The Focus, Theme, and Symbolism of Grand Canyon, a Drama Film by Lawrence Kasdan

Topics: Grand Canyon

Analyzing Grand Canyon

The 1991 film, Grand Canyon, uses the Grand Canyon as an actual location and a metaphor to develop a message. It teaches a lesson of how all different kinds of people live amongst each other and all the problems they carry. There are many events in the film that signify the space between people that have many things and those who aren’t as fortunate, and the big space is like a hole in the ground—like the Grand Canyon.

The main focus of the story is six residents’ lives, all from different backgrounds in modern day Los Angeles. The film follows these people to see the various accidents and miracles that occur in their daily lives that eventually bring them all together. What started this link began with the friendship of two men named Mack and Simon, who come from different races and classes. They were brought together when Mack’s car broke down and he ran into some trouble from a gang in a dangerous neighborhood.

Fortunately Simon, who was a tow truck driver, came to the rescue. Both of their lives changed when this single event created a powerful friendship.

The main theme of this movie is hidden behind the title of the movie itself. The actual Grand Canyon indicates the gap between the people that already have everything they want and the people that have a lot less. Within this space creates a rage. The message in this film shows that one group of race was afraid of how the other half lives.

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There was so much that they couldn’t understand so they were afraid of clashing the two lives. This message is easily passed through showing all aspects of the characters’ lives such as Mack being almost jumped by the gang to Simon’s nephew Otis feeling very out of place in his new home that was in a mostly white neighborhood. At one point, Simon sits down and says to Mack, “The point is there’s a gulf in this country; an ever-widening abyss between the people who have stuff, and the people who don’t have sh*t. It’s like this big hole in the ground, as big as the f**king Grand Canyon, and what’s come pouring out is an eruption of rage, and the rage creates violence, and the violence is real, Mack…”

This brings us back to how the Grand Canyon symbolizes the “big hole in the ground”, the space between people who have many things and the people that don’t have anything. Mack’s family represents the people who have what they want, and Simon’s family represents the people that don’t. However, these two families come together to fill in that space. Simon also says to Mack, “you’re white?” showing that he’s indifferent about a person’s race and what’s important is what’s on the inside. This signifies a lesson that people should pick up to try and reduce that space, that hole in the ground, to create a better world—just like those two families. At the end, they all go to see the Grand Canyon, which shows them all the empty space the world needed to fill in.

To wrap it all up, the filmmaker wanted the audience to connect with the Grand Canyon positively or reduce the space in their lives. The big gap in the actual Grand Canyon represented the gap in society when racism still was not completely demolished. Instead of thinking about how the other half lived, we should try to live amongst one another and get along regardless of how we were brought up in the world.

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The Focus, Theme, and Symbolism of Grand Canyon, a Drama Film by Lawrence Kasdan. (2021, Dec 21). Retrieved from

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