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.
Language and Storytelling ThemeTracker
Language and Storytelling Quotes in The Art of Racing in the Rain
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.
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.
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.
That which you manifest is before you.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
She rarely called me by my name. They do that in prisoner of war camps, I've heard. Depersonalization.
Not all dogs return as men, they say; only those who are ready.
I am ready.
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.
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.
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.
"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!"
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.
Racing is about discipline and intelligence, not about who has the heavier foot. The one who drives smart will always win in the end.
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.
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.
Tears ran down Denny's mother's cheeks during the entire encounter, raindrops spotting Zoë's flower-print dress.
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.