About Character Walt Kowalski In The Movie Gran Torino

The following sample essay on the movie Gran Torino and the main character Walt Kowalski. Walt Kowalski appears to be quite tough and does not want any help, visitation or charity from anyone. He manages himself. Among other things, we see that family and religion are not really in the center for Walt. He is not interested in talking to his family nor wanting to go to the church to confess.

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What kind of character traits does Walt use to build his identity?


Gran Torino is about an aged Korean veteran, Walt Kowalski.

He has just become a widower and his neighborhood, previously dominated by whites, has now been occupied by people with Asian backgrounds. Kowalski takes this heavily, as the racist he turns out to be. The son in the neighbor house, Thao, got a mission by Spider to steal Walt’s prized 1972 Ford Gran Torino. Walt stops the theft with his M1 Garand rifle and encounters with Thao.

This develops into a kind of father-and-son relationship where Kowalski becomes a mentor for the young boy. This, in turn, leads to Kowalski reluctantly coming in contact with the group of people he does not like. He gradually softens up and let the racism he had previously diminish.


The story takes place in Walt’s neighborhood in Detroit, but happens in other places too. For example, in the beginning of the movie we see that Walt is at his wife’s funeral in the church, and also at the end of the movie, we see that Walt goes to church to confess. Before Walt’s neighborhood got occupied by the Hmong people, everything was peaceful and quiet. But when the Hmong people moved into the neighborhood, problems and troubles emerged.


We meet many characters in the movie such as Walt Kowalski, Sue and her brother Thao, Spider and his gang, Father Janovich, Martin the barber, and Walt’s family. Throughout the movie, we notice that Walt, Thao and Sue are the main characters, while Spider and his gang are the antagonists.

We first meet the Walt Kowalski when his life is changing. His wife has just died, his relationship with his son is distant, and his Korean War memories continue to haunt him. From the beginning, Walt seems like a very unpleasant man who just wants everyone to leave him alone, but when two Asian neighbors become more and more involved in his life, he realizes that they have quite a lot in common.

Thao is not like other Hmong boys. Most Hmong boys join a gang and then go to prison, but Thao is not like that at all. He does gardening, washing clothes, and other tasks that people believe women should do.

Sue is not like her insecure brother. She is shameless, wise, and stands for what she believes in. She knows what she wants and shows a strong personality. When Walt was at her family’s feast party, she did the translating between her family and Walt because she speaks English fluidly unlike her family.

Stereotypes and prejudices

Gran Torino is met with much resistance, prejudice, and stereotype by the main character, Walt Kowalski. In the movie, we can see that Walt stereotypes different kinds of races, especially Asians. In one scene, he claims that Hmong people eat dogs and cats when Sue invited him to a barbeque party. In another scene, Walt said “I thought you Asian girls were supposed to be smart,’’ after saving Sue. These scenes stereotype Asian races due to how society sees Asians. Walt is a person full of prejudices against immigrants, especially against his Asian neighbors. He is an old Korean War veteran and that is why he has these prejudices over his neighbors.

Character traits for Walt’s identity

One character trait that is important to Walt is the cultural identity. We notice that he is interested in what is typical American and nationality. Walt has mentioned several times that he does not like Japanese car brands and prefers American car brands like Ford. We know that Walt is interested with nationality because he is the only person with an American flag in the neighborhood.

Another character trait is that Walt dislikes that people he doesn’t know calls him by his first name. Walt lets only friends and family call him by his first name while other people like the priest must call him by his surname. Walt creates therefor an identity through his relationships with others, and the relationships he has with others is a strong character trait for him.

During the movie, it turns out that Walt has become seriously ill. You can say that the illness he got can be defined as a character trait because it helps to define who Walt is. For Walt it is important to die as a strong man and not as a weak man.

Towards the end of the movie, we can see that Walt has a dynamic identity. He ties a bond with the Hmong family he previously distanced from, goes to the church unlike before, and contacts his family, indicating that his identity is dynamic.


In the movie Gran Torino, have we seen that the main character Walt Kowalski has some character traits to build his identity such as nationality, relationships with other people, family, and religion. In the beginning, we see that Walt has a static identity, but when Walt encounters with two neighbor siblings, his identity changes in a positive way.

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About Character Walt Kowalski In The Movie Gran Torino. (2019, Dec 18). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/gran-torino-best-essay/

About Character Walt Kowalski In The Movie Gran Torino
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