The Red Convertible
The human society is made up of three classes of people, that is, the wealthy, the middle class and the have-nots. This essay will try to focus on Louise Erdrich's story, "The Red Convertible" to show what literature says about social class. Two brothers, Henry and Lyman, purchase the convertible with the insurance money Lyman receives for his restaurant, which was destroyed in a tornado. The car is later drowned by Lyman when Henry drowns in the Red River symbolizing total disconnection from the white culture. Before Henry dies, it was his wish to leave the convertible to Lyman as he had wanted before leaving for Vietnam. It is true that sometimes, something good achieved through hard work can be lost in a very mysterious and unthinkable way, all in the name of making a sacrifice or brotherhood love. These are evident when Lyman says this about Henry, "He bought out my share" (461).
The story portrayed the wealthy in 1984 has having accumulated their wealth from sheer hard work. For instance, Lyman's road to making his money begins at a tender age. As a kid, he would shine shoes in the American Legion Hall, sell spiritual bouquets for the mission during Christmas, and the nuns would let him keep a percentage. He also works at a CafULj as a dishwasher and works his way through until he becomes its sole owner.
The wealthy who owned the property at that time could get insurance cover in the event of any uncertainty like natural calamities or accidents. What does this portray about the middle and the lower class civilians who couldn't afford an insurance cover? It means they would lose their property and start from scratch. I believe that was unfair to some extent. But the wealthy who had insurance cover like Lyman would eventually be compensated and move on with their lives like nothing happened.
Expensive commodities and items
The year also marked the wealthy young people being passionate with expensive commodities and items. For instance, Lyman and Henry manage to buy the expensive red convertible in just one swoop, leaving them with only enough money for gas back home. In their convertible, they could go everywhere they want without getting worried about traveling details as Lyman narrates.
It is also evident through the story that only the rich kids with fancy cars and finest of things could get to relate with beautiful girls. These are obvious when they meet Susy while on a road trip. They allowed her to jump in the car and take her to Alaska, where she lives. They are both astonished with the length of her hair. "You couldn't estimate how much hair she had when it's bowled up so tidily" (Erdrich, pg.462). Susy's family give the two boys a warm welcome. They are fed and even given a tent to live in by the house. The main reason I think as to why they get such a welcome is that of their rich background. Would they have been ordinary people, I doubt if they would have received such a warm welcome.
Henry has never been himself since coming from Vietnam. Lyman attempts to bring him back to spiritual life by trying to recapture old memories about the good times they had before his departure for the war. The story ends in tragedy when Henry drowns himself in the river. Lyman destroys the car by submerging it in the Red River. He thinks the car no longer represents success and good times to him. Instead, it represents the white world (wealth and riches), which has destroyed Henry.
Erdrich, Louise.T The Red Convertible: Selected and New Stories, 1978 - 2008. , 2010.
Erdrich, Louise.T Selected from Love Medicine. New York, N.Y: Literacy Volunteers, 1989.
Gale, Cengage L.T A Study Guide for Louise Erdrich's ""red Convertible"". Farmington Hills: Gale, Cengage Learning, 2016.T
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