The Art of Racing in the Rain


Garth Stein

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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:
Chapter 8 Quotes

That which you manifest is before you.

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

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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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: