The Art of Racing in the Rain


Garth Stein

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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.

What It Means to Be Human

The events of The Art of Racing in the Rain are relayed to the reader by Enzo, a dog who tries his hardest to be as humanlike as possible. Through his non-human perceptions of the people and events taking place around him, we're asked to consider what it truly means to be human, and what the limits of being human might be.

Enzo has a unique view on humanity, since he himself isn't human…

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Language and Storytelling

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…

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Love and Family

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…

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Illness and Death

Illness and death are immensely important forces throughout the text. The novel begins with an elderly Enzo staging a dramatic display of his declining health for Denny, with the intent of encouraging Denny to put Enzo down. Mere pages later, we learn that Eve, Denny's wife, died sometime over the course of the novel. Knowing all of this at the beginning forces the reader to consider how illness and death work within the…

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Destiny and Spirituality

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,"…

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