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The Red Convertible, Paul's Case, and The Man Who Was Almost a Man

This story represents the coming-of-age of two brothers who believe a ôred convertibleö is their answer to the ôAmerican Dream.ö As Lyman tells us, ôThere it was, parked, large as life. Really as if it was aliveö (Erdrich, 1974, p. 475). They enjoy a series of adventures in this car, but after LymanÆs older brother Henry goes off to and returns home from war, the car becomes symbolic of failed dreams and prejudice in American society. HenryÆs belief in society and the American dream end after he returns from the war. Eventually, Lyman and his brother drift apart because, as Lyman tells us, ôàhe was such a loner now that I didnÆt know how to take itö (Erdrich, 1974, p. 4). Chemically addicted, increasingly isolated and in despair that ôcrazy Indiansö have no place in the American dream, Henry ultimately commits suicide. This story demonstrates the difficulty in forming an identity and interacting socially when one is from a marginalized group in society.

In PaulÆs Case, Willa Cather (1905) provides us with the story of another coming-of-age and suicide in the case of Paul, an overly sensitive high school student frustrated with his blue-collar home life and future work options. He dreams of being like the performers he views at his job as an usher. Paul struggles to form an identity but his environment is not conducive to his dreams and he becomes problematic in school and at home. He works because he has been expelled from school. Eventually, he steals money to live his dream life in New York, one that ends with his awareness he will have to go back home and be accountable for his actions. Unable to live with this reality, Paul kills himself. We see that PaulÆs ôcaseö is very similar to that of many adolescents who suffer with identity formation issues, often resorting to deviant or self-destructive behaviors that result in depression and suicide.


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The Red Convertible, Paul's Case, and The Man Who Was Almost a Man. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 06:08, July 04, 2022, from