end a years-long absence from Denny's life. Again then, love is shown to be the most powerful motivator of all.

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.