Both immature and adult workforces often develop and share bonds with their siblings, whether it is through activities like building a tree house, participating in sports, or watching movies.
Music, an event, or a peculiar incident often unifies brothers, giving them a shared bond and strengthening their relationship. In Louise Erdrich's short story "The Red Convertible," this is evident in the relationship between Lyman and Henry.
Together, they shared a red Oldsmobile convertible that brought them closer. They bought the car in Winnipeg, drove all over the state together one summer, and accumulated a collection of experiences and memories. However, it was in that very car where their bond grew stronger.
It was not just a car they went on a road trip in. The Oldsmobile convertible owned by Henry and Lyman was more...
than a mode of transportation or possession. It stood as a symbol of their brotherly bond and directly reflected their relationship. Despite not always having the necessity, Lyman and Henry clung to this red convertible for its significance and the emotions it holds for both of them.
Lyman repeatedly states in the story that he easily acquired money. When Henry departs for the Vietnam War, he informs Lyman that the car now belongs to him. Instead of getting rid of the convertible, Lyman states, "During those years, I would restore his car to nearly perfect condition."
I considered it to be his car while he was away, despite him saying, "Now it's yours," and giving me his key. It is evident that Lyman kept the car and even improved it because of its significance to him and his brother.
The person who possesses money prefers to
keep a convertible instead of buying a new one, showing the value he placed on the car and the importance of his relationship with his brother. When Henry comes back from the war, it seems as if he is merely existing rather than truly living.
According to Beidler (178), Henry Junior has transformed from a relaxed and carefree individual to a withdrawn and stressed individual. The only time he appears still is when he is watching Television, and even then he seems to be in a trance-like state. He was not at ease.
He sat in his chair tightly holding onto the armrests, as if the chair itself was moving at a high speed. He felt that if he let go, he would shoot forward and possibly crash through the set. (439). In an attempt to break Henry out of his trance caused by war, Lyman hits the car hard with a hammer.
Henry decides to trust that he will focus his time and effort on fixing the damaged car, despite its current state of being completely damaged. He chooses to repair it instead of getting rid of it.
Just as Lyman suspected, Henry could have easily chosen to get rid of or sell the car. However, his strong desire to restore the car demonstrates his deep love for the red convertible and what it symbolizes for both of them. The condition of the red convertible also changes throughout the story.
Similar to any car, it experiences deterioration and requires repairs over time. The state of the car mirrors the events occurring in the brothers' lives, as well as the state of their relationship. When they initially purchased
the vehicle, their relationship was fresh and thriving. Henry and Lyman were youthful and adventurous.
They are about to enjoy their summer, basking in the sun. "There it was, parked, as big as life."
Truly, the auto appeared as if it were alive. I pondered the concept of rest, for it was not simply stopped, parked, or anything of the sort. That auto seemed to be at peace.
The car, with composure and a glimmer, has a FOR SALE mark in its left front window. Erdrich hints at the idea of new beginnings and the notion that the car is very much alive, just like Lyman and Henry's relationship when they first see and purchase the car.
The feeling of buying a shiny new car is associated with a new season, freshness, cleanliness, and an overall sense of comfort surrounding Henry and Lyman as they enjoy their new purchase together.
Once Henry is drafted and sent to Vietnam for war, Lyman feels the need to pause his relationship with his brother after their summer of freedom ends. Consequently, he neglects the car by ceasing to drive it or put any effort into its maintenance. As a result, the car remains motionless, propped up by blocks.
Both the car and their relationship are at a standstill, but the car is in excellent condition as Lyman readies it for Henry's homecoming.
Lyman and Henry are determined to rebuild their relationship from where they left off. Lyman endeavors to infuse their bond with fresh vitality as they both strive to progress. Yet, the war has evidently transformed Henry.
The protagonist's relationship with his brother deteriorates as a result of the mental and physical injury he sustained
overseas. Similarly, their relationship also undergoes damage when Lyman's vehicle is affected. Ultimately, when Henry drowns, Lyman places the vehicle in the river to join his brother.
Clearly, Lyman's brother passed away that night and their bond also perished. He made the decision to sink their car beneath the Red River alongside Henry. That red look-alike also met its end on that dark occasion. The two of them faced many challenges together and apart, and their lives underwent frequent changes.
The exchangeable experienced significant changes. Following Henry's death and the car's lights going out, there is symbolism associated with the river that connects with the car symbol and the theme of brotherhood. "Finally, it is dark. And then all that remains is the water, the sound of its movement and flow" (442).
The way Erdrich concludes the narrative implies a perpetual existence. The river will always be moving and flowing, it will always be in motion and will never run dry, just like Henry and Lyman's relationship and their eternal love for each other will always be constantly changing.
Native American civilization emphasizes a deep connection with nature, incorporating it into their way of life. They have traditionally recognized Mother Earth, Father Heaven, Grandmother Moon, and Grandfather Sun as their ancestors, tracing their existence back to them. Throughout history, Native Americans have strived to live in harmony with the elements and forces of nature (Noe 10).
The river serves as a representation of perpetual life and motion, signifying the intimate connection between Henry, Lyman, and their enduring Oldsmobile. Their bond remains resilient and unyielding as they share an unbreakable relationship, having spent extensive periods of time together.
Despite Henry's attempt to
block out the horror and tragedy he experienced in Vietnam, it is apparent that his actions, such as jumping in the river to cool off, reflect a form of self-destruction. Additionally, he fixed the red convertible with the intention of permanently giving it to Lyman. It is worth noting that he jumped into the river wearing boots, indicating that he likely did not have an extra pair of boots to change into.
Granted, Henry was not all there mentally after the war, but he was in great physical form.
Henry, a Marine, struggled to stay afloat in the current of the Red River. However, despite his out-of-shape and chubby physique, Lyman jumped in after him and managed to pull himself out. Unlike typical drowning victims, Henry did not panic or fight. He calmly acknowledged, "My boots are filling," and peacefully drifted downstream. It appeared that Henry was slowly returning to his usual self.
Despite still being a broken adult male, Lyman expresses his joy for his brother and their ruddy exchangeable Oldsmobile in the beginning of “The Red Convertible”. However, it is truly tragic how Henry exits his brother's life while they were working on the auto and disbursement clip together.
Lyman's decision to part ways with his brother is a mixture of both bitter and sweet emotions. Their bond, once strong and easily transferable, now remains at the bottom of the Red River.
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