What symbols are important to understand Thelma and Louise?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that one important symbol is the 1966 Thunderbird convertible that becomes their home, their getaway car, and the source of their liberation.  The idea of the car being symbolic of transportation and flight from an oppressive structure is something that is evident throughout the film.  At the same time, the fact that the car is the device that enables them to escape the police makes it a symbol of liberation, as well.  I think that another symbol is the use of guns.  It is a gun that the women bring with them, and one that stops Thelma from being raped.  It is also what teaches men a lesson, in the form of the trucker who disrespects them with his obscene gestures.  The open road becomes another symbol.  As with most of its symbolic uses, it helps to represent freedom and a sense of identity formation within the individual.  Both women change with their experiences on the road.  Thelma learns to escape from the oppressive structure of Darryl and what domesticity has dictated to her, while Louise learns to let go of the oppressive past of what happened to her in Texas.  In these symbols, the narrative of the women become clearer.

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