The Red Convertible by Louise Erdrich
The Red Convertible
The story of Lyman Lamartine book ‘The Red Convertible’ summarizes his relationship with his brother Henry who he could no longer understand after joining the military, and that was being a big problem that grew contributing to Henrys suicide. What could have caused this?
In the narrative tells the story tells us of the two brothers who came from a native Indian village a place as it is described by the author to be filled with happy and good people .it is explained that the two brothers were driving home as they meet a girl, Susy who they both liked and hence offered to drive her home where they are welcomed by her family in joy. What had then had led to the continued to trouble Henry? The author gave a flash back of to his early life when he worked hard with his brother to acquire an old convertible vehicle they both lavished and was a strong unifying symbol of their friendship.
Henry joins the military after a layoff from one of the local organizations. He luckily survived and returned home but as a changed man. He was no longer the happy and social young man formerly known before joining the military. What had changed? Or what had he seen? His brother and family were wounded. This had reduced the communication between the two and especially becomes a major problem since they never had fun moments around their red convertible they had worked so hard to buy, it was difficult for Lyman to understand his brother. He tries to do something on the vehicle with the hope that Henry will change for the better given the fact the red convertible vehicle is the only thing that brought them together in life, but his brother still did not show interest in this piece of work, their relationship assessed to have just died away.
At the beginning of the story, Lyman and Henry are victims of similar circumstances because he later losses his business when the worst tornado befalls the town while Henry had been laid off from the local processing plant. In other words, they had one thing in common, which is some form of loss, something that forced them to join hands in fulfilling a dream of owning a car. Even though their relationship at this point can be said to be a family like, it is largely criticized by friendship because they always enjoyed visiting places together (Balke et.al, 551-562). The ambition of owning a car developed as the two brothers were crisscrossing the town meaning, it is through their friendship that they developed a common interest of driving a convertible. After acquiring the vehicle, they always did things together implying that they had become great friends. As they were on their way visiting new places, they came across a young girl name Susy who attracted them and decided to take her home. The girl’s family gave them an amiable welcome as evidenced in the story where the narrator says her family treated us well. They gave us food and provided for us everything. No one could believe that the Lyman and Henry were brothers because they never resembled each other implying friendship was what kept them together. While they were at Susy’s place, it is explained that people could not get over them since they never believed the two brothers were brothers.
With time, the narrator explains that Henry was lucky to secure employment with the US military and his extra qualities landed him in the marine department. His brother, as he explains was physically endowed with a well-built body (Büring, n.p.). This is evident from the way the way he describes the features that his brother possesses in a special type of love characterized by a deep sense of friendship. Lyman was so affected by the absence of his brother for so long when he joined the training camp. He received letters from abroad, and he wrote to Henry as well even though he was never sure whether his brother received them. At this point, their relationship is co-dependent in the sense that one cannot do without the other. Unfortunately, the Vietnam War, which Henry participated, affected the entire relationship because he was never the same person. His behavior was different because, as the author puts it, he was calm and certainly not safe settling in one place preferring to move from one place to the other in the compound. Before he joined the military, Henry would perhaps crack jokes, relax without moving a muscle, chart with anybody around him, and laugh, but he could no longer associate with people freely, as he had become jumpy and mean. Lyman and his mother tried to fix Henry’s condition by figuring out the best ways to approach it, including finding a physician. Whenever either a disease or a social condition affects a family member, it seems to interfere with the well-being of the entire family unit (Schwarzschild, 141-177).
A critical analysis of the text suggests that the red Oldsmobile function as the story’s central symbol because the narrator, Lyman, uses the vehicle to invoke the good memories between him and his brother. He manages to turn around the life and behavior of his brother when he decided to wreck the car up by bending the appendage cylinder and ripping the muffler loose. Since he was aware of the affection Henry had towards the car, it was certain that he would swing into action to repair it. Indeed, the author managed to attract the attention of Henry, as he responded after a month lamenting that Lyman had misused the vehicle having left it running like a watch. With the condition in which the car was, Henry could not sleep, as he spent the entire night trying to fix it. Working on the vehicle changed Henry’s behavior to some extent, as the author puts, his situation was improving as compared to the initial days (Louise, 358-364). The habit he had developed of watching the television was fading away since he was always busy with the vehicle moving up and down to fetch the needed spares. Even though he was not as friendlier as he used to before he joined the military, he had developed a positive attitude, something that prompted their sister Bonita to request for a photo shoot. The car underwent some changes, with the major one being the destruction that Lyman initiated with a view of attracting Henry’s attention. Just like the adjustments to the car, Lyman and Henry’s life went through many changes, the major one being Henry joining the military. The changes, both to the car and the two brother’s lives, suggest that nothing permanent in life and indeed, it is dangerous for an individual to be emotionally connected to something (Shao, et.al., 879-883).
It seems nothing could get back Henry to the old ways since the family members, including Lyman, had given up. As the author was trying to understand his brother better one evening, the unexpected happen when Henry decided to commit suicide when he jumped into the river with his boots. Since the two brothers shared a lot in life, it was difficult for Lyman to live the picture that featured Henry. Even though it is not clarified in the story, the picture haunted Lyman after Henry’s death, but this does not make any difference. Henry knew that Lyman loved him so much, and he did not want him to sense anything regarding what he was about to do. This explains why he had to pretend to be enjoying every moment in the river. Various episodes in the story are relevant to the flow and development of the story, but the one in which Henry was watching the television is critical to the understanding of changes that had taken place not only in his life but that of the author as well. By watching the TV, the author was able to establish the fact that Henry was going through a difficult time in life.
Balke, Wolf-Tilo, Ulrich Güntzer, and Christoph Lofi. “Eliciting matters–controlling skyline sizes by incremental integration of user preferences.” Advances in Databases: Concepts, Systems and Applications. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2007. 551-562. Article
Büring, Daniel. “What’s new (and what’s given) in the theory of focus.” Proceedings of the Berkeley Linguistics Society Meeting. 2008. Article
Schwarzschild, Roger. “Givenness, avoid and other constraints on the placement of accent*.” Natural language semantics 7.2 (1999): 141-177. Article
Shao, Qiyue, et al. “Photoluminescence studies of red-emitting NaEu (WO 4) 2 as a near-UV or blue convertible phosphor.” Journal of Luminescence 129.8 (2009): 879-883. Article
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