"The Red Convertible": Symbolism and The Unraveling of Brotherhood

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About this sample


Words: 612 |

Page: 1|

4 min read

Published: Sep 5, 2023

Words: 612|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Sep 5, 2023

Table of contents

  1. The Red Convertible as a Symbol of Brotherhood
  2. The Transformation of the Red Convertible
  3. The Disintegration of Brotherhood
  4. The Symbolic Sinking of the Red Convertible
  5. Conclusion: The Red Convertible's Symbolic Journey

The red convertible in Louise Erdrich's poignant short story holds a central place in the narrative, serving as a powerful symbol of the bond between two brothers and the complexities of their relationship. This essay delves into the significance of the red convertible as a symbol, exploring its transformation over time and its role in reflecting the changes within the characters and their connection.

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The Red Convertible as a Symbol of Brotherhood

The red convertible initially represents the unbreakable bond between the two brothers, Henry and Lyman. The car symbolizes their shared experiences, adventures, and the carefree moments they enjoyed together before Henry's deployment to Vietnam. The purchase of the car is a joint decision, and it becomes a representation of their youthful spirit and shared dreams. It serves as a means of freedom, allowing them to escape their everyday lives and embark on spontaneous journeys. The vibrant color of the car, red, symbolizes their vitality and the passion they put into their relationship.

The Transformation of the Red Convertible

As the story progresses, the red convertible undergoes a transformation that mirrors the changes within Henry and the dynamics of his relationship with Lyman. Following Henry's traumatic experiences in Vietnam, the car takes on a different significance, reflecting the impact of war on his psyche. The car becomes a physical reminder of Henry's changed self. His detachment from the car signifies his detachment from his previous life, as he struggles to reconcile the horrors he witnessed in Vietnam with his former sense of self. The car starts to show signs of neglect, reflecting Henry's emotional distance and his inability to connect with his past. The transformation of the car parallels the transformation of their relationship, as they are both affected by the scars of war.

The Disintegration of Brotherhood

The red convertible ultimately becomes a symbol of the disintegration of the brothers' relationship, mirroring Henry's struggles with PTSD and his inability to reintegrate into civilian life. The car, which once symbolized joy and unity, becomes a painful reminder of the rift between them. Lyman's efforts to repair the car reflect his attempts to mend their relationship, but it becomes evident that the damage runs deeper than the physical. The car serves as a reflection of their emotional state, and as Henry becomes increasingly isolated and distant, the car becomes a haunting presence in their lives, symbolizing the gulf that separates them.

The Symbolic Sinking of the Red Convertible

The final act of driving the red convertible into the river holds profound symbolism. Lyman's decision to sink the car can be interpreted as an attempt to release the painful memories associated with it, symbolizing his acceptance of the irreversible changes that have occurred within their relationship. By letting go of the car, Lyman is symbolically letting go of the past and the hope of restoring their bond. The act of sinking the car is a cathartic release, allowing both Lyman and the reader to confront the reality of their situation. The car's descent into the river mirrors the descent of their relationship into a state of irreparable brokenness.

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Conclusion: The Red Convertible's Symbolic Journey

In Louise Erdrich's "The Red Convertible," the red convertible serves as a potent symbol that encapsulates the evolution of brotherhood, the impact of trauma, and the profound changes within the characters. Through the car's transformation and ultimate demise, Erdrich crafts a narrative rich in symbolism, inviting readers to explore the complexities of relationships and the lasting effects of war. The red convertible's journey from a symbol of unity and freedom to a reminder of pain and loss mirrors the broader themes of the story, shedding light on the human capacity for resilience and the enduring impact of traumatic experiences.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

“The Red Convertible”: Symbolism and the Unraveling of Brotherhood. (2023, September 05). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 21, 2024, from
““The Red Convertible”: Symbolism and the Unraveling of Brotherhood.” GradesFixer, 05 Sept. 2023,
“The Red Convertible”: Symbolism and the Unraveling of Brotherhood. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 21 Jun. 2024].
“The Red Convertible”: Symbolism and the Unraveling of Brotherhood [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2023 Sept 05 [cited 2024 Jun 21]. Available from:
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