The Red Convertible is narrated by Lyman Lamartine. He tells a story from his recent past about his older half-brother, Henry. As Lyman tells the story, the year is 1974. The story about the relationship between the two main characters who are brothers living on a reservation in North Dakota. In this story lyman is a hard worker and always carry a good luck, at a very young he became the owner of a restaurant but unfortunatley disaster happens and it is blown over in a tornado.
Lyman was filled with passion for money, since he a hard worker, a disaster to his restaurant didn’t stop him making money. “Henry was the stronger (physically) brother, the one built like a brick outhouse was never lucky enough to have anything positive to come from his strengths” (Erdrich 111). Henry associated with the color red. When he was in prison he found the red color in communist power and also the red convertible reflex him too. When Henry responds “Crazier ‘n hell. Crazy Indian! ”.
Henry was out of control. Lyman thought the old Henry is back, when Henry confessed that he had known that Lyman had been the one who always got his back, and said he was thankful for it. But when “He throws off his jacket and starts swinging his legs out from the knees like a fancy dancer… doing something between a grouse dance and a bunny hop” (Erdrich 117). Lyman has no idea what has come over his brother. Henry was down doing some kind of dance, Lyman had no intention that henry is about to commit suicide.
Henry life was good before he went to Vietnam. Lyman found him very different, he wasn’t the same Henry. When he came home from Vietnam he seems to be very different. “He’d always had a joke, then, too, and now you couldn’t get him to laugh, or when he did it was more the sound of a man chocking, a sound that stopped up the throats of other people around him. They got to leaving him alone most of the time, and I didn’t blame them. It was a fact: Henry was jumpy and mean”(erdrich 113).
By then I guess the whole war was solved in the government’s mind, Henry finally returned home three years later only to be a much different person from the one who had left. He had spent time as a prisoner of war and he became very jumpy and moody. Prisoners of war were tortured during that war which would account for all of his actions but Henry’s family didn’t understand this. The river’s current was high when Henry ran to the river and jump off. High current took him halfway across the water.
I believe Henry suicide because of his brother happiness. Henry really wanted to give his car to Lyman. Lyman jumps in to try and save him but he doesn’t find him and it is as though he knew it what was to come. At the moment Lyman knows Henry is gone, he feels the only way there could be resolution is by driving their car up to the rivers edge and letting it roll in behind Henry. Henry couldn’t accept what had happened to him and the way life was now; therefore, he took his own life.
Lyman was the lucky one because he survived and though he tried to save his brother he realized that it was the way that Henry who wanted to suicide. The symbolism from the color red was not the only important factor in the story. The uses of the color red to describe blood, aggression, danger and war are there as pointers, as well as, the color black for death foreshadowed by the black hair falling around Henry. The red convertible was at first the car that took the brothers to another world where they were free, but then they had to return in the fall to reality and Henry’s heading off to war.
When Henry returns home from war a changed man, we see the family’s struggle to help him. The color red again plays a big part in this when Lyman describes the day when his brother bit through his lip and didn’t seem to know that blood was spilling down his chin even while he ate. The car leads them to the final moments of Henry’s life and in the end is sent to the same place that Henry must lie. This shows the association between the car and Henry that was in the mind of Lyman.