“The Red Convertible” by Louise Erdrich is about two brothers, Lyman and Henry, who are virtually inseparable. One day as they walk through a local town the brothers spy a red convertible and decide to purchase it without a second thought. The brothers fall in love with the car and spend a summer driving around the country meeting countless people along the way. Eventually they decide to head home and upon arriving they are informed that the older brother Henry has been drafted to fight in Vietnam. Henry heads to training camp and soon finds himself overseas. Lyman works on the car making sure that he and Henry can continue to bond over the vehicle when his brother returns. However, when Henry finally gets home after 3 years, Lyman realizes that the war has shaped his brother into a different person. Henry is jumpy, distant, and cold and has gone from being an outgoing young man to a troubled and quiet soul; he also refuses to acknowledge the red convertible that Lyman has kept in perfect condition while anticipating his arrival.
In an effort to turn Henry's attention toward the car, Lyman takes it upon himself to damage the car; however, it still takes Henry over a month to question Lyman about the condition of their prized possession. Henry then begins to obsessively repair the damage and
Lyman notes a slight improvement in his demeanor. Come spring the car is ready and Lyman is surprised when Henry suggests that they should take the car out for a spin. Henry says he wants to see the high water, and the two brothers hop in the car and head out. Upon their arrival, Lyman confronts his brother about his changed behavior and suddenly begins to shake him, begging him to “wake up”. Henry, who is caught off guard, admits that he
recognizes how his brother feels and tells him that he is unable to go back to who he was before the war; He proceeds to tell Lyman that he fixed the car to give to him and tries to give it to him. The brothers argue about who will own the car and soon began to fight. The fighting quickly turns to laughing and things momentarily resemble their past relationship.
Later after finishing their beers, Henry jumps into the river to cool off and calmly shouts to his brother that his boots are filling. Lyman jumps into the water but is unable to retrieve his lost brother from the river. It is dark when Lyman leaves the water, and he proceeds to put the red convertible into gear and let it roll into the the river. Lyman then says that he now walks everywhere he goes.
The central idea in the story is that Life is not fair, and certain experiences can cause one to change forever. People are forced to adapt as their surroundings change and these adaptations can sometimes cause one to lose who they were as a person.
Lyman is the central character, he is round and dynamic. His thoughts and actions are described in great detail. The story is centered around his love for Henry and his fight to preserve their relationship and the bond they share over the car. Lyman is dynamic because part of him was defined by his brother, and his love for the car is based on his love for his brother. When Henry is lost in the river, it not only changes the way Lyman views the red convertible, but ultimately affects the way that he leads his entire life. Lyman thinks “I owned that car along with my older brother Henry Junior. We owned it together until his boots filled with water on a windy night and he bought out my share. Now Henry owns the entire car, and his younger brother Lyman (that’s myself), Lyman walks everywhere he goes.“
Erdrich uses all three methods of indirect characterization for Lyman, thoughts, words, and actions. An example of Lyman’s thoughts is when he reveals that Henry's new found desire to be alone has truly caused him to feel “down in the dumps.” This displays how much
of Lyman’s personality and happiness was based off of his