American Dream in Clint Eastwood’s Film “Gran Torino”


Gran Torino‘s film, shot by Clint Eastwood, represents the life of Walter Kowalski, a veteran of the Korean War and a true American with his views and moral principles. Throughout the film, the protagonist’s character changes while he gets acquainted with Tao and his sister – the Chinese immigrants. This film is about upbringing, the people around, truth, honesty, and the future (Eastwood). The American Dream receives a new interpretation in the mentioned work of Clint Eastwood, where he focuses on the power of relationships, support, and understanding between an old American man and a young Hmong boy.

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American Dream in Gran Torino

The American Dream characterizes the US as a unique and exceptional country with unlimited possibilities, which is why people from around the world try to move there or at least copy the American way of life. In particular, this concept signifies the aspiration of a person for success, material prosperity, and achievements of other types, implying an ascent from social bottoms and poverty to recognition, wealth, and glory (Travers). It can also denote the desire for confidence in the future, expressed in the ability to buy a home, get a good job, and take a high position in society.

In Gran Torino, The American Dream may be aligned with the concepts of opportunity and a self-made man, which could help in achieving success through hard work and self-discipline from modest and unfavorable undertakings. Walt Kowalski remains completely alone, and his life is brightened only by a deaf and old dog Daisy and a chilled Budweiser (Machuco). Initially, Tao considered him an intolerable old man who could not be pleased, while Walt viewed the modern youth as declassed persons in terms of ethics, morality, and attitude to life in general. The film depicts the rationale for such perceptions: during the funeral of the grandmother, the granddaughter is concerned only with the question of who will get Ford Gran Torino when Kowalski retires.

Walt’s character directly reflects the very idea of the lost American Dream. A military man, he is never afraid to say what he thinks without stinting at expressions and metaphors (Eastwood). He is, to some extent, despotic, stubborn, and conservative in his views like many men of the past century. Walt cannot and does not want to put up with the modern foundations of the society as for him, they are wild, shameful, and cause only constant irritation. A true citizen of his country, he does not accept foreign investment in any of their manifestations – from foreign cars to immigrants. He never exchanges for trifles, getting used to taking from life the best: if the wife – the most beautiful woman in the neighborhood or if the car – the fastest and most powerful (Eastwood). He looks at everything through the Eastwood perception of reality, thereby showing contempt for irregularity, which, unfortunately, has become the norm.

From the moment when Walt and Tao met in the old man’s garage, the life of each of them changed significantly. Kowalski begins to communicate with Tao, his sister Su, and the whole family of Hmong. He teaches Tao, finds work for him, and, in general, became attached to the boy more than to his grandchildren (Kinney 52). The spectators of the film as if open the soul of a tough and hostile man, which has not yet been discovered by anyone. In spite of the insinuating racism in the world around him, the American dream of an Asian boy begins to be realized (Dargis). From this point, a real friendship begins, for the sake of which they go for everything because this is a matter of honor. The positive aspect of the American Dream in Gran Torino is related to the fact that in order to achieve prosperity, it is not necessary to violate the principles of morality or commit a crime. Instead, it is enough to work hard, have noble aspirations, patience, and these efforts will always come as a reward. Thus, the notion of the American Dream tends to expand.

The theme of redemption may also be considered as the one that makes Walt help Tao in achieving his goals. As stated by Jalao, Gran Torino reveals the main character’s redemption for his previous violence and aggression. The viewers cannot know for sure about these events, yet the narration clearly shows that Walt a rather strict and hostile man. One may assume that by assisting Tao, he seeks redemption. Again, following the idea of honesty and hard work, the protagonist explores the Hmong family and helps the young boy to implement his dreams in reality. At the same time, such a situation benefits Walt’s own life as he acquires friends, trust, and mutual understanding.


In conclusion, it should be stressed that Gran Torino is a film that reinforces the idea of the American Dream. This drama attracts by its stiffness and honesty. The last statement of the film vividly expresses the connection with the American Dream. One may note that hard-working immigrants seem to look more Americans than listening to rap singers and obese managers because America is, first of all, the honest work of ordinary people.

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Works Cited

Dargis, Manohla. “Clint Eastwood in a Tale of Redemption for an American Racist.” The New York Times. 2008, Web.

Eastwood, Clint, director. Gran Torino. Warner Bros., 2008.

Jalao, Ly Chong. “Looking for Gran Torino in the Eye: A Review.” Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement, vol. 5, no. 15, 2010, Web.

Kinney, Rebecca J. “The Auto-Mobility of Gran Torino’s American Immigrant Dream: Cars, Class and Whiteness in Detroit’s Post-Industrial Cityscape.” Race & Class, vol. 57, no. 1, 2015, pp. 51-66. Web.

Machuco, Antonio. “Violence and Truth in Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino.” Anthropoetics: The Journal of Generative Anthropology, vol. 16, no. 2, 2011, Web.

Travers, Peter. “Gran Torino.” Rolling Stone. 2018, Web.

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StudyCorgi. "American Dream in Clint Eastwood’s Film "Gran Torino"." June 21, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "American Dream in Clint Eastwood’s Film "Gran Torino"." June 21, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'American Dream in Clint Eastwood’s Film "Gran Torino"'. 21 June.

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