The Red Convertible

Henry Lamartine Character Analysis

Henry Lamartine, Jr. is Lyman’s older brother, of a different father. He is carefree and easygoing at the beginning of the story, quick to make a joke and gentle despite his resemblance to Red Tomahawk, a famous Indian warrior. Of the two brothers, Henry is always the unlucky one—money never comes easy to him, and he is drafted into the Marines during the Vietnam War and then captured by the enemy. When he returns, he has completely changed, and “the change was no good.” He has become “jumpy and mean,” sitting in front of the TV for hours, never joking and hardly even laughing. He no longer takes an interest in the red convertible—the beloved car he and Lyman bought and traveled in together—or much else. Lyman “tricks” Henry into fixing the car, and for a while, he seems a renewed person, but he later reveals to Lyman that he saw through his trick all along. Shortly afterwards, he jumps into the river and drowns. It is not clear whether he meant to kill himself, or if it was an accident.

Henry Lamartine Quotes in The Red Convertible

The The Red Convertible quotes below are all either spoken by Henry Lamartine or refer to Henry Lamartine. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harper Perennial edition of The Red Convertible published in 1984.
The Red Convertible Quotes

I was the first one to drive a convertible on my reservation. And of course it was red, a red Olds. I owned that car along with my brother Henry Junior. We owned it together until his boots filled with water on a windy night and he bought out my share. Now Henry owns the whole car, and his younger brother Lyman (that's myself), Lyman walks everywhere he goes.

Related Characters: Lyman Lamartine , Henry Lamartine
Related Symbols: The Red Convertible
Page Number: 177
Explanation and Analysis:
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We went places in that car, me and Henry. We took off driving all one whole summer… We got up there [to Alaska] and never wanted to leave. The sun doesn't truly set there in summer, and the night is more a soft dusk. You might doze off, sometimes, but before you know it you're up again, like an animal in nature. You never feel like you have to sleep hard or put away the world. And things would grow up there.

Related Characters: Lyman Lamartine , Henry Lamartine
Related Symbols: The Red Convertible
Page Number: 179
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

She was standing on a chair, but still, when she unclipped her buns the hair reached all the way to the ground. Our eyes opened. You couldn't tell how much hair she had when it was rolled up so neatly. Then my brother Henry did something funny. He went up to the chair and said, "Jump on my shoulders." So she did that, and her hair reached down past his waist, and he started twirling, this way and that, so her hair was flung out from side to side.

"I always wondered what it was like to have long pretty hair," Henry says. Well we laughed. It was a funny sight, the way he did it.

Related Characters: Henry Lamartine (speaker), Susy (speaker)
Page Number: 180
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

I don't wonder that the army was so glad to get my brother that they turned him into a Marine. He was built like a brick outhouse anyway. We liked to tease him that they really wanted him for his Indian nose. He had a nose big and sharp as a hatchet, like the nose on Red Tomahawk, the Indian who killed Sitting Bull, whose profile is on signs all along the North Dakota highways.

Related Characters: Henry Lamartine
Page Number: 181
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

I'd bought a color TV set for my mom and the rest of us while Henry was away. Money still came very easy. I was sorry I'd ever bought it though, because of Henry. I was also sorry I'd bought color, because with black-and-white the pictures seem older and farther away…

Once I was in the room watching TV with Henry and I heard his teeth click at something. I looked over, and he'd bitten through his lip. Blood was going down his chin. I tell you right then I wanted to smash that tube to pieces. I went over to it but Henry must have known what I was up to. He rushed from his chair and shoved me out of the way, against the wall. I told myself he didn't know what he was doing.

Related Characters: Lyman Lamartine , Henry Lamartine
Related Symbols: The Color TV
Page Number: 183
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

While Henry was not around we talked about what was going to happen to him. There were no Indian doctors on the reservation, and my mom couldn't come around to trusting the old man, Moses Pillager, because he courted her long ago and was jealous of her husbands. He might take revenge through her son. We were afraid that if we brought Henry to a regular hospital they would keep him. “They don't fix them in those places,” Mom said; “they just give them drugs.”

“We wouldn't get him there in the first place,” I agreed, “so let's just forget about it.”

Related Characters: Lyman Lamartine (speaker), Lulu Lamartine (speaker), Henry Lamartine
Page Number: 183
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

It was so sunny that day Henry had to squint against the glare. Or maybe the camera Bonita held flashed like a mirror, blinding him, before she snapped the picture. My face is right out in the sun, big and round. But he might have drawn back, because the shadows on his face are deep as holes. There are two shadows curved like little hooks around the ends of his smile, as if to frame it and try to keep it there—that one, first smile that looked like it might have hurt his face.

Page Number: 186
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

The trip over there was beautiful. When everything starts changing, drying up, clearing off, you feel like your whole life is starting. Henry felt it, too. The top was down and the car hummed like a top. He'd really put it back in shape, even the tape on the seats was very carefully put down and glued back in layers. It's not that he smiled again or even joked, but his face looked to me as if it was clear, more peaceful. It looked as though he wasn't thinking of anything in particular except the bare fields and windbreaks and houses we were passing.

Related Characters: Lyman Lamartine , Henry Lamartine
Related Symbols: The Red Convertible
Page Number: 187
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

He says nothing. But I can tell his mood is turning again.

"They're all crazy, the girls up here, every damn one of them."

"You're crazy too," I say, to jolly him up. "Crazy Lamartine boys!"

He looks as though he will take this wrong at first. His face twists, then clears, and he jumps up on his feet. "That's right!" he says. "Crazier 'n hell. Crazy Indians!"

Related Characters: Lyman Lamartine , Henry Lamartine
Page Number: 189
Explanation and Analysis:
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No sound comes from the river after the splash he makes, so I run right over. I look around. It's getting dark. I see he's halfway across the water already, and I know he didn't swim there but the current took him. It's far. I hear his voice, though, very clearly across it.

"My boots are filling," he says.

He says this in a normal voice, like he just noticed and he doesn't know what to think of it. Then he's gone. A branch comes by. Another branch. And I go in…

I walk back to the car, turn on the high beams, and drive it up the bank. I put it in first gear and then I take my foot off the clutch. I get out, close the door, and watch it plow softly into the water.

Related Characters: Henry Lamartine (speaker), Lyman Lamartine
Related Symbols: The Red Convertible
Page Number: 189
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Henry Lamartine Character Timeline in The Red Convertible

The timeline below shows where the character Henry Lamartine appears in The Red Convertible. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Red Convertible
Masculinity and Silence Theme Icon
American and American Indian Identity Theme Icon
...person to drive a convertible on his reservation, a red Oldsmobile. He and his brother Henry owned it together, until Henry’s “boots filled with water on a windy night” and he... (full context)
American and American Indian Identity Theme Icon
...café was destroyed in a tornado, but before that happened, he bought the convertible with Henry. (full context)
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Henry and Lyman are in Winnipeg when they stumble upon the convertible, which seems almost larger... (full context)
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Masculinity and Silence Theme Icon
...takes her hair down to reveal that it reaches all the way to the ground. Henry picks her up on his shoulders and twirls her around so her hair sways from... (full context)
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
The Trauma of War Theme Icon
Masculinity and Silence Theme Icon
Henry and Lyman head home, and before long Henry is drafted into the Vietnam War as... (full context)
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
The Trauma of War Theme Icon
Masculinity and Silence Theme Icon
When Henry comes home, he is very different. He can no longer sit still, he hardly ever... (full context)
Masculinity and Silence Theme Icon
American and American Indian Identity Theme Icon
Lyman and his mother think about what to do for Henry. There is only one doctor nearby, a non-Indian doctor that used to court their mother,... (full context)
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
The Trauma of War Theme Icon
Masculinity and Silence Theme Icon
Henry has shown no interest in the convertible since he got home from the war, but... (full context)
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
The Trauma of War Theme Icon
...tormented him. Slightly drunk and high, he suddenly saw clearly in the photo how haunted Henry was, with his shadowed eyes and forced, painful smile. His friend Ray helped him bag... (full context)
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
The Trauma of War Theme Icon
Masculinity and Silence Theme Icon
...picture, they take a full cooler and make the trip to the Red River, because Henry wants to see the high water. The trip is beautiful and relaxing, and Lyman thinks... (full context)
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Masculinity and Silence Theme Icon
American and American Indian Identity Theme Icon
...the air, and Lyman suggests they go back, maybe try to pick up some girls. Henry, his mood shifted for the worse, complains that all the girls “up here” are crazy.... (full context)
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
The Trauma of War Theme Icon
Masculinity and Silence Theme Icon
...current is strong. It’s getting dark, and Lyman sees that the current has already carried Henry much too far. “My boots are filling,” he says placidly, and then he’s gone. Lyman... (full context)