Bond of brotherhood has been analyzed in the literature many times; this problem is topical even in modern literature. Louis Erdrich’s (2009) story reveals the nature of strong bond of brotherhood. Masterfully created by the author, this problem remains thought provoking; that is why it is extremely popular topic in social context.
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Erdrich is considered to be “one of the most important Native American writers of the past twenty years” (Beidler & Barton, 2006, p. 1). Truly describing the realities of Native American life, the author with Indian blood reveals the significance of brotherhood, and shows how essential its bonds are. Why are they so strong, according to Erdrich? How does she demonstrate them in the book?
There are two main characters in the book – a young brother, Lyman Lamartine and an elder one, Henry Lamartine Junior. The author shows that they were different:
“I always had good luck with numbers, and never worried about the draft myself. I never even had to think about what my number was. But Henry was never lucky in the same way as me” (Erdrich, 2009, p. 107).
Lyman is described as a lucky boy (at 16, he becomes a manager in a local restaurant), but Henry was another one. Henry was sent to Vietnamese war, where he fought, and fell prisoner. The war in Vietnam changed him dramatically. Before the war, the brothers have a strong bond of brotherhood; they spend a lot of carefree time together.
The red convertible is a symbol of their unity: “We owned it together until his boots filled with water on a windy night and he bought out my share” (Erdrich, 2009, p. 103). Lyman will always remember his last words (“My boots are filling”) before the death (Erdrich, 2009, p. 114).
After the war, where he was captured by the communists, Henry returns home. However, he is different, and becomes “jumpy and mean” (Erdrich, 2009, p. 108). The war affected him so much, that Lyman does not know how to help him to overcome this hard period. Henry returns home “changed from a once easy-going youth to a withdrawn, tense shall of a man” (Beidler & Barton, 2006, p. 178). Henry even does not pay attention to his own blood. Lyman narrates:
“There was still blood going down Henry’s chin, but he didn’t notice it and no one said anything even though every time he took a bite of his bread his blood fell onto it until he was eating his own blood mixed in with the food” (Erdrich, 2009, p. 108).
The red color is symbolic in Chippewa culture. It means blood, aggression, danger, and war. Henry’s strange, wild dance symbolizes his rejection to take part in the war. Nevertheless, he has nothing to do. The tragic moment of the story is Henry’s suicide. Subconsciously, Lyman realizes that this way was the only way for changed Henry.
The significance of bond of brotherhood here is evident. The brothers truly love each other. Their car is the symbol of their bonds, communication, and happy time spent together. Also, it is the expression of Henry’s love to Lyman: Henry wants to give the car back to his brother. However, the war turns a happy picture into a tragic one. Unfortunately, war can kills the old way of life; it irretrievably changes a person, and speeds up his death.
Henry does not know how to live with the burden of war in his heart, and can not imagine his further life. Death in the river is his choice, and Lyman understand this. After his brother’s death, the car reminds Lyman about his late Henry. The life is gone, but the bond of brotherhood remains. Whatever happens, true bonds help to live further. Lymen lives without Henry, being the example of the devoted and loving brother. The dance, performed by Lyman, serves a spiritual bridge between them.
Proceeding from everything stated above, some conclusions can be made. The bond of brotherhood is inseparable even after the brother’s death. It is extremely strong, but they are vulnerable, as well. Henry is the victim of the war, who can not adjust to his new way of life, and dies. Lyman lives with bitter burden in his soul. Their car keeps the brother’s bonds and memory about the old happy life, spent together.
Beidler, P.G., & Barton G. (2006). A Reader’s Guide to the Novels of Louise Erdrich. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri press.
Gillan, M.M., & Gillan, J. (1999). Growing up ethnic in America. New York, NY: Penguin.