Walt Kowalski is the films main protagonist. He is a grumpy, though-minded and an unhappy old man, who still lives in a Detroit neighborhood, despite the changes the city has gone through. Walt can’t get along with his family and his neighbours. At the end of the film, Walt is a different man, he has changed his mindset and got along with his neighbours. Most importantly, Walt left behind his past and was at peace at the films end. The films major theme is therefore redemption.
Walt Kowalski can be seen as a conservative man, he is old fashioned, though-minded and lives in the past. His son, his family members and even he himself describe him as old-school. He has conservative values and takes respect for granted, therefore we can see him being disgusted by his granddaughters behaviour and disrespect. Walt sees the modern youth as rotten and disrespectful.
Walts precious possession, the 1972 Gran Torino, and how he maintains it, can reflect on Walts values and worldview. He doesn’t use the Gran Torino very much, but still keeps it in mint condition. The way Walt maintains his Gran Torino can reflect on his values and worldview. The Gran Torino is quite old, but he maintains it, just like he maintains his old fashioned values. Walt maintains the past, he likes to keep the past.
This can also be seen as how Walt still lives at the Detroit neighborhood. After Detroit’s downfall everyone moved out, but he stayed. He stayed, because he takes great pride in the past, in the golden age of the rust belt. Walt does not only maintain his Gran Torino in mint condition, but also his house and lawn. Compared to the other houses in the neighbourhood, his house is the only one which is kept in perfect condition. This again reflects on Walts conservative values.
At the end, Walt settles with his past. He leaves it behind after he fulfils his quest of redemption.