Symbolism in Red Convertible

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The Symbolic Red Convertible

In Louise Erdich’s “The Red Convertible” Henry and Lyman buy a red Convertible Oldsmobile. Erdich uses the car to portray the brothers’ relationship. The car like the relationship started off good and strong, then turned rough and finally disappeared altogether.

In the beginning of the story the boys’ relationship was good and strong. Just like the car. “We went places in that car, me and Henry. We took off driving all one whole summer” (p. 368 4th ed.). You can tell the car is working well because they could drive across the country. All the little pieces of the engine worked together to run, just like a healthy relationship running strong. The relationship continued to build and grow strong on this trip. On this trek across the country, Henry and Lyman become close, letting their guards down and spreading their arms wide even when they sleep. Showing that no matter where they are, the brothers are happy being together. Like Erdich says “Henry was asleep with his arms thrown wide. Later on, he woke up and we started driving again. We were somewhere in Montana” or maybe on the Blood Reserve-it could have been anywhere” (369).

The brothers’ relationship changed when Henry came back from the war. “When he came home though, Henry was very different, and I’ll say this: the change was no good. You could hardly expect him to change for the better, I know” (371). What Lyman didn’t know was his brother had PTSD, and nothing would ever be the same. Even though Lyman would try to fix things with his brother it wouldn’t work out. Since the brothers had such a great time on the earlier trip Lyman decided to use the car to fix Henry. “I went out to that car and I did a number on its underside. Whacked it up. Bent the tail pipe double. Ripped the muffler loose. By the time I was done with the car it looked worse than any typical Indian car that has been driven all its life on reservation roads…” (372). Just like the...
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