Summary Of The Red Convertible Essay Research

Summary Of The Red Convertible Essay, Research Paper

Often times, an inanimate object can be as important and sometimes more important than the characters of the story. In Louise Erdrich’s “The Red Convertible,” the car played an equally important role with that of the characters, but for different reasons.

Two brothers, Lyman and Henry, had very little in common other than their blood. One day they decided to catch a ride to Winnipeg. The car was introduced while these two were doing some sightseeing in the city. They spotted the red Oldsmobile convertible. Lyman, the storyteller, almost made the car a living thing when he said, “There it was, parked, large as life. Really as if it were alive.” (461) The brothers used all of the money they had, less some change for gas to get home, to buy the car. The car’s significance was the bond that it created between the brothers. The purchase of the vehicle brought these two together with a common interest: the car. Once the bond was formed, the brothers became inseparable, at least for a while. The boys spent the whole summer in the car. They explored new places; met new people and furthered the bond that the car had created. When they returned from their trip, Henry was sent to war. He left the car with Lyman. While Henry was gone, Lyman spent his time pampering and fixing the car. Lyman saw the car as an extension of Henry. Lyman used the car to maintain an emotional bond with his brother who was thousands of miles away.

During the war, Henry was taken P.O.W. and spent time in a Vietnamese prison. When he returned home, Lyman said, “Henry was very different…the change was no good,” (463). Henry was constantly paranoid and evidently mentally unstable as a result of his wartime trauma. When the family had exhausted all efforts to help Henry, Lyman thought of the car. Though Henry had not even looked at the car since his return, Lyman said, “I thought the car might bring back the old Henry somehow. So I bided my time and waited for my chance to interest him in the vehicle.” (464)

Lyman concluded that the easiest way to interest Henry in the car was to “fix” the car so that it needed repair. After Lyman banged the car with a hammer, it took Henry almost a month to notice the dents. Gradually Henry began to fix it. The car had reunited the brothers in a common interest. Eventually they took the car out for what would be the final ride. Henry and Lyman went to the river with a cooler of beer; they built a fire and sat down under a tree. After a fight, a laugh, and a brotherly good time, Henry jumped into the river and drowned. Lyman was devastated! He decided that since his brother was gone, he did not want the one thing around that would always remind him of Henry: the car. Lyman shoved the car into the river so it would forever rest with Henry.

When Lyman pushed the car into the river, it represented an end as well as a beginning. It symbolized the end of the relationship with his brother and a beginning to a new chapter in his life. The car exemplified the bond between Lyman and Henry, which was forever broken with Henry’s death. This story could not have been as effective without using the object, a car, to personify the bond between the characters.


Erdrich, Louise. “The Red Convertible.” The Story and Its Writer. Fifth edition. Ann Charters, et al.

Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1999. 460 – 467.


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