This semester, I finally taught Louise Erdrich’s “The Red Convertible.” As we talked about the story in class, I pointed the class towards the. Need help with The Red Convertible in Louise Erdrich’s The Red Convertible? Check out our revolutionary side-by-side summary and analysis. “The Red Convertible,” one of Louise Erdrich’s most anthologized short stories, is the second chapter of her debut novel Love Medicine. The novel is a collection.
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This, of course, is nothing unusual, but the way that Erdrich deploys the first paragraph creates a sort of cyclic movement that joins the opening with the conclusion, thus making the story somewhat of a continuous loop.
Today, I want to focus on the opening paragraph and parse it out, discussing the ways it works to begin, and continue, the loop that the story constructs. The brothers buy a red convertible together, and they travel to Alaska before Henry gets called to serve in the Vietnam War. The relationship between the brothers fractures, and Lyman tries everything he can think of to hopefully mend the circuits that connected them together.
Eventually, Henry drowns in the river either by suicide or accident and Lyman pushes the red convertible into the water after his brother. Lyman begins the story by relating how he and his brother jointly bought the red convertible and how Henry came to own the car on his own.
The first paragraph reads:.
I was the first one to drive a convertible on my reservation. And of course, it was red, a red Olds. I owned that car along with my brother Henry Junior. We owned it together until his boots filled with water on a windy night and he bought out my share.
The Red Convertible
There is a lot going on in these first five sentences, and we need to peel back the layers to see how Erdrich uses these first few lines to set up what will eventually occur as the story progresses. To begin with, we need to note that Lyman and Henry live on a reservation in North Dakota the state comes in later.
Lyman drives the car on the reservation, not Henry. Then, we know that they convertihle it together, and, of course, the ownership switches in the final sentences. If we consider the setting, and the characters, we need to think about this in regards to the history of the ways the United States has treated Native Americans.
I have written about this before, and there is not space to go into this history here, but within this context, Lyman and Henry actually made money and bought a car that they own outright, in essence working towards some ideal of the American Dream and assimilation. It begins with Lyman talking about how he raised the money to even afford his half of the car.
The next section chronicles Henry and Lyman buying the car and travelling to Alaska with Susy then back to North Dakota. The final section focuses on the rift that occurs between the brothers after Henry returns from the war and the ways that Lyman tries to mend that rift.
Along with this progression, we need to focus on the final two lines of the opening paragraph. This line also carries another meaning that we need to keep in mind. In the military, soldiers must learn how to swim with their boots on, thus their boots fill with water.
With this connotation, we can take the phrase in the first paragraph to refer to Henry going into the military, this his boots fill with water during training.
The Cyclic Nature of Louise Erdrich’s “The Red Convertible” | Interminable Rambling
In the final sentence, Lyman eschews referring to himself in the first person. Instead, he switches to third person: Along with the foreshadowing, we need to remember that Lyman tells the story in past tense, thus endlessly looping the narrative back upon itself. Through this method, convertihle get an event that occurred in the past and a narrator who mediates the same story through his experiences both before and after the rdd.
What are your thoughts?
The Red Convertible |
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The Cyclic Nature of Louise Erdrich’s “The Red Convertible”