What are some themes for "The Red Convertible?" 

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I think that a main theme to this story is about war and the effects of war. Henry is introduced to readers as a fairly carefree and happy individual. We get to see him and Lyman cruising around in their car, and Henry even twirls around while holding a girl...

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I think that a main theme to this story is about war and the effects of war. Henry is introduced to readers as a fairly carefree and happy individual. We get to see him and Lyman cruising around in their car, and Henry even twirls around while holding a girl with really long hair. Unfortunately, he comes back from the war a completely different person. He is exceptionally withdrawn and quiet, and old passions like the car are no longer interesting to him. Some readers might claim that he is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and that could be true. It is clear that Henry is suffering from some kind of mental/emotional trauma, and it is likely a result of what he saw and did during combat. Lyman can't stand to see his brother like this, and Lyman works hard to help Henry get back to his old self. This devotion to his brother and family member is evidence of a theme about family and/or brothers. This story really does paint a great picture of what a pair of loving and supporting brothers can be like. Even after Henry comes back, Lyman makes it clear that he isn't willing to let Henry suffer alone. Finally, I think there is a theme of freedom. The car itself is a great symbol of this theme. The car gives Henry and Lyman the ability to go wherever they want whenever they want to do it, and readers get the impression that the car's ability to give them freedom of travel gives them deep happiness and contentment.

We went places in that car, me and Henry. We took off driving all one whole summer. We started off toward the Little Knife River and Mandaree in Fort Berthold and then we found ourselves down in Wakpala somehow, and then suddenly we were over in Montana on the Rocky Boy, and yet the summer was not even half over. Some people hang on to details when they travel, but we didn't let them bother us and just lived our everyday lives here to there.

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The nature of brotherhood is arguably the most important theme in the story. Henry and Lyman's natural blood bond is presented in contrast to the artificial brotherhood that Henry joins when he goes off to fight in Vietnam. Like many Vietnam vets, Henry has been damaged and traumatized by his experiences of war. Yet it's clear that he still retains a profound love and respect for Lyman.

Though their relationship, rather like the red convertible through which it is symbolized, is not quite what it was, it still has considerable life left in it. The brothers' relationship may break down occasionally; it may run out of gas once in a while. But what matters is that it's still there, despite everything that life has thrown at it.

At the same time, one senses early on in the story that the relationship, though still fundamentally strong, has changed forever, and that it's only a matter of time before it eventually breaks down completely.

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One of the themes in "The Red Convertible" is brotherhood/family. Lyman and Henry share this bond and the convertible gives them an opportunity to become closer. When Henry goes off to war, Lyman writes him letters and gives him updates on the car, as if it is their child, something that unites them and uniquely symbolizes their bond: 

I wrote him back several times, even though I didn’t know if those letters would get through. I kept him informed all about the car. Most of the time I had it up on blocks in the yard or half taken apart, because that long trip did a hard job on it under the hood. 

Just as the long trip wore down the car, the war wore Henry down. Experiencing the trauma of war (a second theme), Henry becomes a different person. He's suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The convertible is the only thing that gets Henry out of his distressed state because it is busy work and at some level, the car reestablishes a sense of normalcy and maybe even the brotherhood Henry has with Lyman. 

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