The Red Convertible was a story of two very different brothers that later buy a red convertible. Not only did the car change their lives but was an object that symbolized everything throughout the story. Henry, the older of the two, went to fight in the Vietnam War, as Lyman, the narrator of the story, stayed at home fixing up the car. Henry comes back from the war very tense and anxious, for which Lyman smashes the car, leaving Henry to fix it. They drive the car to the red river, their old hang out spot. Henry gets drunk and crazy once again, he jumps into the freezing water. Lyman gives up on trying to rescue him, put the car gear, and drove the red convertible into the river. There are several ways to interpret this short story. It can be done by the understanding of author's symbolism, messages to the reader, and characters' actions and feelings.
The author tries to convey our way of thinking using symbolism, but it may take several times for the reader to notice and analyze. The single most important symbol in the story would have to be the red convertible car representing the bond between the two brothers, as well as Henry himself. The car personified Henry in different parts of the story. While he was still at home with his brother, the car was in perfect condition, but when Henry returned from the Vietnam War as a different man, the car was all beat up and a mess. Henry fixing up the car just to giving it to Lyman was a way to show that there may be still hope in him, but Lyman would not accept it because he knew that his brother's spirit was already dead ever since Henry came back home after the war. The red color of the car, house, and the river wasn't there for no reason either. It was a way to symbolize the blood of brotherhood. As the car represented the bond between them, the river represented a stir of emotions (flow of blood) or an attempt to reunite them once again.
The author also tries to give us messages to what might happen later in the story. After reading the second time, we can find that in the first paragraph of the story, the narrator literally foreshadows the end of the story when saying: "We owned it together until his boots filled up with water on a windy night and he bought out my share."(1) This quote refers to the conclusion of the story when Henry jumps in the cold water and says "My boots are filling".(67) Another message to the reader can be seen in the part in which Henry fixes up the car in the middle of the story and when they drive to the river, the car goes down with Henry because Lyman realizes that unlike the car, Henry cannot be fixed.
The author has many meanings through her writing that show her feelings. One can be seen when she speaks through Lyman: "By the time I was done with the car, it looked worse than any typical Indian car that had been driven all its life on reservation roads, which they always say are like government promises-full of holes". This statement indicated the Native American hatred towards the white race because the they thought the whites were responsible for the Vietnam War. We can also see how the author tries to show us Henry's emotions and actions when he came back from the war. Lyman thought, "Once I was in the room watching TV with Henry and I heard his teeth click at something. I looked over, and he'd bitten through his lip. Blood was going down his chin."(28) and "There was still blood going down Henry's chin, but he didn't notice it and no one said anything, even though every time he took a bit of his bread his blood fell onto it until he was eating his own blood mixed in with the food."(29)
The story focuses our attention on the feelings and thoughts of the narrator with the use of symbolism. To understand this kind of a story, we must look deep into symbolism, hidden messages to the reader, and characters' actions and feelings. Wars we even have today around the world ruin people not only physically but also mentally. Some people may be left handicapped for the rest of the life, but the ones that don't, they take the most damage mentally. The memories of their comrades or friends' death or just the conditions they were in, can really mess a person up.