The Red Convertible

The Red Convertible Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Louise Erdrich's The Red Convertible. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Louise Erdrich

Born Karen Louise Erdrich, she grew up in Wahpeton, North Dakota with six younger siblings. Her mother Rita was Chippewa and her father Ralph was German-American. She attended Dartmouth College and earned a Master of Arts at Johns Hopkins. Much of her early work was in collaboration with her former husband, Michael Dorris, including her first short story to win an award, “The World’s Greatest Fisherman,” published in 1979. That story eventually became the first chapter of her first novel Love Medicine, of which “The Red Convertible” is another. Much of her work is concerned with the lives of Native Americans in the United States, inspired by her own heritage. She has written novels, children’s literature, poetry, nonfiction, and short stories, and has been the recipient of numerous literary prizes.
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Historical Context of The Red Convertible

The Native American Renaissance as a literary movement began in the late 1960s. Due to the political upheaval of the 1960s in the United States, there was a new mass readership for the Native American authors that had been writing for years. There was also a new generation of Native American young adults who had had access to formal, English-language education and higher education in greater numbers than their predecessors. Authors often focused on the community’s systemic and social issues like poverty, discrimination, and trauma, as well as a conscious reclamation of their heritage that underscored the importance of previous forms of storytelling, such as the oral tradition.

Other Books Related to The Red Convertible

N. Scott Momaday’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning House Made of Dawn, published in 1968, is often credited as the first novel of the Native American Renaissance. James Welch’s Winter in the Blood and Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony are also considered seminal texts on the Native American experience in the late twentieth century. More recently, Joy Harjo’s poetry book Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings and Tommy Orange’s novel There There have received widespread critical acclaim for covering American Indian subject matter.
Key Facts about The Red Convertible
  • Full Title: The Red Convertible
  • When Written: 1984
  • When Published: 1984
  • Literary Period: Native American Renaissance
  • Genre: Short story, tragedy
  • Setting: North Dakota
  • Climax: Henry drowns in the river
  • Point of View: First person (Lyman’s perspective)

Extra Credit for The Red Convertible

Single Chapter. “The Red Convertible” also serves as the tenth chapter in Love Medicine, Erdrich’s first novel which chronicles the lives of several members of a Chippewa tribe in North Dakota. The stories are intergenerational, so there are chapters that tell the story of Henry and Lyman’s parents, cousins, and extended family over the course of sixty years.