Transformation in Louise Erdrich's The Red Convertible
In Louise Erdrich's "The Red Convertible," the two main characters start off doing seemingly well. However, there are many changes that these two young men go through during the story. Henry experiences the largest transformation due to his involvement in the Vietnam War. This transformation also alters Henry's brother, Lyman, although not for the same reasons. As the story progresses, and these certain events take place, the brothers' innocence is soon lost.
Before the war, the Lamartine brothers, Henry and Lyman, are naive and carefree. They spend all of their time together. They even buy a car together. This red convertible is the most notable way that Erdrich represents the boys' innocence in the story. To get this car, they spend all of the money they have, without even thinking about it. "[B]efore we had thought it over at all, the car belonged to us and our pockets were empty" (461). Soon after purchasing the red convertible, Henry and Lyman set off driving with no real destination. They simply explore the country, going where the road takes them. They have no responsibility, no worries, nowhere to be, and nothing that has to be done. The boys "just lived [their] everyday lives here to there" (461). Lyman and Henry fall asleep under willow trees, wake up, and begin driving again. During their expedition, they meet a girl named Susy. Susy lives in Chicken, Alaska, where they agree to take her. Upon reaching Alaska, the boys do not want to return home. There, where the sun never really sets in the summer, they hardly sleep at all. They live like animals. Before they leave, before winter, an interesting thing happens that truly exp...
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...who endures pain. His brother, Lyman, suffers from many of the same things as Henry. Lyman also experiences post-traumatic stress. Although Lyman seems to acknowledge this stress in a rather different way than Henry, it is there all the same. Just as Henry tries to give the red convertible up to his brother, Lyman does the same in the end, and pushes it right back to him. The red car represents a bond between the two brothers, and with Henry gone, Lyman can not bear to have it around anymore. Unfortunately, getting rid of the car does not take care of Lyman's pain. Even a long time after Henry's death, Lyman still experiences post-traumatic stress. Only now he has a tragedy of his own to endure.
Erdrich, Louise. "The Red Convertible." The Story and Its Writer. 5th ed. Ed. Ann Charters. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 1999. 460-67.