Things They Carried and the Red Convertible: Symbolism
To many, a war is just a war, young men taxation the military, fight and die for their country. They view soldiers as cold blooded emotionless killers that are stripped of their feelings and opinions of what’s right or wrong. They view them as objects detached from society to carry out the orders of their superiors without fear of coming home safe. However the symbolization of “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien is used in a way that is similar to “The Red Convertible” by Louise Reedier because they both show that there is much more to it than that.
Both stories symbolizes that soldiers aren’t simply mindless emotionless killers but instead they are young men who gave up there life at home to something greater then themselves. The events of war, in fact, take a much greater toll on them and it is something they carry with them for the rest of their lives, even long after the war is over. In both stories, both O’Brien and Reedier use similar symbolism to show these mental burdens that they acquire fighting for their country.
O’Brien details the things soldiers carry with them as not just physical gear essential for combat but also small items from home that symbolize what they left behind to fight the war. Reedier uses one main symbolic object, the red convertible, to portray the relationship and transformation of the two main characters. O’Brien introduces characters and what they carry with them both mentally and physically. Let. Cross carries with him a picture of Martha which of course symbolizes his feelings for her.
He also introduces Henry Dobbins who carries extra food, Ted Lavender who carries tranquilizer pills, and Kiowa who carries a hunting hatchet as well as several other characters that carry what some loud view as small meaningless items described as “implied burdens far beyond the intransitive” but to that individual they hold a lot of meaning (peg. 519). No matter what they carry, they all share the same mental burdens of love, grief, terror, loneliness and the pride of being a soldier.
While these artifacts help carry the soldiers through the war, there is even more meaning after the war is over. After the war the mental burdens come into play and the things the soldiers carried during the war are now symbols of their past life, a life that was forever changed due to the war. For example, the picture hat Let. Cross carried with and eventually destroyed after a death of a fellow soldier during the war, now symbolizes the loss of the fallen soldier rather than his feelings of Martha.
When Martha eventually gives him a replacement photo years later, it no longer represents the feelings he once had for her but rather the pain and grief he felt after losing one of his men. Reedier also uses this idea of symbolism and the change in symbolic references throughout his story. Redbird’s story starts off hopeful with the booming and successful restaurant owned by Lyman, but the joy is short lived when a rondo tears the building to the ground described as “the worst tornado ever seen around here. The whole operation was smashed to bits.
A total loss” (peg. 134). One day as Lyman and his brother Henry are traveling across town they make an impulse decision to by a red convertible for sale on the side of the road. They decide to spend all of their money and escape across country with no plan other than to escape reality. The red convertible soon becomes there symbol of hope and freedom which they never once were afforded. It also symbolizes there bond as brothers with one common interest, the red invertible. As they return at the end of the summer, Henry is shipped off to war.
While gone, the symbol of the car grows and to Lyman, it represents his brother’s absence. Lyman spends the next few years fixing up the car awaiting the arrival of his brother. However once Henry returns home, the horrors of war and his misfortune of becoming a prisoner of war leads Henry mentally traumatized. The fun brother Lyman once knew is gone, replaced by a soulless shell of a brother. Lyman uses the car, the one symbol of their bond to try and bring Henry back from his state of despair.
Lyman proceeds to destroy the under carriage of the car hoping that the sight of this would snap Henry out of his trance and bring him back to reality to take care of the car. One night after the car had been fixed the two headed out on a drive to the red river to watch the current flow, the ;o talked and eventually started laughing and having a good time. Just when Lyman thought he was getting his brother back, Henry stood up and ran into the fridge water drowning himself.
After Layman’s failed attempt at rescue, he drove the red convertible into the ever and watched the lights dim out and eventually fade into the night symbolizing the end of their brotherhood. In these two stories, both O’Brien and Reedier use symbols to represent brotherhood and the loss of life. O’Brien uses the picture of Martha to symbolize the death of his fallen brother while Reedier uses the sinking of the convertible and the headlights which fade into blackness to symbolize the end of a brotherhood between two men. Both authors use the shift in symbolism to show the progression and meaning behind the objects.
The shift of meaning behind the picture room simple feelings of a woman to the more powerful guilt of losing one of your own, as well as the convertible which started off symbolizing freedom and adventure to the ultimate demise of a brother. Whether there is simple meaning behind an object or a more complex and underlying meaning, the symbolization in “The Things They Carry” by Tim O’Brien is used in a way that is similar to With Red Convertible’ by Louise Reedier because the effects of war in these two stories prove that the mental burden of combat effects a soldier even long after the fight is over.