The Art of Racing in the Rain

The Art of Racing in the Rain

The Art of Racing in the Rain Chapter 31 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next day, Zoë insists on going to school. Denny and Enzo drive her to school and then continue to a coffee shop. Denny purchases coffee and returns to an outdoor table. Fifteen minutes later, a very large and round man appears and offers Denny his condolences. The man comments that Enzo is a good-looking dog and asks if he's a terrier. Enzo is impressed that the man even noticed him.
This first meeting will greatly influence how Enzo later talks about this man (Mark Fein). Mark unknowingly flatters Enzo by not only noticing him, but asking if he's a terrier. Remember how Enzo characterized terriers as smart and problem-solving dogs—this is a major compliment.
Themes
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The man tells Denny that this consultation will cost him an oil change, and then asks for the paperwork. He looks over the papers as Denny desperately says that Eve couldn't have possibly meant that she wanted Trish and Maxwell to have custody of Zoë. The man replies that he doesn't care what Eve said, and that children aren't chattel. He asks Denny a string of questions about his marriage, his criminal record, and drug use. The man says then that Denny will get custody, and a child's custody is always awarded to a biological parent unless he or she is cooking meth in their kitchen.
The power of Eve's alleged complicity with this story is dismantled as Mark invokes what we're encouraged to believe is a more powerful legal story. Mark's comment about children not being chattel provides some context and language for articulating Maxwell and Trish's views of the situation: that Zoë is a commodity to be obtained rather than a person with thoughts and feelings of her own.
Themes
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Illness and Death Theme Icon
The man instructs Denny to call Trish and Maxwell and direct all correspondence to him as Denny's lawyer. He says grandparents are always hard because they've already ruined the lives of their own children, feel they're better parents than their own children, and have money. He asks Denny if he has money, and Denny offers oil changes for life.
Mark's assessment of intergenerational family relationships again provides context for considering Eve's relationship with her parents. Remember that Trish and Maxwell wondered where they went wrong with Eve and felt responsible for what they saw as her poor choice of partner.
Themes
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The man, whom Denny calls Mark, says that oil changes won't cut it. Denny replies that this is his daughter, and Mark will get every dollar he's owed. Mark says he understands, says it will be seven or eight grand to make the custody suit go away, and that he'll waive the retainer fee. Standing up, he tells Denny the suit is bogus and that Trish and Maxwell are looking for an easy fight. He instructs Denny to call Trish and Maxwell and say that everything is in Zoë's best interest.
We see that Mark and Denny believe that Trish and Maxwell are more hoping to scare Denny into backing down without a fight than they are interested in truly fighting. Mark encourages Denny to speak of Zoë as a person rather than a commodity, which hopefully would solidify his position as her rightful guardian.
Themes
What It Means to Be Human Theme Icon
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Mark suggests Denny take time off, but Denny refuses, saying he needs to work and keep moving, and that he's taking Enzo with him to work today. As he gathers his things, Mark tells Denny that watching him win a race on TV the previous year was sweet. Denny smiles, and Mark tells him to take care of Zoë and he'll take care of the suit. Mark leaves, and Enzo notices that Denny's hands are shaking. Enzo thinks that if Denny just had a steering wheel to hold onto, his hands wouldn't shake and everything would be okay.
Despite his brisk and straightforward attitude towards the suit, Mark is portrayed as being a truly caring person. Denny's hands, a physical trait that denote him as human, give away his fear and discomfort with the situation. Enzo again relates Denny's character back to driving, blurring the line between Denny the driver and Denny the person.
Themes
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