What does Lyman refer to when he says, “By then I guess the whole war was solved in the government's mind"?  

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Lyman is simply saying that in the government's mind the Vietnam war had finished and they wanted nothing more to do with it. That included, it seems, having to deal with the many psychologically damaged veterans that had come back to the country. As Lyman continues to say, for his brother, the war "would keep on going."

When Henry returns after three years in Vietnam, he is unrecognizable from his former lively, humorous self. All he does is sit in front of the TV. One time he is so engrossed in a program that he doesn't notice that he has bitten all the way through his lip.

Towards the end of the story, Lyman and Henry go on a road trip where Henry finally begins to open up. Lyman starts to think he has his old brother back, but it proves a false dawn. The story ends with Henry jumping into a river and disappearing.

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Lyman is talking about the Vietnam War. His brother, Henry, was a marine in Vietnam; he returns from the war clearly suffering from post-traumatic stress. The fact that the government might “decide” that the problem of Vietnam was “solved” stands in contrast the the problem the war created for Henry, which he cannot solve. One of the themes of the story is the idea of freedom. The car, of course, symbolizes that freedom; their road trip, which takes them all the way to Alaska on a whim, is an expression of what personal freedom means, and is contrasted with Henry’s military service. Although the story does not explain what happened to Henry in the war, the psychological damage is profound. He can’t “decide” that he will go back the way he was before the war. As he puts it, shortly before his drowning, “I know it. I can’t help it. It’s no use.”

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