"The Red Convertible" is a short story, written by Louise Erdrich. This story is about the brotherhood between Lyman Lamartine and his older brother Henry. The narrator considers himself as Lyman to tell their story. A lot of things happen during the time since they buy the car together. Throughout the story, Lyman tells the history of their relationship and the differences of Henry before and after war to show the effects of the war could bring to a person.
At the first half of the story, Lyman introduces himself and his older brother in sharing a red convertible car. He considers himself as a good money maker like "my own talent was I could always make money". Lyman seems to be a positive person because he is regardless to the loss of the restaurant that he owns and he does not talk much about it "and I lost it quick, but before I lost it I had every one of my relatives, and their relatives, to dinner, and I also bought that red Olds I mentioned along with Henry". Besides that, he also thinks that he is a lucky person because he always has good luck and good memory with numbers. In contrast, Henry is never lucky. However, before he goes to war, he is person who likes to tell jokes and loves to laugh. As the narrator describes, Henry has a big and sharp nose like a hatchet. Another sibling of Lyman is Bonita. She is the only sister of Lyman and Henry. She appears after the war before Henry dies when they go out to the car to take pictures. Bonita is the one that makes Henry and Lyman stand together again for the picture and tells Henry to smile again.
From the beginning to the end of the story, the character which is brought into relief and mentioned the most is Henry because the author shows his point of view of the war through this character. Before and after the war, Henry totally changed in a good way to a bad way. For example, during the trip that they take before the war, he is an easy-going person. He is relaxative that is why he buys and shares the car with Lyman. He also likes to travel so they decide to go on a road trip with the car they jointly own. On the road trip, they meet a girl name Susy and take her home. Henry likes to tell jokes about her and they had a good time together. When they get home, Henry is sent to Vietnam for the war. After the war, he turns into a different person. Maybe he is affected because of the training and the coldness of the war. From the person active person, he changes into a passive one. He used to be like a person who did not want to move around but liked making fun but he changed into a person who did not want to talk much and to be alone. He is like a stranger to his family. His unnormal reactions make his family confused and away from him. "But he was quiet, so quiet, and never comfortable sitting still anywhere but always up and moving around". He becomes a hot-temper person. He can explode and break out unexpectedly. His brother, Lyman, has to state that he is jumpy and mean. The war affects him mentally and physically. Later, Henry has some improvements. And Lyman and his family try to get him back to the person he used to be but it seems useless.
Unlike Henry, Lyman never gives up. He is the one that helps the readers understand more about Henry. The more efforts that he makes to find the real Henry, the more clearly the readers can see the differences between the old and the new Henry. As the teller, Lyman shows his feelings about his brother's change to emphasize the war. During the time Henry goes to the war, Lyman has to spend his time to fix the car. But when Henry comes back, he is willing to destroy it to find the old Henry back. His disappointment leads the audience to the thought that the good Henry is gone forever. This minor character makes the story more interesting is discovering how he changes and continuity of the story. The new Henry seems hard to be understood because his mood is different through the time. This character seems both static and dynamic because before war even though he has a great sense of humor but he just wants to sit still, and after war he is hard to know but he likes to move around.
The relationship between Henry and Lyman is admirable. As what they have been through, every one can see how much they love each other. From the beginning of the story, they are connected by the car. The car brings them closer together. This story gives us a lesson of brotherhood. Throughout the story, Lyman is always there for Henry even when Henry turns bad he still finds solutions to help Henry. They are always together no matter what has happened to Henry. When Henry comes home from the war, they work on the car together so they can find back their good times. At the end of the story, Henry wants to give Lyman the car but he does not accept that offer because he wants there is something that can connect them together. Lyman tries to save Henry from the death but he can not. Then he decides to let the car go with Henry because he realizes that this suffering is the only way that can bring Henry to freedom.
Even though the story ends with Henry's death, the memories that Henry and Lyman have together will never been gone like the sound and the water going and running. This is a sad story for those who appreciate sibling relationships but it teaches how important a family is. And one more thing that the narrator wants to let every one know is war is not a good thing by showing her anti-war point of view. War never brings happiness and freedom for people and it can destroy everything.
Erdrich, Louise. The Red Convertible. Literature for Composition. Ed. Sylvan Barnet at al.
8th ed. New York: Longman, 2007. 331-337