The Red Convertible, By Louise Erdich

1166 words - 5 pages

It is said that when a man returns from war he is forever changed. In the short story, “The Red Convertible,” Louise Erdrich demonstrates these transformations through the use of symbolism. Erdrich employs the convertible to characterize the emotional afflictions that war creates for the soldier and his family around him by discussing the pre-deployment relationship between two brothers Henry and Lyman, Lyman's perception of Henry upon Henry's return, and Henry’s assumed view on life in the end of the story.
Throughout "The Red Convertible" Erdrich embraces the car as a symbol for the powerful relationship between two brothers, Henry and Lyman. The brothers combine their money to acquire a red convertible which they drove everywhere together; the car symbolized that relationship. Lyman preserved the vehicle while Henry was in the Army, deployed to Vietnam. Even when Henry gave Lyman the car, Lyman always regarded the car as Henry’s, which Erdrich depicts with the following passage, “I always thought of it as his car while he was gone, even though when he left he said, ‘Now it’s yours,’ and threw me the key” (Erdrich 357). The brothers held their relationship with high regard, Henry trusted Lyman with the car enough to give Lyman his share of the vehicle while he was away. Conversely, Lyman surmised that the car would always belong to Henry; just like their relationship, the car was important and would always belong to both of them. During Henry’s deployment, Lyman preserved the state of the car, he kept it in immaculate condition while waiting for Henry's return. By spending so much time caring for the car, Lyman in a way was caring for his brother. Little did Lyman know that his brother was going to come back a changed man and those changes were going to hemorrhage into Henry's relationships.
Erdich uses foreshadowing to demonstrate what will happen between the brothers as the story progresses. The relationship between the brothers deteriorates when Henry returns from Vietnam. Henry was a changed man after his service in the military, “When he returned home, though, Henry was very different, and I’ll say this: the change was no good... It was a fact. Henry had become jumpy and mean” (Erdrich 357). Lyman witnesses changes in Henry's emotions and is upset by this metamorphosis, to feel better, Lyman recalls the time when Henry was always happy and cheerful, he longed for the great times that they spent together and he would rather spend quality time with his brother Henry back in the days that they shared the convertible. "He'd always had a joke, then too, and now you could not get him to laugh" (Erdrich 357). Henry's post war issues had a further grasp than Lyman could imagine. Even when Bonita, Henry and Lyman's younger sister, photographed the two brothers in front of the car, Bonita had to tell Henry to smile and when Lyman looks at the photo later he describes, "that one, first smile that looked like might have hurt his face" (Erdrich...

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