Brotherhood in The Red Convertible by Louise Erdrich
The theme of relationships between brothers can be found in many stories. When two boys grow up together they become close friends, but when they are connected by blood it makes them even closer. Sharing common interests, occupations, and relatives provide a strong relation between men that does not fade away. In The Red Convertible by Louise Erdrich, two half-brothers grew up in the same surrounding and were brought up in the separated segregation of Chippewa tribe. The story describes the evolution of brotherly relationships between Lyman and Henry throughout their life experiences, return from war and the symbolic meaning of the red car.
Lyman and Henry are two major characters in the short story by Louise Erdrich. From the early childhood, they have experienced plenty of hardships and troubles. After many problems, they have managed to purchase a car that served as a symbolic tie between the two brothers. Even the color of the car indicates their connection by blood. The brightest and the most memorable moments of their lives are associated with the car riding. However, Henry goes to the Vietnamese war and the separation of two brothers deeply affects Lyman, who was left alone. He takes care of the car by repairing and cleaning it in order to refresh moments spent with his friend.
When Henry returns from the war, Lyman finds out that he had changed. He was not laughing anymore, and his character was marked by the horrors of war. Lyman tries to encourage his fellow by any means accessible to him. He even damaged the red car to make Henry repair it. After the car was successfully fixed, two brothers went to the Red River to relax. They had a nice conversation that makes Lyman believe that the old Henry is back again. However, suddenly, Henry jumps into the river and is taken by the high current. His cool admittance my boots are filling indicates his unwillingness even to try to get out. Henry dies, and Lyman drowns the red car that was a symbol of their friendship and brotherhood.
Despite the fact that the ending of the story shows the death of Henry, readers can understand that Henrys spirit was dead before he went to the river. Horrors of Vietnamese war and the feeling of guilt killed the cheerful personality of Henry that was so loved by Lyman. After one brother had gone to the war, friends stopped sharing the same things, because everything they had in common was destroyed by war. Lyman could never feel the same as Henry, and he could never understand his brother as he could before. War draws an invisible line that separates Henry from the rest of the world. He cannot perceive people and things as he did before, because he had seen death and sufferings that left an imperishable footprint on his heart. As the majority of militants who had experienced wartime, he cannot return to his usual life and is constantly persecuted by the terror and fear. In the end of the story, there is Henrys attempt to act normally, but psychological trauma is very deep. He sees no sense in life that is darkened by the horrible things he saw in Vietnam.
The relationships between Lyman and Henry are a real example of a true friendship and brotherhood. Although one of the prevailing themes in The Red Convertible is the effect of war on people, their friends and family, the theme of brotherhood still remains very important for the understanding of the story. While some are concentrated on the sufferings of Henry, few notice how deeply Lyman is influenced by the behavior of his brother. His expectations have failed after Henry did not return from war. Only a shade of Henry that resembled his brother came home. Henry was not able to let his memories go and accommodate to normal life. He wore militant cloths and was gloomy and tensed. Permanent connection with the war was not weakening with time and became more visible. Desperate attempts of Lyman could do nothing to encourage and support his friend. I am inclined to believe that Lymans helplessness hurt even deeper than after-war depression of Henry. After Lyman saw his brother dying, he probably suffered till the end of his life. Immediately after Henry disappeared, Lyman drowned the car, which he cherished for many years. The symbol of brotherhood and eternal friendship has gone to the bottom of the river as did Henry.
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To conclude, Louise Erdrich skillfully depicted brother relationships through the prospective of Vietnamese war. The connection of two brothers was symbolized by the red car that signified everything good they have reached and experienced together. Lyman treasured the red car as an image of friendship for three years, waiting for his brother to come. However, his expectations faced a severe disappointment and even despair. There was no Henry who returned from war, it was a gloomy and depressed soldier who could not give up his war habits and painful memories. Unwilling to swim against the current, Henry made the most comfortable decision for him, - to leave the world that was so distressing. Henrys decision is at some point egoistic. He saw death in the battlefield and let his brother see the death of the friend. Lyman is left to life with an enormous feeling of guilt and helplessness in his attempts to save brother from psychological and physical death.