Why does Lyman use the word "repose" to describe the red Oldsmobile convertible in "The Red Convertible"? What associations do you have with the word "repose"? 

In "The Red Convertible," Lyman uses the word "repose" to describe the red Oldsmobile convertible because to repose means to rest, and ascribing this action to the car conveys Lyman's feeling that the car is somehow "large as life." It seems more alive somehow than any other car would or does, and he likewise describes it as "calm" for similar reasons.

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The short story "The Red Convertible" by Louise Erdrich tells of two Chippewa Native American brothers named Lyman and Henry Junior. On a trip up to Winnipeg together they spot a red Oldsmobile convertible and buy it. They then make a glorious trip across the country all the way to Alaska. It is a liberating burst of freedom, their last journey together before Henry is sent off to fight in Vietnam. When he returns, he is a changed man. He suffers from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) because of his experiences in the war. Lyman damages the convertible on purpose so that the work Henry has to do to repair it will snap him out of his depression. The tactic seems to succeed, and they go on one last trip together. However, Henry drowns in a river swollen with spring snowmelt, and Lyman sends the convertible into the river too.

In this story, the convertible is a symbol of the unity between Henry and Lyman. It represents the serenity that they feel in their brotherhood. In the paragraph where the brothers find the red convertible in the parking lot, Erdrich acknowledges this feeling. Discovering the car is almost like a spiritual revelation. That's why Lyman emphasizes that the car seems not just to be parked there but rather in repose.

In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word "repose," when used as a verb as in this story, means "to lie at rest." When Lyman says that the car is reposing in the lot and not just parked, he is suggesting that when he and his brother find the car, it brings them a feeling of peace, tranquility, and calm. This is of great value to them, considering the circumstances around them. They are Native Americans and are frequently subjected to racism and ridicule. The country is at war, and Henry will soon be caught up in it. The red convertible represents a better life, an idealized life, a life in which they can relax, enjoy themselves, and not worry about the tumultuous world around them. That's why the word "repose" is used in this context.

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The red convertible reposes in that it rests. It has been tucked away inside a garage for years and so, in some sense, isn't really a part of the everyday world and all its sick hurry, its hustle and bustle. That being the case, Lyman sees the red convertible as potentially giving his emotionally damaged brother, Henry, a new lease on life.

Since he returned from a tour of duty in Vietnam, it's abundantly clear to everyone that Henry has been traumatized by his experiences of war. Lyman's at a loose end as to what to do to get Henry to snap out of his trauma and become the happy-go-lucky young man he used to be back in the day. Eventually, he hits on the idea of going on a road trip with Henry in the old red convertible they always used to love driving so much.

Henry may not be able to “repose,” but the car most certainly does. It is a historical artifact that represents a much simpler, more innocent time when Henry was generally happy with life. Lyman hopes that by interacting with the vehicle, both by fixing it and driving around in it, Henry, too, will come to achieve a sense of calm, a sense of repose.

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Lyman says that when he first saw the car on a trip to Winnipeg with his brother, Henry, he

thought of the word repose, because the car wasn't simply stopped, parked, or whatever. That car reposed, calm and gleaming....

A car is more often described as being stopped or parked, but when we think of the word repose, it seems to signify a much more intentional action, as though the car is personified (or given the human attribute of being able to repose). To repose, as a verb (like to stop or to park) means to lie at or take a rest, or to remain still. A person must stop a car or park a car, but this car could repose on its own rather than be the recipient of some action. Lyman even describes the car as being "calm," another way of personifying the inanimate vehicle.

We typically describe living things (or things that have the appearance of life) as calm, and even then it's most often used to describe human beings. It seems, then, that Lyman uses the word repose to describe the red Oldsmobile convertible because, to him, it seems alive. It has more presence and personality to him that any other car might. He says the car was "large as life," and so it seems fitting that he would describe it in such a way as to convey that sense of its vitality.

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