Change is coming

An essay exploring how the beginning and end showed a change in a character for “Gran Torino” by Clint Eastwood

Many people say that old people fear change as they have grown so accustomed to their old ways but in Clint Eastwood’s film ‘Gran Torino’ we can clearly see that this anyone is capable of change. Protagonist Walt Kowalski is a racist war veteran whose cold heart is thawed through his interactions with his Hmong neighbours, inspiring a great change in the way he treats others and himself. Eastwood uses the beginning and ending to highlight this change and teach the viewer important lessons through symbolism, camera angles, inter-cutting and dialogue.

Guns -symbols of violence- make appearances several times in the film and the way in which Walt uses them also changes to reflect his increasingly peaceful character. Walt starts off a belligerent man and the Hmong gang is first acquainted with the other end of his shot gun and a growl of “Get off my lawn” before they actually meet the man himself. Shot with a subjective low angle shot, the audience feels as if Walt is aiming the weapon at them personally and combined with the immense sense of power that the low angle conveys, his violent nature is emphasized. When faced with any signs of conflict in the beginning, Walt does not hesitate to take out a firearm. This can be attributed to his long-term exposure to violence in the Korean War, which also provided him with his weapons. Just before his death at the end, a midshot captures Walt aiming his ‘finger-gun’ at the Hmong gang in a manner similar to when he confronted Sue’s harassers and subsequently pulled out a real gun. From this earlier experience, Eastwood sets the viewer up to believe that Walt will reach for a weapon concealed in his jacket, thus surprising them when his clenched hand later reveals no firearm. Like the audience, the Hmong gang is also deceived and quickly shoot him. According to Walt’s plan, the Hmong gang is taken to prison and therefore cannot trouble the Vang Lors anymore. As Mahatma Gandhi said “You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist” and Walt demonstrates this: he lets go of his violent ideals and in doing so, makes peace with his past.

Walt started out a conflicted man but by the end of the film, we see that he has made peace with his conscience. Two extreme close shots of Walt’s Medal of Valour are used -one while sitting in its box in the beginning and one while pinned to Thao’s shirt in the end- to symbolize the discarding of Walt’s guilt. Awarded to him for “killing a scared little gook kid who just wanted to give up”, Walt’s feelings of remorse are ‘boxed’ up like the medal and his sins torment him at the beginning of the film. However, he gives the medal to Thao before he leaves to confront Smokie’s gang; this is symbolic of him letting go of his guilt. When Walt falls to the ground after being shot, Eastwood uses the unnatural angle of a birds eye view to highlight the crucifix position of his body. This reference to the death of Christ connotes atonement for sin, communicating that Walt has redeemed himself through his sacrifice for the Vang Lors. Following his death at the end of the film, the second extreme-close shot of the medal takes place, reinforcing the idea of redemption and reminding us of Walt’s change. Walt’s newfound peace manifests in the non-violent way in which he confronts the Hmong gang, ensuring that Thao would not get involved in the bloodshed and live with the guilt of manslaughter unlike himself. The camera angles and symbolism used in the beginning and end convey to the reader the importance of letting go of the past and not letting it dictate your future.

The beginning and the ending highlight the change in Walt’s willingness to be a father to his own sons. In the opening funeral scene, a close shot of Walt’s sullen expression and perpetual scowl cuts to a midshot of his son Mitch whispering to his brother that “There’s nothing you can do that won’t disappoint the old man”. This gives the viewer the impression that the father-son relationship is strained- an impression which is strengthened in the very next scene where Walt snaps “I need the chairs now, not next week”. Intercutting between wideshots of Mitch and Walt conversing by phone with each other also happens in the beginning, with Mitch asking a cheerful “How’s it going, dad?” before he asks for a favour and Walt promptly hangs up. Interestingly, the ending of the text utilises similar intercutting during the phone call where Walt voluntarily calls Mitch and asks him “How’s everything going?”, followed by a close shot of Mitch’s perplexed expression. These parallels of intercutting and dialogue emphasise how much Walt’s personality has changed. Though he confesses to Father Janovich that “I was never really close to my sons. I didn’t know how”, his father-son bonding with Thao encourages Walt to make that awkward first step in repairing his relationship with his biological sons. The contrast in Walt’s attitude from the beginning to end gives viewers hope that any relationship can be repaired so long as one is willing.

The beginning and the end of ‘Gran Torino’ were crafted skillfully by Clint Eastwood to highlight the important change in Walt’s character. The contrast between the man he was at the beginning and the man he was when he died encourages the viewer not to be afraid of change as it will lead to development of one’s personality.

~~~

necromancing this poor blog
if i treat my children the way i do with this blog, they’re gonna run away from home as soon as their little legs will allow them


English this year is so much harder TT____TT bye bye English award </3 i’ll miss you

Tomorrow, we find out who the head students are and I’m so nervous and worried that I can barely function tbh
I’ve put off preparing for the timed essay in English and Physics electromagnetism common test to control my feels but it just doesn’t feel right to not try my best in preparation.
Lucky me- I get to do Level 2 English in the afternoon of Thursday 13th November after the Level 3 Bio exam QAQ we even have to be supervised in the break to prevent cheating oh dear lord
ok i’m gonna go try and sleep
i’m so nervous i could puke and I’ve cleared my weekends and bought lots of preparation in anticipation of a weekend of moping and eating my feelings
I didn’t realise how badly I wanted head student until I actually got shortlisted
But then, who wants to give up on a dream and goal they’ve worked towards since year 9?

Advertisements

Love: do we need it or not?

A comparative poetic essay: “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes & “A Case of Murder” by Vernon Scannell

Is love a good thing or a bad thing? Without love people become depressed and insane, but with strong feelings of love, people become reckless and hot-blooded. In ‘The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes’, a theme which is present is “Love is an uncontrollable emotion”. The poet uses techniques such as symbolism and metaphor to portray this idea. In the poem ‘A Case Of Murder by Vernon Scannell’, an important idea is “The lack of love in a person’s life can lead to violence and bad consequences”. The poet uses techniques such as metaphor and repetition to get this idea across.

In ‘The Highwayman’, the clever use of metaphor shows that love is limitless and can blind you to your surroundings. In the first stanza, the setting does a lot to hint at the romance that follows with the sentences ” The wind was a torrent of darkness upon the gusty trees” “The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.” The wind creates a rhythm for the poem. The sentences “Nearer he came – nearer, nearer” and ” He clattered and clashed” gives the feeling of a strong wind while a sentence like “Dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable wicket creaked” makes it feel like the wind has calmed down. The rhythm of the wind reflects the highwayman’s love for Bess and shows us love is never calm. By describing the night sky, the poet hints that love is never-ending, just like the sky. As the sky is also compared to a sea, it also show that the love they have is deep. The ocean is symbolic of a vast, uncontrollable force that is both a place for adventure and a place of danger. Just as people drown in the sea, Bess and the highwayman are in danger of ‘drowning’ in their deep love for each other. Bess and the highwayman know it is dangerous for them to meet, yet they still do. Love blinds them to the danger they are in. When someone is so focused on love, they cannot think of anything else. Love can cause people to become reckless and not give themselves a second thought. No matter what happens, their loved ones will come first. This love is like a mother’s unconditional love for her children. She will do anything and sacrifice anything to protect them from harm.

The use of connotation in ‘The Highwayman’ portrays the theme that love is the ultimate sacrifice. In this poem, the colour red is used to describe many things. His “claret velvet coat”, Bess’s “dark red love-knot”, the Redcoats and Bess’s body “drenched in her own red blood” all symbolize either passion and romance or sacrifice and hurt. As this poem is passionate and dangerous at the same time, the colour red is perfect for the mood of the poem. In the first stanza, the poet writes “ The road was a ribbon of monlight looping the purple moor” The road is described as a ribbon because it shows that no matter how far apart they may be, they will still continue to love each other. The ribbon ties the lovers together and connects their strong feelings. The unravelling of a ribbon can symbolize the “unravelling” of your life because of an event. The love that Bess harbours for the highwayman is so strong that she gives her own life to save his later on in the poem.. Humans will do anything to protect their loved ones from danger. In the recent Japanese nuclear disaster, many selfless workers are risking their lives for their country. They know of the danger they are in, yet they continue to work. How many of us would sacrifice ourselves for the ones we love?

In ‘A Case Of Murder’ , the poet cleverly portrays the theme that neglect and the absence of love can deeply impact a child with the technique repetition. The first four lines of the poem hint that something bad is going to happen as the boy is left alone. The word ‘alone’ is repeated four times in the first five lines. The repetition of the word emphasizes the fact that the boy does not interact with anyone very much. The repetition also seems like an echo, highlighting the boy’s loneliness. This ‘echo’ shows how truly lonesome the boy is and how his life is empty and without meaning. In the lines “He watched it sit”, “…. and the way it sat” and “He sat and watched …” the word sit is repeated. As stated in line three, the boy is nine years old and at an age where he should be playing outside with his friends. Instead he is sitting with an animal that prefers not to move from its spot. The lack of fun and action shows that his parents don’t care about him enough to find ways to entertain him. The lack of care impacts the child so much he becomes emotionally distraught. Children who have parents that neglect them become lonely and often worried. Neglected children sometimes become mentally unstable and this can lead to suicide. No child should be unloved. Parents must do their best to show affection to their children and create a safe and peaceful environment where they can grow up happily.

Scannell uses characterization to show the theme that people do to others what has been done to them. In line 18 of the poem, the poet writes: “So he took Daddy’s stick and thrust it in”. The child is young – only nine. He should not be having any violent outbursts for no good reason. The fact that he associates the stick with violence tells the reader that the boy has seen it being used in a bad way. As it is “Daddy’s stick”, the reader knows that the boy’s father has used it. This implies that his father is a violent man who could have been hurting him or someone else. All the pent-up negative feelings then lead to the boy’s troubled psychological state. His father’s anger has bred more anger and the boy in turn feels angry. The poet then describes the scene of the cat’s death. He writes “slammed fast the door”. The cat is then described in a gruesome way, giving the impression that the boy really wanted to hurt something. The child has learnt to hurt others because he has been hurt. When a child comes from a violent background, children sometimes develop violent tendencies, as this is what they are exposed to at home. Later on in life, this anger will cause trouble for them. If the parents have showed their children that hurting others is alright, then the child will adopt their way of thinking. Instead, parents should set a good example for their children so that the kids can learn to be gentle and positive.

In the poems ‘A Case Of Murder’ and ‘The Highwayman’, an important theme for the poems is love. The poets use literary techniques to help the reader understand the theme. Because love is abstract, connotation is used so the reader can make associations for themselves and interpret the poem int heir own way. The use of characterization tells us a bit more about the characters in the story so the reader can create an image of the character in their mind. Figurative language is used in these poems to compare things so the reader will know what is happening and what the objects being compared should look like. Metaphors are used in poetry because of the way it can create rhythm and because it can enhance the poem with comparisons to the world we live in. Repetition is very useful in emphasizing points and helping the reader to gain a better understanding of the poem. When used well, these techniques can create a beautiful and meaningful poem that has a deep message. These two poems are good examples that love is not an easy road but without the presence of love, humans would not be humans.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
First actual post 😀 Sunshine and Rainbows ~
Excitement aside, this was an essay I wrote last year, when I was 13. This was the first time I wrote a ‘proper’ essay which incorporated poetry techniques and essay structuring. Also, this was the very first essay I wrote in Pakuranga College. ~_____~ Back in Intermediate, none of my teachers decided to teach how to write an essay == So much of preparing us for College. Sorry about the spelling – I don’t have Microsoft Word or any other Spell-checking software ^^;

I got a 6+ for this 😀 Quite proud of it ^^ Hope you like it too