What does Gran Torino suggest about the idea of 'belonging'?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When Walt is hit with a major epiphany about his own life, his relationship with the Hmong people, and his own family, it reflects his understanding of belonging and how the theme is important in the film.  The Hmong priest has offered to do " a reading" for Walt and diagnoses his life as one where there is realities of sin, penance, and the loss felt at being emotionally estranged.  Walt begins to cough up blood and runs to the bathroom, washes his face, and stares in the mirror:

Jesus!  I have more in common with these gouks than I do with my own damn family!

It is an instant where Walt begins to understand that the belonging he felt with his wife, and the lack of it following her death, are realities with which he must wrestle.  His desire to become closer to Sue and Thao is motivated by a need to belong to something in the absence of his wife.  Not much is known about Walt's life with his wife, but it is evident that there was a feeling of belonging evident.  This is something that drives Walt to befriend Thao and Sue, helping them and their family.  It is this desire to belong that motivates him to challenge the gang in front of others and sacrifice his life for them.  Belonging becomes central to the ideas of the film, suggesting that blood and family lines do not define belonging, but rather can be forged with people of common interests and defined by mutual and shared trust.  In this, the idea of belonging plays a large role in Eastwood's film.