Essay on Convertible vs Phoenix

Submitted By RickyO35
Words: 1094
Pages: 5

In Louise Erdrich's short story, "The Red Convertible," she portrays the horrors of war that impose on the relationship of two brothers, Henry and Lyman. Erdrich uses symbolism to reveal the trials and hardships Henry brings home from the battlefields of Vietnam. She also shows Lyman's difficulties with handling separation from his brother. Erdrich's ultimate purpose in "The Red Convertible" is communicating the emotional afflictions war creates for a soldier and his relationships through symbolism. Throughout the story, Erdrich uses the red convertible as a symbol of Henry and Lyman's relationship, and more generally, the war-torn relationships of soldiers. In the beginning of the story, Henry and Lyman buy, restore, and travel around the continent in the convertible together. This action represents a normal relationship before the effects of war. When Henry goes off to war, the relationship changes and Lyman demonstrates their separation by taking the car apart. Later, when Henry returns from war a scarred and changed man, he loses his usual interest in the convertible, as well as in Lyman. In return, Lyman bangs the car up, as a result of feeling neglected. The car portrays the "banged up" relationship he feels between his brother and him. When Henry discovers 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 I can get it to start again, let alone get it anywhere near its old condition" (Erdrich 464). Henry alludes to what condition the car was in before he left for Vietnam and expresses his concern about bringing the car back to its old condition. Erdrich uses symbolism here to express the concerns soldiers have regarding the future of their relationships after war. They fear things will never be the same or even worse, that the relationship itself will become one of the many casualties of war. Soon Henry starts fixing the convertible, representing the repair of his relationship with his brother. After Henry fixes the car, he asks Lyman to go for a ride with him, which causes Lyman to believe their relationship has been fixed along with the car. He discovers otherwise when Henry jumps in the river and drowns. Lyman knows he will never see his brother again, so he runs the convertible into the river, and it is gone forever, along with his relationship with Henry. "Now Henry owns the whole car, and his younger brother...walks everywhere he goes" (Erdrich 461). Erdrich connects Henry's death with the death of the convertible and with the death of his relationship with Lyman. Erdrich uses this symbolism to represent relationships affected by war. They start out healthy, the war transforms them, there is the hope of a return to normalcy, but in the end, the war destroys the soldiers as well as their relationships.

Additionally, Erdrich uses Henry's army fatigues and boots as symbols in "The Red Convertible". They represent the permanent effect of war on a person and their relationships. After Henry returns from Vietnam, he constantly wears "his field jacket and worn-in clothes he'd come back in" (464). This refusal to change shows Henry's permanent connection with the war and face that he will always carry the scars and horrors of war with him, even in the comforts of home. The fatigues also express Henry's feelings of loneliness. He experienced an ordeal that nobody can understand and that he can not even begin to explain, therefore; he uses his fatigues to set him apart and make himself appear different as an expression of how he feels. He does not wear the clothes he wore before he went to war because he doesn't feel like the same person. Erdrich uses Henry's combat boots as the literal cause of his death, but symbolically the war is the cause. Henry dies when "his boots filled with water on a windy night" and he drowns (Erdrich 460). His boots represent the war, not only as a part of his uniform, but also as the cause