Although the Vietnam War concluded with the return to most American troops, tort those who served, the memories of the events that transgressed during those years did not stay In the combat grounds of Vietnam. The psychological scars left In the minds and hearts of American soldiers was something that continued to haunt no only those who experienced the fighting In the flesh but the families and loved ones who welcomed them upon their return. In “The Red Convertible,” Lyman Almandine describes how his relationship with his brother Henry changed after Henry returned room the Vietnam War.
More specifically, we see the profound effect the experiences lived during combat had on Henry and the extent to which those experiences changed Henrys personality and with it, the bond they shared Throughout the story, we also notice the recurring theme of the red convertible, which suggests that this car might be important to understanding Layman’s thoughts and feelings about his brother. Although the story only covers certain periods of time, the red convertible is always there as if it was some type of link between the two brothers. As Lyman and
Henrys relationship changes, we also witness how the condition of the car also transitions from optimal to being completely deteriorated and in need of repair, leading up to the tragic end. The red convertible can be interpreted as a symbol of Layman’s relationship with his brother. In order to better understand the symbolism of the car In the story, we should begin with the calculation of the car, which takes place during a time when the brothers are living a young and careless lifestyle. In other words, the car Itself symbolizes the freedom and happiness of this time.
The car Is also the vehicle of heir cross-country road trip and we can see how Lyman reminisces on this time, particularly after they met Gussy. In addition, we get the feeling that this is clearly a period where Lyman feels the closest to his brother, which also coincides with the car being in its early and optimal condition. Lyman even recalls on what appears to be a very special memory of his brother when he recounts their stay in Alaska and the morning when his brother twirled around the tent with Gussy on his back pretending her hair was his.
Everything appeared to be well at that moment, The mood is a happy one. Although he does hint at the drastic end of his brother when he says that they both owned the car until Henrys “boots filled with water on a windy night and he bought out his share,” at this point we still don’t know that the story Is in fact a tragic one (Almandine 436). Upon their return to their hometown, we notice how the condition of the convertible has deteriorated “because the long trip did a hard job on it under the hood” (Almandine 438).
It is also during the same time that Henry is dratted and sent to basic training to become a Marine. This means that Henry won’t be around for mom time and as Henrys absence becomes real and distance takes Its toll, Lyman shifts his attention to caring for the car he has shared with his brother on so many adventures. Although the exchanging of letters between them was not frequent, Lyman always makes sure to relay the condition of the car to his brother, as If this significant, and often negative, effect on any relationship, even one as strong as that of brothers.
We can see how as Lyman works to bring the car back to its original state, he’s also trying to maintain their relationship by reaching out to his brother in the limited ways he can. We know this because he “wrote him back several times, even though he didn’t know if those letters would get through” (Almandine 438). Once again, we see how the convertible relates to the brothers’ relationship as Lyman tries to repair both of them. Undoubtedly, Henrys return brings Joy as well as sadness to Lyman.
The brother he cherished and missed during those years appears to be miles away even though he is standing right in front of him. Studies have shown that “antisocial behavior is another important factor associated with exposure to war zone combat and PETS symptoms in national samples of Vietnam veterans” (Dullard 2). Lyman realizes that his brother’s spirit is broken and with it the bond the used to share. It is during this realization that he thinks of the car, and what it represents to both himself and his brother.
He sees in the car a means to bring Henry back. So, he grabs a hammer and destroys all the work he’d done on the convertible while his brother was gone. Now, the car is nothing more than a barely drivable pile of Junk, much like the relationship between Lyman and Henry. However, the act had the effect Lyman was hoping for. As Henry begins to spend time fixing the vehicle, we see through Layman’s yes how his brother becomes slightly more personable and the image of his old self slowly begins to reappear Just as the condition of the convertible also improves.
The end is a drastic one for both the car and Henry; the connection between the two is clearly visible at this point in the story. As Lyman hears the callout of his brother disappear in the night, the realization of his loss becomes a reality. The only thing left to do is let the red convertible go. And the only way to let it go is by driving it straight into the same tumultuous waters that took his brother’s life Just a few moments before. Without Henry, holding on to the red convertible would be pointless, meaningless. The red convertible is, after all, the symbol of Lyman and Henrys bond.
The relationship of Henry and Lyman is, without a doubt, symbolized by the red convertible they shared. The presence of the car throughout the story reminds us of the connection between the brothers, even if it is not explicitly explained by the author. As the relationship between Lyman and Henry is influenced by their time apart and experiences lived by Henry during the war, we see how the condition of the car changes from good to bad in the same manner. Even when the brothers are separated, the car becomes the focus of their connection through the exchange of letter.