The Art of Racing in the Rain

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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.
 Love and Family  Theme Icon

The Art of Racing in the Rain is, at its core, a story about family and relationships. It delves into the relationships between lovers, spouses, parents and children, and parents and their adult children. It also questions what love is and what forms familial love can take.

Throughout the novel, relationships are explored primarily in terms of what happens when someone or something comes between an already existing relationship. This asks the reader to question the shape and strength of familial bonds. Some characters, like Eve, first come between an existing relationship (Enzo and Denny) before being integrated into the family. Love for Denny is what causes Enzo to accept Eve into his family, albeit begrudgingly—although Enzo later tries to make it closer, their relationship is relatively standoffish because he never forgives Eve for taking the primary spot in Denny's life. Other characters, like Trish and Maxwell, do nothing but try to come between Eve and Denny and later Denny and Zoë. Despite their desire to cut Denny out of their daughter and granddaughter's lives, neither Eve nor Zoë ever waver in their love for Denny. Love, in this sense, is what allows the relationships to flourish despite adversity. When the family is separated for the first time—Denny in the hospital with Eve, Zoë with her grandparents, and Enzo with Mike and Tony—Enzo comes to the realization that despite their separation and the chance occurrences that may try to tear them apart, his family would always be together thanks to the love they share.

Yet despite Enzo's touching realization about his own immediate family, the idea of family, and how families show their love to each other, is more nuanced and multifaceted when the immediate family contends with the desires of extended family. Despite Enzo's portrayal of Trish and Maxwell as pure evil, their custody suit for Zoë comes from a place of love and a desire to care for her the way they believe she should be cared for. They take offense to Denny's busy schedule and need to travel for races, and believe they could provide Zoë a better childhood with stability and a steady home life. In this way, money becomes a major factor in the way families in the novel show their love. Trish and Maxwell believe that they could better care for Zoë because they have the money to put her in a good private school and pay for her college, unlike Denny. Thus, they equate love with money and the things that money can buy. Denny's parents, absent for the majority of the text, also show their love through money. Denny lies for much of the text that his parents financed several races and trips to further his career, thereby fabricating that sense of love for the comfort of others. However, his parents come through in the end and take out a reverse mortgage on their house to pay for Denny's legal fees, which eventually reunites Denny and Zoë. The price for this help is that they get to meet Zoë, their granddaughter, for the first time. Forging an actually familial connection then becomes necessary for receiving parental love and care.

Throughout the course of the novel, Enzo comes to realize that family isn't something simple and unchanging. It moves and changes, and despite wildly differing conceptions of what love means, the novel suggests that family, in whatever form that might take, will come through and act in whatever way love means to them.

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Love and Family 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 Love and Family .
Chapter 6 Quotes

And while I greatly resented the attention Eve lavished on her unborn baby, in retrospect, I realize I had never given her a reason to lavish that same attention on me.

Related Characters: Enzo (speaker), Eve, Zoë
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

Eve and Denny are newly married and Eve has recently become pregnant. Despite a general dislike of the change that Eve brings to his life, Enzo finds himself unable to truly be angry at Eve because he knows she's pregnant, and he begins to pick apart the nuances of his relationship to her in this thought. When Eve joins Denny and Enzo's family, she essentially comes between them rather than simply joining them. Enzo perceives her as a threat and as competition for Denny's attention, and as such, is never particularly warm towards her. This in turn means that Eve is never very warm or affectionate with Enzo, either. However, when Enzo sees her love something else so fully as she loves Zoë before her birth, Enzo realizes the reason for their generally poor relationship. Realizing that the state of their relationship is mostly, if not fully his own responsibility sets Enzo up to later begin to take more responsibility and attempt to change their relationship for the better.


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Chapter 7 Quotes

What Eve said was not out of line, as most dogs cannot help themselves... but that sort of thing doesn't apply to me.

Related Characters: Enzo (speaker), Denny, Eve, Zoë
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:

Enzo is describing how he plays chase games with toddler Zoë, which Eve doesn't like because she believes Enzo will bite Zoë. Enzo's response is indicative of his belief that he's more human-like than other dogs, in that what he says is a normal canine instinct simply doesn't apply to him. This idea echoes throughout the novel as Enzo moves freely and fluidly between acting in what he describes as more dog-like or more human-like ways. Essentially, his ability to compartmentalize this instinct, recognize it, and then choose to not follow it is what allows him to behave and think in a more human manner.

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

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

"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 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 23 Quotes

I marveled at them both; how difficult it must be to be a person. To constantly subvert your desires. To worry about doing the right thing, rather than doing what is most expedient.

Related Characters: Enzo (speaker), Denny, Zoë
Page Number: 122
Explanation and Analysis:

Denny and Zoë have just decided that Zoë will stay with Trish, Maxwell, and Eve while Eve is ill. Enzo sees that neither Zoë nor Denny truly want to do this, but agree to it in order to make other people happy. Enzo sees this as a sacrifice that is clearly and truly human, and this insight gives more nuance to how Enzo differentiates between dogs and humans. Were he given the choice, Enzo, presumably, would not agree to stay with Eve because of his desire as a dog to do what is expedient and most wanted. Realizing this about himself and about the people around him gives Enzo a bit of an existential crisis as he realizes that being human is not just about being able to form language and possessing opposable thumbs, but exerting mental energy on painful decisions such as this one.

Chapter 25 Quotes

"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 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.