Theme of the Red Convertible

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Theme of The Red Convertible

In The Red Convertible, LouiseErdrich uses the red convertible to symbolize the theme of change in two brothers relationship. The changes in the car parallel with the changes the brothers go through. As the car evolves, so does the relationship between Lyman and Henry. The two brothers have a close bond until Henry is sent off to war. Upon his arrival home, the changes in Henry and how he relates to his brother is apparent. As the short story opens, the brothers are closely united. They purchase a red convertible together “before they had thought it over at all” (437). The ability to make such a purchase shows the brothers must have complete trust in each other. The strong friendship between them is evident as they share a summer traveling together. Upon seeing the car the brothers purchase together, Lyman feels “as if it [is] alive” (436). The brothers set forth on an adventure in the “large as life” (436) red convertible. With no purpose but to go, the car comes to signify freedom and on this carefree journey. Their explorations of new places bring the brothers even closer together. It is a time of innocence with no boundaries, a complete appreciation of each other and life. The car binds the brothers closer together, but the bond is quickly compromised when Henry is sent off to war. Henry returns from war a changed man. Before the war Henry sleeps with his “arms thrown wide” (437) showing serenity and openness, but now “he is never comfortable sitting still anywhere” (439). Lyman reflects on how his brother used to joke, but now observes Henry is “jumpy and mean” (438). Instead of being a carefree spirit, Henry loses interest in living and focuses on the television. His pain is made even more evident by the physical harm he causes to himself. When Henry injures himself, Lyman reaches out to help, only to be shoved out of the way. Making the ultimate sacrifice to get through to Henry, Lyman damages the car....
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