The Red Convertible

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“The Red Convertible” a Formalist Criticism

While reading the story The Red Convertible of the series Love Medicine, the author Louise Erdrich portrays two Indian brothers and their connection to a red convertible. Far more than being a shiny car, the red old convertible portrays many meanings through the cultural and is very symbolic. The car carries the audience from its lighthearted and carefree beginning to its movingly tragic end. The red convertible brings together the two brothers in a special relationship in life. The vehicle also corresponds to many of the events of the story. It removes the brothers from their dreary life in the reservation and brings them into a life of peace, quiet, freedom and contentment. The first time the brothers Henry Junior and Lyman saw the car they couldn’t believe their eyes. "There it was, parked, large as life. Really as if it was alive. I thought of the word repose, because the car wasn’t simply stopped, parked, or whatever. That car reposed, calm and gleaming, a for sale sign in its left front window." (Erdrich219). It is as if the car has a life of its own which is also paralleled in Henry's life and is also a symbol of the profound relationship between the brothers Lyman and Henry. All throughout the story the car keeps on changing just like Henry's story. At the beginning of the story the vehicle is a symbol of happiness and satisfaction but at the end it becomes a symbol of sadness and tragedy. In Henry's first view of the vehicle it was just like him in harmony with the universe and alive. At the end of the story the high raging waters of the red river are responsible for Henry's death. Henrys last words were “My boots are filling.” (Erdrich 226). With help from Lyman the river takes the red convertible too. When he is unable to rescue Henry he drives the convertible to the edge of the river and lets it fall slowly into the river. Similar to the scenario of when Henry went through the devastating terrors of the Vietnam War he is then overwhelmed by the current of the raging river. The raging current consumes the convertible as it did to Henry. The purchase of the red convertible stands for the piece of the puzzle, which builds up the strong bond of brotherhood between Henry and Lyman. As brothers and co owners of the vehicle they share a common attachment. The car is a symbol not only of Lyman and Henry as a team but also it creates new friendship. “We went places in that car, me and Henry. We took off driving all one summer.” (Erdrich 219). The vehicle transports them all over the country, which gives them a great opportunity to develop a strong bond of brotherhood and friendship. The car goes ahead to give the brothers a complete love cycle. Their feelings towards the car are so profound that they give it human characteristics. This makes the car to be like a second brother to them, which makes their bond even stronger. The brother's are aware of the war that can break their bond, which happens when Henry goes to Vietnam. Upon the return of Henry from Vietnam, Lyman has the expectation of continuing their relationship from where they had left off. However, this is not possible, as Henry has been changed by the war. He has become quiet and withdrawn as he feels resentment towards Lyman who did not go to the war. Lyman states in the story “When he came home, though, Henry was very different, and I’ll say this: the change was no good.” (Erdrich 221). Henry has been changed by the war yet Lyman has remained the same; this is the root of Henry's resentment. Lyman is at peace with life and does not understand the grumpy Henry. He has the desire to have the old peaceful Henry back and this is not possible. The author Erdrich then uses the symbolic nature of the car to portray the brother's relationship. Lyman resorts to smashing up the car, which formed a very strong bond between him and Henry. He does this in the hope that he will get Henry's...
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