Essay on How War Changes a Man in The Red Convertible by Louise Erdrich

Essay on How War Changes a Man in The Red Convertible by Louise Erdrich

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It is said that when a man returns from war he is forever changed. In the short story, “The Red Convertible,” Louise Erdrich demonstrates these transformations through the use of symbolism. Erdrich employs the convertible to characterize the emotional afflictions that war creates for the soldier and his family around him by discussing the the pre-deployment relationship between two brothers Henry and Lyman, Lyman's perception of Henry upon Henry's return, and Henry’s assumed view on life in the end of the story.

Throughout "The Red Convertible" Erdrich embraces the car as a symbol for the powerful relationship between two brothers, Henry and Lyman. The brothers combine their money to acquire a red convertible which they drove everywhere together; the car symbolized that relationship. Lyman preserved the vehicle while Henry was in the Army, deployed to Vietnam. Even when Henry gave Lyman the car, Lyman always regarded the car as Henry’s, which Erdrich depicts with the following passage, “I always thought of it as his car while he was gone, even though when he left he said, ‘Now it’s yours,’ and threw me the key.” (Erdrich 357) The brothers held their relationship with high regard, Henry trusted Lyman with the car enough to give Lyman his share of the vehicle while he was away. Conversely, Lyman surmised that that the car would always belong to Henry; just like their relationship, the car was important and would always belong to both of them. During Henry’s deployment, Lyman preserved the state of the car, he kept it in immaculate condition while waiting for Henry's return. By spending so much time caring for the car, Lyman in a way was caring for his brother. Little did Lyman know that his brother was going to come back a changed...


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...rich 363) We know that for Lyman, the car doesn’t mean anything to him without his brother, so he sends the car off into the river just as his brother had done. The car has always symbolized the bond between the brothers, sometimes sad and sometimes happy, the car always shows the readers the type of bond the two brothers shared.

“The Red Convertible” transports the reader to an environment where they can witness the changes in a soldier and horrible mental state for those soldiers with PTSD when they return from war. War affects a person’s relationships with people close to them and their relationships with themselves. Erdrich embodies those changes through the text in “The Red Convertible.”



Works Cited

Erdich, Louise. “The Red Convertible.” 1984. Literature: A Pocket Anthology. Editor Gwynn, R.S., ed. 5th edition. New York: Penguin, 2012, 354-363. Print.

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