Red Convertible the Vietnam War Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Before he leaves, Henry hands over the car to Lyman and this gesture foreshadows his death. Lyman keeps the car in perfect shape and takes immensely good car of it as if it was Henry himself. This is another point of association between the car and Henry. Lyman loves his brother and therefore the way he takes care of the car symbolizes his love for his older brother. He would have taken equally good care of him had he been with him. When Henry comes back from the war, he has changed a lot so much so that he barely resembles the old Henry he is usually "jumpy and mean"(148).

Because of extreme posttraumatic stress disorder, Henry is always in a state of agitation as if he was still at the battlefield, ready for action. He "would sit in front of the family television, bought by Lyman, "gripping the armrests with all his might, as if the chair itself was moving at a high speed and if he let go at all he would rocket forward and maybe crash right through the set" (148). So while the war had come to an end externally, it was living in the hearts and minds of those who had been a part of it. The war had left a deep scar on Henry's soul and for him the war "keep on going" (147). Lyman can no longer relate to his brother who is "never comfortable sitting still anywhere but always up and moving around" (147).

Henry has lost interest in this world and his life. In fact his life has become a burden becomes everything reminds him of the pain and suffering that he witnessed during the war. He often bites his lips and doesn't notice that the blood is coming out: "even though every time he took a bite of his bread his blood fell onto it and he was eating his own blood mixed in with the food" (148). Their mother refuses to admit Henry to a hospital claiming that, "they don't fix them in those places" (149). Again the connection between the car and Henry is obvious. Seeing his condition, Lyman recalls the days when the two brothers had enjoyed great times roaming around the country in their beloved car. However since Henry had returned, he had not paid any attention to the Red Convertible and had more or less ignored it completely. Lyman uses the car as the last resort to bring back the old Henry. He smashes the surface of the car with a hammer to attract Henry's attention. This scheme works and Henry shows his disapproval at the sad condition of the car. Again the car represents the inner mental state of Henry because both bear deep scars. It is when Henry sits in the car that Lyman notices how "clear, more peaceful" (151-152) he looked.

Lyman feels the car would change things for the better since Henry spends days and nights at a stretch fixing his Red Convertible. It was as if he was taking interest in life again but Lyman had misjudged the actual situation. Once the car is back to its old shape, Henry and Lyman drive up to the river. The condition of the river foreshadows death as Lyman observes that, "The water hadn't gone over the banks yet, but it would, you could tell. It was just at its limit [...]" (152). Henry later drowns himself in the river, "My boots are filling" (154) thus bringing an end to his suffering. He 'fixes' himself up just the way he had fixed up the car. The car was his way of showing the world that he had found a solution to his mental illness and emotional pain. Once the car had been fixed, it was time for Henry to fix himself up which he did by drowning. Lyman then drives the car up to the edge of the river and lets it go over the edge. Death of his brother coincides with the end of the car, which shows that the Red Convertible represented Henry. In the end, "there is only the water, the sound of it going and running and running" which symbolizes life and how the world keeps going no matter who dies or…

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