Symbolism is an element present in writing. “The Red Convertible,” a short story written by Louise Erdrich, tells the story of the destructive nature of war. With the name in the title, it is only natural that the convertible plays a very important role in the short story. The condition of the car throughout the story shows the stages of a relationship between two brothers. The main characters in the story, Lyman and Henry Lamartine, develop an inseparable bond through a red convertible. Their relationship changed drastically when Henry, the oldest of the two, was drafted into the Vietnam War. Upon returning from the war “Henry was very different” and “the change was no good” (327). Despite what many may think, the convertible is not the only symbol in the story. Henry’s clothes and boots show the permanent effect of war, and the power of a photograph show the effects that war can have on a person’s soul. Erdrich’s ultimate purpose in “The Red Convertible” is communicating the emotional and physical pain war creates for a soldier and his family.
Although many symbols drive the story, the most obvious is the red convertible. In the beginning of the story Henry and Lyman buy, restore, and travel around the country in the convertible together. This shows a normal relationship of two brothers before the effects of war. When Henry goes off to war, the relationship changes, and not for the better. Lyman took care of the car and made it almost perfect while Henry was away. When Henry returned from war he lost all interest in the convertible, as well as in Lyman. Lyman beats up the car as a result of feeling neglected by Henry and so Henry would emerge from his pain and fix it. The car portrayed the broken relationship that Lyman feels between him and his brother. Henry was so consumed with other thoughts and memories he was unable to function properly. It took Henry nearly a month to discover the car had been damaged and to confront Lyman, “ That car’s...
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