June 18, 2012
“The Red Convertible and Symbolism”
In Louise Erdrich's short story, "The Red Convertible," she portrays the change that war imposes on the relationship of two brothers, Henry and Lyman. She uses symbolism to reveal the hardships Henry brings back from Vietnam, and she also uses it to show how Lyman dealt with the separation and the effect of the war on his brother. Edrich’s main purpose in “The Red Convertible” is to communicate the emotional afflictions war has on a soldier and his or her relationships through symbolism.
Throughout the story Edrich uses the red convertible as the main symbol in the story because the red convertible symbolizes Henry and Lyman’s friendship. At the beginning of the story, the brothers use all their money to purchase a red Oldsmobile which they shared. They went everywhere together in the red Oldsmobile. They used the Oldsmobile to travel to Canada and around the continent together. In this part of the story the convertible represented the fun and extreme closeness of their relationship before the war. When Henry is drafted and goes to war, their relationship changes and Lyman demonstrates their separation by taking the car apart. When Henry returns from the war he is a scarred and changed man; he loses his usual interest in the convertible, as well as in Lyman and their friendship. Lyman bangs the car up, as a result of being neglected by Henry. The car portrays the "banged up" relationship he feels between his brother and himself. When Henry sees and realizes that the car, as well as his relationship with Lyman is damaged, he confronts Lyman. "When I left, that car was running like a watch. Now I don't even know if I can get it to start again, let alone get it anywhere near its old condition" (pg397). When Henry expresses this concern about bringing the car back to its old condition Erdrich uses symbolism here to express the concerns...
Cited: Edrich, Louise. “The Red Convertible.” In Literature and the Writing Process. By Elizabeth McMahan, Susan X Day, and Robert Funk. NJ: Prentice Hall, 2005. Pages 395-398.
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