, Research Paper
The Red Convertible as a Symbol and Revealing Agent
Many writers use symbolism in their stories in order to reveal certain or multiple aspects of the story. Symbols can be anything in a story from an inanimate or animate object to multiple other things. In the short story The Red Convertible by Louise Erdrich, the red convertible symbolizes the bond between the two main characters Henry and Lyman. The red convertible also plays as a symbol by revealing the characters, plot and the central conflicts of the story.
The main characters in the story are two Native American brothers named Henry and Lyman. The story is told in first person narration by the main character, Lyman. The two brothers purchase a red convertible together with their own hard earned money. They seem to do everything together and the car is always there. Things start off good and pleasant in the story. Once things go sour the red convertible is what helps them bring things as close as possible to how they once were. The red convertible lasts all the way through the story just as the bond between the two brothers last.
Other then symbolizing the bond between the two characters the red convertible lets the readers know a little bit about each character. The red convertible reveals the change in Henry s character from before he leaves for war to when he returns. Before Henry leaves to go to war he is an outgoing young man and the red convertible is described as, large as life as if it was alive After returning from the war Henry is messed up mentally and for a while is not associated with anything other then a television. Once Lyman intentionally messes up the car the author associates the messed up red convertible with the messed up state of mind that Henry is in. In this same part of the story the red convertible reveals the sacrifice Lyman is willing to take to get his brother back. He ruins the car he helped purchase in hope to get his brother back. These are some of the ways that the red convertible helps reveal a little about each character.
The red convertible helps reveal the plot of the story in several ways as well. The sequences of events that occur in this story all revolve or are closely tied to the red convertible. Once the author introduces the red convertible the plot is formed and we see the two brothers enjoy their time with the car and each other. As the story goes on the red convertible is used as fuel to keep the story going. Once Henry leaves off to war the good times of them together vanishes as well; however Henry returns. Lyman shows us that there were no longer any good times after Henry s departure when he says, We had always been together before. Henry and Lyman. But he was such a loner now and I didn t know how to take it. Lyman is now sad because things with his brother are not the same and may never be. The red convertible plays an important role in what many may argue as the climax of the story. In what some may call the climax many call the resolution of the story as well. When Henry drowns, Lyman sends the car into the river as well. The car is used in the climax to show how Lyman no longer wants anything around to remind him of his beloved brother. After Henry s death the readers are shown how he cannot deal with anything that reminds Lyman of his brother. In reference to a picture with Henry in it Lyman states, All I know is I couldn t stay in the same room with that picture We put the picture in a brown bag, folded the bag over and over tightly, then put it way back in the closet. The red convertible plays several roles in the plot and in the climax it shows the readers Lyman s inability to put up with anything that reminds him of his late brother.
The red convertible also reveals the few central conflicts that take place in the story. One of the conflicts that the red convertible reveals is the communication between the two brothers. Once Henry goes off to war, Lyman and him send each other letters. Henry tells Lyman where he is and Lyman always tries to keep Henry informed all about the car. Using the car as a topic to keep in touch with each other works while Henry is off at war. Therefore when Henry returns the best way Lyman figures he can communicate with his brother is by using the red convertible in the same way. I thought the car might bring the old Henry back somehow, was Lyman s idea. Another conflict that the red convertible helps reveal is man vs. machine. Henry and the red convertible may be different in just about every single way but they both shared the same role throughout the story. Both Henry and the red convertible were dear to Lyman and he lost both at the same place, one by fate and the other by choice. In this story man wasn t so much different from machine. These are just two of the conflicts in the story in which the red convertible is used to reveal them.
In conclusion the red convertible is a symbol of the brothers bond and shows how in a story symbols can be used in many ways by the author to reveal many different elements of the story. Whether it be actually symbolizing something or assisting to reveal important parts of the story as a whole. The red convertible in this story is a good example of how a symbol can act as a revealing agent of different elements of fiction.