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DEATH - Essay Example

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The symbolism it portrays is one of unity, happiness, and fond memories during a time when Henry and Lyman were carefree and oblivious to many problems…
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Catalina Amezcua Mrs. Reeve English 1B 29 November 2005 The Car Symbolizes More Than a Friendship In the story, ‘The Red Convertible’ by Louise Erdrich, the car holds more than just monetary value for the two brothers. The symbolism it portrays is one of unity, happiness, and fond memories during a time when Henry and Lyman were carefree and oblivious to many problems outside of their own world of existence. Although the two of them went in on the purchase of the car together, the underlying insinuation in the story implied that this vehicle really belonged to Henry. Therefore, when Henry is forced to leave the reservation, due to being drafted into the military, to fight in the Viet-Nam war, he hands over the keys to Lyman. He does this as a gesture of remembrance, to hopefully keep his brother from focusing on the negative aspects of him being away, and instead remember the fond times the two of them had shared in the car.
When Henry finally leaves, the car seems to be the only comforting semblance for Lyman, of the times they had spent together. The images of a healthy, happy Henry are embodied in the spirit of the red convertible, and these special memories are what keep Lyman from digressing into sorrow. Some of the relaxing and content thoughts Lyman conjures up are ones where they had no specification of destination, during the summer when there were traveling in the car. “We took off driving all one summer,” and the story goes on to show how happy and at peace they both were, finding spots in areas where they felt “so comfortable”, Henry is depicted as feeling at ease enough to fall, “asleep with his arms thrown wide” (Erdrich 2002). Lyman continues to grasp onto these visual memories he brings up, in anticipation of those same feelings for when his brother will finally return. The car itself is what symbolizes the bond between the two of them, even with a great distance of separation dividing them.
Finally, Henry returns home in the story but it’s obvious he has changed; things are just not the same. “Henry because quiet and restless” (814). Often he secluded himself and although he was there, his mind seemed to be somewhere else. It appeared war and the white mans culture had taken its toll on him and all that was there for him was ugliness. This is evident in the story when, one night they all gather around the dinner table and beforehand, Henry has bit down into his lip so hard from frustration that he sits with blood dribbling down his chin, theorizing how badly he wanted to be done with American ways, in his mind and in his life (817).
This is representative of the possibility that perhaps Henry had been tortured and was seriously traumatized by the flashbacks he was experiencing of the Viet-Nam war. Lyman even remarks himself that Henry “was very different and the change was no good” (Erdrich 2002). The majority of the time, after his return him, he would sit in the watching TV, “gripping the armrests with all his might” (Erdrich 2002). This action seems to portray how tense Henry has become and how he has a pent up rage but also a deep sorrow swelling inside of him. The car does not even seem to be something he has any interest in any longer.
From here, on through the story, sadness and depression permeate the pages. Both brothers’ have suffered from the separation and personal dilemmas. Lyman lost his business due to the tornado and it seems for Henry, his storm was a more personal one, filled with the disgusts of war and anger. Yet, they both knew it was all out of their own hands, there was nothing neither of them could have done to change anything. From this, they both lost the carefree times of yesterday, those that had equaled such happiness for them. The evil and cruelty of the white world had invaded their lives in a way that was totally out of their control. This symbolizes how our personal experiences in life have the ability to converge on any good times that were once prevalent, such as for Henry and Lyman.
In conclusion, it is the fierceness and violence of the Vietnam War that drives Henry to drown himself in the red river. His feeling is one where all hope is lost. Lyman himself is able to feel his brother’s heartache in the following passage, “I felt something squeezing inside of me and tightening and trying to let it go all at the same time… I knew I was feeling what Henry was going through at that moment” (Erdrich 2002). This emphasizes Henry’s desire ton to want to live any longer. The car even goes through its own ritual of death as Lyman pushes it into the river, following the devastation he feels of not being able to save his brother. “The headlights reach in as they go down, searching, still lighted even after the water swirls over the back end. I wait. The wires short out. It is all finally dark” (Erdrich 2002). The value the car had held was non-existent any longer. Those happy days were devastated and clouded by death, innocence lost because of how white culture had interfered and ripped the two of the apart. The only statement that Lyman had to say about what transpired was this, “My boots are filling”, (816). In a soft voice that gives the little clue Henry did commit suicide. This statement resembles the deep loneliness and despair of Lyman and surely of how Henry had felt up until his death.
Works Cited
Erdrich, Louise. The Red Convertible. 2002
Dutta, Pratimia. Erdrich’s, ‘The Red Convertible’. The Explicator. 2003. Vol.61, Issue2. pp.119-123 Read More
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