Gran Torino Essay

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‘Gran Torino’ is a film full of symbols of hope and redemption. Discuss.

In his film ‘Gran Torino’, Clint Eastwood tells the story of an unlikely relationship between Korean War veteran Walt Kowalski and his Hmong neighbours Thao and Sue. The film explores the possibility of redemption, “second chances”, and the hope that comes from having a positive future. Both Walt and Thao experience redemption in the film. Walt is saved from the guilt of murder and broken relationships. Ultimately, Walt finds “peace” with himself, with others and with God. Walt’s young neighbour Thao is rescued from a future of crime and violence, and the shame of attempted theft. Ultimately, Thao gains a future as a hard-working, respectable American man. As Eastwood tells his story of second chances and the hope they bring, he uses symbols to represent the redemption of both Walt and Thao. Three physical symbols in the world of the film that stand for redemption and hope are Walt’s Gran Torino, food and Walt’s cigarette lighter.

Walt’s 1972 Ford Gran Torino represents Thao’s journey of redemption from a life of crime and immaturity to becoming a hard-working, respected American man. Thao begins his ‘manhood training’ with his cousin Spider as his only role model, and a life of crime his only career choice. Stealing Walt’s Gran Torino is his initiation task. The car at this point represents both Thao’s hope of acceptance and respect from Spider who announces “my little cousin be a man” when Thao accepts the task. The car also represents the dangerous lifestyle he is being initiated into: it is an object to steal, and Walt nearly shoots him in the shed. However, as Walt takes Thao under his wing and offers the young man a different life path, the car comes to represent a positive future. For a start, the car represents the rewards of hard work. After washing the car Walt sits on the porch, satisfied and remarks, “Ain’t she sweet.” Later in the...
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