English Literature the Short Stories Essay

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In this light. Dee represents the most successful fulfillment of the material side of the American Dream (Whitsitt). On the other hand, she is unsuccessful at preserving what is most beautiful about her culture by no longer honoring it in any practical sense. In this, she represents the tragedy of loss in terms of meaning, culture, and heritage in blind pursuit of material gain and social success.

The Red Convertible" by Louise Erdrich

The story by Louise Erdrich similarly demonstrates a dichotomy between the past, the potential of the future, and the scars that cannot be healed as a result of trauma and tragedy. The American Dream and its destruction in this story is represented by two brothers and their initially healthy relationship (Sboosh). As young men, Henry and Lyman are happy-go-lucky and somewhat irresponsible. Their relationship is healthy and close, represented by a red convertible that they buy restore, and subsequently use to travel throughout the country. They are as free as it is possible to be, and appear to live the American Dream in every sense of the word (Sboosh).

The tragedy that separates them is the Vietnam war. The war represents circumstances beyond the control of citizens that serve to destroy their dreams. The government and its requirements destroys the happy innocence of the young brothers by destroying Henry's soul. Henry now understands that no red convertible can mitigate the evil and oppression of which people are capable, while Lyman's innocence is a permanent reminder of what he had lost (Walker).

Lyman on the other hand is unable to understand his brother's broken soul when he returns from the war, and reacts by taking the red convertible apart (Walker). The convertible in this sense is the physical representation of the broken relationship, the broken dream, and Henry's broken soul. In the same way as the fire in Walker's story, the traumatic event of the war permanently alters the possibility of the dream for the brothers (Sboosh). They are unable to continue their carefree lives, because Henry's soul was permanently scarred in the same way as Maggie's body and soul.

Henry however expresses his desire to at least attempt regaining what was lost by restoring the damaged convertible once again. Lyman in turn regains some hope that the dream may not be entirely lost. The restored convertible again represents the restored relationship between the two brothers (Walker), which is once again symbolic of the possibility of the restored dream. Things are however not the same, as Lyman soon discovers.

The brothers take a last trip together before Henry commits suicide by drowning himself in the river. Henry's repairs of the vehicle in this way represents only a surface return to the carefree relationship the brothers enjoyed before the war (Walker). There is however no possibility of regaining the dream, as the damage done by the war is permanent. This is reminiscent of Dee's materialistic pursuits of a hollow dream that disregards any deeper connection to the past or to culture. It is hollow and superficial (Walker).

Lyman reacts by the final destruction of the convertible (Sboosh). He symbolically drowns the vehicle and his dreams and hopes in the river along with his brother. As such, Lyman is indirectly but permanently scarred by the war.


Both renditions of the dichotomy between past hope and present reality show that the American dream for both families no longer holds anything but superficial and hollow fulfillment. Dreams are destroyed by powers beyond the characters' ability to control, and hence their destiny is tragedy and sorrow.


Powell, Rachel. Character Analysis and Symbolism in Alice Walker's Everyday Use. Dec 03, 2007. Associated Content. http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/462096/character_analysis_and_symbolism_in.html?page=2&cat=38

Sboosh Academic Article Library. Loss of Innocence in Louise Erdrich's the Red Convertible. 2008. http://www.sboosh.com/articles/201_1/Loss-of-Innocence-in-Louise-Erdrich-the-Red-Convertible/

Walker, Kristen. Symbolism in the Red Convertible by Louise Erdrich. Jul 15, 2008. Associated Content. http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/815075/symbolism_found_in_the_red_convertible.html?page=2&cat=37

Whitsitt, Sam. In Spite of it all: A reading of Alice Walker's "Everyday Use." African-American Review, Fall, 2000. Database: FindArticles. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2838/is_3_34/ai_67413399/pg_12[continue]

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