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The Red Convertible

The Red Convertible research paper due and don’t know how to start it? How about like this?

In imagery generated from diverse sources ranging from commercial advertising to Bruce Springsteen songs, the automobile has often signified freedom. It evokes feelings of escape and transcendence. In Louise Erdrich’s “The Red Convertible,” a red Oldsmobile serves a similar purpose, but with a cautionary twist: escape often comes with a price.

The Red Convertible

In the story’s beginning, two Native American brothers, Lyman, the narrator, and his older brother Henry, go into town flush with money and spot a red convertible for sale. They purchase it with barely enough money left over to buy gas for the ride back to the reservation.

At first, Lyman and Henry’s new car affords them the kind of freedom that the myth of the automobile promises. As Lyman points out, “We went places in that car, me and Henry. We took off driving all one whole summer”. The car takes them through the Northwest of the United States, through places of beauty and serenity: “I do remember this one place with willows. I remember I laid under those trees and it was comfortable. So comfortable. Henry was asleep with his arms thrown wide. Later he woke up and we started driving again”.

Later they meet a girl who needs a ride to her home in Alaska. Without hesitation, the guys agree to drive her home. They are free of all restraint. The car has afforded them this. While most people would need to check schedules and make arrangements, these two leave for Alaska as if it were a trip to the convenience store. They are welcome and cared for by the girl’s family.

Upon returning home, however, Henry receives his draft notice and is sent to the Vietnam War. There he becomes a POW for three years, and when he returns home, he is not the same. He is sullen and incommunicable. Most of his time is spent on the sofa watching television. In an effort to bring his brother out of this condition, Lyman intentionally damages the car. His scheme works, and Henry throws himself into the restoration project. The convertible, Lyman believes, will once again serve as emancipator.

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