Why do the characters in "The Red Convertible" argue and fight over the car? What does the red convertible symbolize?

Lyman and Henry argue and fight over the car because Henry wants Lyman to have the car to himself, but Lyman doesn't. Instead, Lyman wants Henry to have the car because he thinks it might bring the old Henry back. The red convertible symbolizes the youthful innocence and freedom that the brothers once had and which Lyman hopes that Henry will have once again.

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Lyman desperately wants his traumatized brother Henry to snap out of the extreme listlessness and depression from which he's been suffering since he got back from Vietnam. So he hits upon the idea of deliberately wrecking their red convertible so that Henry will spend his time fixing it instead of...

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Lyman desperately wants his traumatized brother Henry to snap out of the extreme listlessness and depression from which he's been suffering since he got back from Vietnam. So he hits upon the idea of deliberately wrecking their red convertible so that Henry will spend his time fixing it instead of zoning out in front of the TV all the time. Lyman hopes that by working on the red convertible, Henry will come back to the carefree, happy self he used to be when they were younger.

At first, the plan seems to work. Henry spends a lot of time getting the car back into shape. This gives him something to live for, and keeps him away from the TV. Before long, Henry hasn't just fixed the car; it's as good as new. The brothers start taking the car out for a drive. It's just like the good old days, with the old Henry, the Henry who hadn't yet been traumatized by Vietnam, accompanying his brother for a drive up to the Red River.

Unfortunately, during the trip Henry starts showing symptoms of anxiety once more. After Lyman, who can actually feel his brother's anxiety, wakes him up, Henry says he knows why Lyman wrecked the red convertible and that he wants his brother to have the car all to himself.

But Lyman doesn't want the car; the whole point of getting Henry to fix it was so that he'd have something to live for, something that could take him back to the freedom and happiness of bygone days, which is what the red convertible symbolizes. Henry won't play ball, though, and the ensuing argument between the two brothers quickly escalates into violence.

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