The Red Convertible by Louise Erdrich (Erdrich 134-140) is a story of lost youth and innocence told through the eyes of a brother powerless to help. The title itself invokes imagery of youth and freedom. In the beginning one might think that this story is about Lyman, the narrator, who tells this story in the first person point of view. However, as the story unfolds the reader is allowed to see that the focus is not truly Lyman (himself), but the loss and struggle of his older brother, Henry Junior. Like Lyman, Henry begins a happy, carefree young man. Nevertheless, we see him transform into a beaten man with no hope. This is done mostly through the author’s use of symbolic imagery of the “The Red Convertible”.
Throughout this short story the use of metaphors and symbolic imagery allows the reader to feel what Lyman, the narrator feels as the story unfolds. In the very first paragraph, where the characters are introduced we are given a horrific view of what is to come. The narrator tells us henry will meet his demise at some point when “his boots filled with water” (134). Despite the happy carefree adventure that begins the story this sets the tone for the story as ominous.
Lyman introduces the reader to the car before himself or even his brother. Why does the author use this car symbolically? The red convertible, it is a symbol of youth, freedom, and a carefree life style just like the main characters. We see the all of this portrayed with in Lyman and Henry as they take their summer long adventure. Lyman tells the reader that the day to day “details” “didn’t bother them” (135) and that they “just lived our everyday lives”(135). This shows a freedom that can o...
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...s are filling” (140) before he goes under the last time. Lyman is frantic and goes in after him. However, once out of the river we see his resolve when he “walks “ to the car. He cannot continue to search the water for his brother, so he sends the one link they will always have, the car. The car lights still search even as it goes under the water.
It is important to note that the tense of the story changes once the boys reach Red River. It is as if the narrator is no longer telling of the past, but is always reliving the events as the present. This shows the reader that Lyman will never truly be able to let his brother go, just as Henry could never escape the horrors of war, he will never escape his brother’s death. The reader is not only witness the transformation of Henry from the carefree young man he was, but also Lyman the narrator’s transformation.
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