In The Red Convertible, by Louise Erdrich, the conflict is the relationship between Lyman, the narrator and Henry, his brother. Before Henry went off to war, the brothers were close but when he returned, he had changed, and Lyman was unable to recapture that old relationship.
The story begins with the purchase of the car. It then shifts to a summer when the brothers went on a road trip. The statement â€œwe took off driving all one whole summerâ€ makes the shift in time clear. The story then moves to Henryâ€™s return from war with the simple beginning â€œwhen he came homeâ€ clearly showing a new time period.
The narrator, Lyman, begins as a carefree young man who lives in the moment. This is established with his statement â€œsome people hang on to details when they travel, but we didnâ€™t let them bother us and just lived our everyday lives here to there.â€ This changes when his brother returns from the war, because his brother has changed. Lyman worries about Henry and tries to reach out to him. He was no longer able to be carefree because he now had troubles.
A good example of sensory details is the narratorâ€™s description of the picture his sister took of him and Henry. He describes his own image as â€œright out in the sun, big and roundâ€ but Henryâ€™s â€œshadows on his face are deep as holes.â€ This description clearly shows the change in Henry after his return from the war.
The car is the recurring image in this story. It represents the relationship between the brothers. They purchased it together and they traveled in it together. When Henry left for the Marines, Lyman put the car up on blocks and did not use it, which could symbolize their relationship on hold while Henry was away. When Henry returned, the car was in perfect condition. Lyman banged it up and then it again was a symbol of their damaged relationship. When Henry fixed the car, Lyman hoped the relationship would also be fixed, and when Henry drowned in the river, the relationship was gone.