red convertible book by Louise Erdrich

Analysis of the red convertible by Louise Erdrich’s

Louise Erdrich’s “The red convertible” is a narrative about two brothers who come from an ethnic Chippewa background in the United States. The red convertible is to date one of the most successful short stories of its time. This is owed to the elements that the writer displayed in the book. The writer uses the main theme which is scarifies to show the relationship between two brothers who were connected by a red convertible (Erdrich, p.1-512).

The focus of this paper is to analyze the contents of a short narrative. The narrative in this case is Louise Erdrich’s “The red convertible. The paper will provide a short summary of the book. It will then provide an analysis based on one of the elements used in the narrative. The element in this case will be symbolism which contributed immensely to the success of the book.

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The story is narrated by young Layman Lamartine originally from the Chippewa tribe. He lives on a reservation with his older half brother and parents. In his narrative he talks about life in the country at the time and the hardships that he and his community had gone through over the years. Despite this, layman is able to use his saving skills and raise money for a convertible.“How did I earn enough money to buy my share in the first place? My one talent was I could always make money”(Barnet, p. 232). The two brothers use the convertible to drive outside the reservation and experience a different life from their routine. When they reach home, Henry sets of for the army leaving layman to take care of the convertible. When Henry returns from the war, he is not the same. This results in a series of events that lead to the diminishing of their relationship. As their relationship continues to deteriorate, so does the convertible. This continues until Henry succumbs to his death(Erdrich, p.1-512).


The book displayed several elements that bring out the characters and the themes of the story. One of the elements that stand out is the use of symbolism.  The title of the story is symbolic on its own. The two brothers lived in a world that was filled with a number of trials that were as a result of their ethnic background, inequality, unemployment and corruption. A convertible at this time was the car that defined freedom in that it could convert into from one shape to another. When the brothers first purchased the car, they decided to take it for a ride so that they could escape the world that they could escape their normal life. This in turn, gave them freedom from their lives in their hometown. It was important that the brothers take some time away so that they could spend quality time alone before Henry set off to Vietnam. This was a hard time for Layman in that he was losing his mentor to the war which was not essential to him. The convertible thus acted as their comfort zone and at the same time was an extremelycomfortable car (Erdrich, p.1-512).

The author’s main intention was to bring out the significance of family in the society. The brothers came from a close nit family which was reflective of their ethnic community. Before Henry went to Vietnam, he handed the keys over to his younger brother. I always thought of it as his car while he was gone, even though when he left he said, “Now it’s yours,”and threw me his key” (Dwyer, p. 125). This was a pivotal time in that it served as a rite of passage from one brother to another. At this time, Henry had not yet talked to Layman about his departure. Giving Layman the keys was a way of telling him that he was responsible for the car. This further indicated that Henry would not be around for a while (Barnet, p. 232).

When Henry comes back from Vietnam, it is evident that he has totally changed. He has been affected by the war to the extent that he has acquired post traumatic disorder. “When he came home, though, Henry was very different, and I’ll say this: the change was no good.”This is as a result of the experiences he had in Vietnam. Layman tries his best to get back the brother that he loved so much. This is however not the case in that Henry has become a lost cause. He cannot be helped out of his depression and is better of dying. Henry thus succumbs to is wishes by dying in the river. Despite the memories of Henries last moments, Layman chooses to remember Henry as a caring, loving and most of all courageous brother. The red car is thus symbolic on its own in that red is known for danger and courage which is reflective of Henry’s life (Bachmann and Barth, p. 231).

Written at a time when the country was at war, the story displays the way the society was affected by the war. Through Henry, readers get a feel of the live of the families that were directly affected by the war. Henry made it out of their ear alive, despite this he had lost his soul and the reason to live. The author uses Henry’s situation to compare it to a person who is already dead. It also shows that death may not be the worst result of the war.“My face is right out in the sun, big and round. But he might have drawn back, because the shadows on his face are deep as holes”(Erdrich, p.1-512).

In conclusion, the red convertible tells the story of two brothers whose love for each other was unstoppable. Erdrich brings out the happy and sad times that the boys experienced with the convertible. The book thus not only acts as a source of entertainment but as an educational tool for the reader.

Barnet, Morton B. W. B. W. C. Instructors Manual. S.l.: Longman, 2001. Print.

Bachmann, Susan, and Melinda Barth. Between Worlds: A Reader, Rhetoric, and Handbook. New York: Longman, 2007. Print.

Dwyer, Jim. Where the Wild Books Are: A Field Guide to Confection. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2010. Print

Erdrich, Louise. The Red Convertible: Selected and New Stories, 1978-2008. New York: Harper Perennial, 2010. Print.

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