Transformation in Louise Erdrich's The Red Convertible
In Louise Erdrich's "The Red Convertible," the two main characters start off doing seemingly well. However, there are many changes that these two young men go through during the story. Henry experiences the largest transformation due to his involvement in the Vietnam War. This transformation also alters Henry's brother, Lyman, although not for the same reasons. As the story progresses, and these certain events take place, the brothers' innocence is soon lost.
Before the war, the Lamartine brothers, Henry and Lyman, are naive and carefree. They spend all of their time together. They even buy a car together. This red convertible is the most notable way that Erdrich represents the boys' innocence in the story. To get this car, they spend all of the money they have, without even thinking about it. "[B]efore we had thought it over at all, the car belonged to us and our pockets were empty" (461). Soon after purchasing the red convertible, Henry and Lyman set off driving with no real destination. They simply explore the country, going where the road takes them. They have no responsibility, no worries, nowhere to be, and nothing that has to be done. The boys "just lived [their] everyday lives here to there" (461). Lyman and Henry fall asleep under willow trees, wake up, and begin driving again. During their expedition, they meet a girl named Susy. Susy lives in Chicken, Alaska, where they agree to take her. Upon reaching Alaska, the boys do not want to return home. There, where the sun never really sets in the summer, they hardly sleep at all. They live like animals. Before they leave, before winter, an interesting thing happens that truly expresses how innocent Henry is. Susy wants them to see her hair before they leave. When she lets it fall from her head, Henry tells her to jump up on his shoulders. He says, "I always wondered what it was like to have long pretty hair" (462) while spinning around with Susy. This shows a completely different Henry than the one at the end of the story.
Shortly after arriving home, Henry gets ready to leave to join the Marines. Before he leaves, Henry tells his brother that the car is now completely his, although Lyman still considers it to be Henry's the entire time he is gone.
It is hard to say for sure what Henry experiences as a prisoner of war. However, from what general knowledge one has of the Vietnam War, it must be a truly terrible experience. When he comes back home there is definite change in how he acts. Henry is very quiet almost all of the time. He never sits in one place for very long, which is much different from his previous behavior. Prior to Henry going to Vietnam, he and his brother would sit still for long periods of time, entire afternoons, talking to people and watching things. But after returning home, Henry hardly ever laughs anymore, and when he does it...