In "The Red Convertible" by Louise Erdrich, why Henry walk in to the river? Was his drowning an accident or suicide?
In this short story, "The Red Convertible" Henry Junior and Lyman were brothers. They bought a Oldsmobile convertible together and drove all over the country together. They experienced life and adventure. When they returned home Henry was drafted and had to go to Vietnam. When he came home after 3 years he was a changed man. Today we know that he was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. His family could not reach him and they could not get help for him.
In order to try and save his brother and "bring him back to himself" Lyman tore up the red convertible and his brother decided it needed to be repaired. He indicates at the end of the story that he repaired it because he wanted his brother to have the car. Lyman couldn't accept the car because it was part of their lives together.
Did Henry commit suicide? The author leaves this question open for debate. I believe that Henry walked into the raging river with every intention of not ever comming back out. He had just told his brother that he had tried to "come back" but he couldn't. By telling Lyman he had to go cool off he avoided his brother coming in after him until it was too late to save him. Henry simply could not live with memories of the war and the pain he felt.
"I (Lyman) started shaking him (Henry.) "Wake up," I says, "wake up, wake up, wake up!" I didn't know what had come over me. I sat down beside him again.
His face was totally white and hard. Then it broke, like stones break all of a sudden when water boils up inside them.
"I know it," he says. "I know it. I can't help it. It's no use."