The Red Convertible

Lyman Lamartine Character Analysis

Lyman Lamartine is a Chippewa Indian who lives on the reservation with his family, including his older brother Henry with whom he is close. He is a hard worker who is good with money, briefly owning a café while he is still in his teens. He thinks of himself as “lucky,” especially when Henry is drafted into Vietnam and Lyman isn’t. While in Winnipeg, Lyman and Henry buy the red convertible on a whim, and they travel all over the continent in it happily. However, when they get home, Henry is drafted, and Lyman loyally labors to keep the car in top shape while Henry is gone, thinking of it as Henry’s car even though Henry gave it to Lyman before he left. After Henry comes back from war a changed man, Lyman is preoccupied with Henry’s distress and feels powerless to help him until he has the idea to destroy the red convertible in the hopes that Henry will fix it, thereby giving him purpose. This seems to work at first, but when they drive together to the river, Henry reveals that he knew of Lyman’s plan all along and it seems not to have worked—Henry’s mood is still dark. When Henry hops into the river to cool off and drowns, Lyman pushes the convertible in after him in a seeming refusal to have the car if his brother can’t have it. Throughout the story, Lyman is relentlessly loyal and caring, but perhaps somewhat naïve in his inability to understand his brother’s trauma and grief.

Lyman Lamartine Quotes in The Red Convertible

The The Red Convertible quotes below are all either spoken by Lyman Lamartine or refer to Lyman 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:
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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:
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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:
Quotes explanation short mobile

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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Lyman Lamartine Character Timeline in The Red Convertible

The timeline below shows where the character Lyman 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
Lyman recalls that he was the first person to drive a convertible on his reservation, a... (full context)
American and American Indian Identity Theme Icon
Lyman has always had an easy time making money, which he claims is “unusual in a... (full context)
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Henry and Lyman are in Winnipeg when they stumble upon the convertible, which seems almost larger than life,... (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 a Marine.... (full context)
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
The Trauma of War Theme Icon
Masculinity and Silence Theme Icon
...leave Henry alone, and he spends long stretches of time watching the color TV that Lyman bought for the family, gripping the armrests of his chair tightly. One day, he bites... (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... (full context)
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
The Trauma of War Theme Icon
Masculinity and Silence Theme Icon
...has shown no interest in the convertible since he got home from the war, but Lyman decides that the car might bring “the old Henry back.” He waits till Henry is... (full context)
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
The Trauma of War Theme Icon
Their sister Bonita makes them pose for a photograph with the car before they go. Lyman recalls the picture, which he kept on the wall for a long time until one... (full context)
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
The Trauma of War Theme Icon
Masculinity and Silence Theme Icon
...because Henry wants to see the high water. The trip is beautiful and relaxing, and Lyman thinks Henry seems unusually calm and happy. They build a fire and Henry falls asleep,... (full context)
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Masculinity and Silence Theme Icon
American and American Indian Identity Theme Icon
Something has changed in the air, and Lyman suggests they go back, maybe try to pick up some girls. Henry, his mood shifted... (full context)
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
The Trauma of War Theme Icon
Masculinity and Silence Theme Icon
The river is high and the current is strong. It’s getting dark, and Lyman sees that the current has already carried Henry much too far. “My boots are filling,”... (full context)