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Reflections on Louise Erdrich’s The Red Convertible Essay Sample

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Reflections on Louise Erdrich’s The Red Convertible Essay Sample

Louise Erdrich’s The Red Convertible is a short story about the friendship between two brothers, Lyman and Henry Lamartine. It portrays how their relationship changes as they mature and as time and circumstances define their identity. It also juxtaposes the way they relate with each other with the way they value their possessions. Erdrich craftily described friendship at the backdrop of two Native American Indian brothers as they grow and inevitably had to deal with the larger society, the whites and the concerns of their culture – success, wars…

The story unfolds as a narration by Lyman Lamartine, set in 1974. Lyman is a young man trying to define who he is and what he values most. It begins as he and his brother, Henry, find a beautiful red convertible and decided to buy it and split the cost between them. They drove the car on a wonderful trip to Alaska where Henry was portrayed as full of life and spirit. Later however he was enlisted in the army and was sent to Vietnam. He returned a changed man three years later; unable to cope with his distressing experiences in the war, Henry eventually gave in and ended his life by drowning himself in a river.

Their sharing of the car shows the intimate bond between them. It becomes a symbol of their friendship and enabled them to live life together and without reservations. During these moments they learned how to enjoy and experience a carefree life. Whereas there are stark differences between them – Lyman being more outgoing and Henry the reserved type – their owning the convertible together bridged this gap and made them closer.

Lyman solely taking care of the car while Henry is in the war vividly tells the growing gap between them. As these two young men grew up, they had to deal with stages of their lives; they had to face inevitable circumstances that test their bonding. As Lyman longs for his brother’s return, he takes extra good care of the car. Through it he showed how much he valued their friendship. Henry came back a changed man however, and Lyman tried to connect with him and called his attention to the car by damaging it and letting him repair it.

As the last remaining thing they have in common, the car joined them in their last moments together. Henry tried to reconnect with Lyman by giving the car to him; he no longer knows how to express his feelings and tried to bridge their gap instead by giving Lyman sole possession of the car. But what seemed to be a reunion turned out to be their last goodbye as Henry decided to end his life by drowning himself in the river.

Now what would the car mean to Lyman? How could he keep something that had always represented his friendship with someone if that someone is no longer around?

The red convertible car was a symbol of life and death, a symbol of the beginning and end of the two brother’s friendship. It was the one that started their connection as it bridged the differences between them, the one that represents Lyman’s longing for his brother’s return, and ultimately the one that signified their separation. As Henry lost his senses, he forgot why in the first place they valued their common possession. He desperately tried to reconcile with his brother by offering the car, when what Lyman had been longing was for his brother to learn to connect with him again.

Works Cited

Erdrich, Louise. The Red Convertible. 1984.

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