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Symbolism in the Red Convertible

Symbolism of the Color Red in the Red Convertible The Red Convertible by Louise Erdrich is more than an emotional story about the lives of two brothers who grew up together on an Indian reservation. She uses a writing style that allows the reader to understand the text, while providing the opportunity to read into the story. Erdrich uses metaphors, symbols, imagery to describe and define the brothers Henry and Lyman’s relationship. The two brothers purchased the red convertible together. The purchase defined their relationship and sense of adventure. The red coloration of the vehicle represents blood- the ultimate link of brotherhood.

The red convertible went from taking these two brothers on the adventure of a lifetime to returning them to face war. The two take off one summer on a road trip that ends them in Alaska. When they returned home, Henry was drafted into the army. Before leaving for Vietnam, Henry uses the car to express his love for his brother by throwing the keys at him and saying the car is his. Three years later, Henry finally returned home only to be a much different person than the one that had left. The color red is a consistent symbol throughout the story, as it is a word in the title.

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The color red has numerous symbolic meanings. It can be interpreted differently depending on the situation and experiences of an individual. Red can create a variety of emotions ranging from love to violence and war. Many cultures associate red with purity, joy and celebration. In China red is the color of happiness, prosperity and good luck. In the Native American culture, the color of red represents faith and communication. The title of the story is the main source of communication between the brothers In America, there are two associations made by the color red.

The first is positive which includes passion, strength, love and energy. These concepts are seen throughout the story, and are connected with Lyman, the younger brother. He was energetic and lucky. He states, “I could always make money. I had the touch for it.. ” “it seemed the more I made the easier the money came. ” (p. 394). The second connection is found with the color red in the story are the American ideas of the negative things found in association with it. These things included blood, aggression, danger and war. These negative associations are connected with Henry throughout the story.

When he returns home from war, Lyman says “once I was in the room watching TV with Henry, I looked over, and he’d bitten through his lip. Blood was going down his chin”. This depiction is important because not only does it show Henry’s misdirected aggression, but again uses red. “There was still blood going down Henry’s chin, but he didn’t notice”, in this we see how a color once associated with the car that made Henry so happy, has become a body fluid going unnoticed (p. 396). In the end, the brothers appear to have a dispute over the car because Henry again wants Lyman to have it. Henry tells Lyman to take good care of it.

Henry then walks into the river and drowns. Lyman unsuccessfully attempts to rescue Henry. He lets the car go into the river to be with his brother. The symbolism of the red convertible is the main metaphor for brotherhood theme in this story and focused on their connection to each other with the care; however, the color of red throughout provides a much more profound meaning. Edrich wants readers of all backgrounds to find some relationship with the color red. If any other color was used for the car, there might not be a deeper meaning that Erdrich was trying to reveal in the simply-complexity of the story.


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