Brotherhood: Family and Lyman

Topics: Native Americans in the United States, Family, North Dakota Pages: 6 (1552 words) Published: July 24, 2014
Little boys, young men, and even adult men all at one point or another develop and share some type of bond with their brother. Whether it is a tree house, sports, movies, music, or perhaps an event or particular incident, brothers always seem to have some common thing they can share and identify with, which brings them closer and acts as the foundation for their relationship. For Lyman and Henry, the narrator and his brother in Louise Erdrich’s short story “The Red Convertible”, it was a red Oldsmobile convertible that they shared, and it was that car that brought them closer together. They purchased the car together in Winnipeg, drove all over the country one summer together, and shared a lot of time and memories together in that car. However, it was more than just a car they took a road trip in. Henry and Lyman’s Oldsmobile convertible was not just a means of transportation or a possession they both shared and owned, but rather a bond between two brothers and a direct representation of their relationship. Lyman and Henry hang on to the red convertible even when they do not have to because of what the car represents and what it means to the two of them. Lyman mentions several times throughout the story that “money came easy” to him. When Henry leaves for the War in Vietnam he tells Lyman that the car is his now. Rather than get rid of the beat up convertible, Lyman says, “In those years I’d put his car into almost perfect shape. 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 his key.” (438). It is evident that Lyman did not get rid of the car and even fixed it up because of what it meant to him and his brother. For Lyman, someone who has money, to hang on to a beat up car instead of going out and buying a new one, proves how special the convertible was to him, and more importantly how special his relationship with his brother was to him. When Henry returns home from the war it is almost as if he is a zombie. “Henry Junior returns home changed from a once easy-going youth to a withdrawn, tense shell of a man” (Beidler 178). The only time he sits still is when he is watching TV, and even then it is like he is under hypnosis. “He was not easy. He sat in his chair gripping the armrests with all his might, as if the chair itself was moving at a high speed and if he let go at all he would rocket forward and maybe crash right through the set.” (439). Lyman, in the attempt to get Henry out of his post war trance, beats on the car badly with a hammer, hoping that Henry will focus his time and energy on fixing up the old, beat up car. Even though the car is all beat up, Henry chooses to fix it up, just like Lyman suspected. Henry could have just as easily decided to get rid of the car or sell it, but his passion to rebuild the car proves that he too loves the red convertible because of what it represents and means to the two of them. The red convertible’s physical condition changes throughout the story. Just like any car, it accumulates wear and tear and some damages. The condition of the car reflects what is going on in the brother’s lives as well as the condition of their relationship. When they first buy the car, their relationship is new and blossoming. Henry and Lyman are young and out traveling, about to begin enjoying their summer. “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” (437). Erdrich alludes to new beginnings and the idea that the car is very much alive, just like Lyman and Henry’s relationship when they first see and buy the car. There is a feeling of buying a new shiny car, a new season, freshness, cleanliness, and just an overall feeling of comfort surrounding Henry and Lyman and their new purchase together. After...

Cited: Beidler, Peter G. A Reader’s Guide to the Novels of Louise Erdrich. Columbia, MO: University
of Missouri Press, 2006. 178-181.
Erdrich, Louise. “The Red Convertible.” Literature and the Writing Process. Ed. Elizabeth
McMahan, Susan X Day, and Robert Funk. 8th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice, 2007.
Noe, Winfried. Native American Astrology: The Wisdom of the Four Winds. New York, NY:
Sterling Publishing Company, Inc., 2006. 10-11.
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