Plot Analysis #1: A Forrest of Emotions

Forrest Gump

Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Released: July 1994

Life is like a box of chocolates

December 22nd, 2016 17:03 IST

Forrest Gump is by far one of the most touching movies I have watched to date. It’s a beautiful story of how a man achieves greatness by just being himself. It provides many insights into life. It teaches one that false pretence doesn’t take one as far as one’s own personality does. One must never be afraid of who one really is and should be proud of being unique.


THEMES AND STORY

The story revolves around a simpleton by the name of Forrest Gump. He begins narrating his story to people while waiting for a bus. In his childhood, he and his mother lived in a big house in the southern state of Alabama. Forrest frequently befriended travellers who would come to stay for a short while in their mansion. He didn’t have any friends except a girl his age. Forrest needed to wear braces in his legs as he had a “crooked” back. He had a low IQ which became a bit of a hurdle for his admission in school. He was considered to be “stupid” by everyone except his only and best friend Jenny Curran and his mother. None of this stopped him from being who he really was. He never had to put up any false pretence or succumb to peer-pressure.

The movie shows that everyone faces various hardships frequently in life. People get so busy trying to please others that they lose themselves on their way to becoming something unique. This is shown in the Jenny’s character arc. She was frequently abused by her father and for many years into adulthood, she loses her way and develops an addiction to drugs. She eventually does pull herself up and leads a normal life but this happens only in the end.

Now back to Forrest: as a disabled child wearing braces, Forrest was picked on by almost everyone in his school. Once while returning home along with Jenny, local bullies started throwing rocks at him. Soon they were chasing him on their bicycles. This is where Jenny says the famous “Run Forrest! Run!”. Forrest believed in her and in himself and tried to start running with some difficulty. As he ran, his braces broke apart and he became free of them. He was able to run like the wind and even evade the bullies. This is one of the best scenes of the movie. It teaches us that one can achieve anything if one believes in oneself. Forrest narrates “From that day on, if I was going somewhere, I was running!”. All it took him was to believe in his own self. He says “I ran to get where I was going, I never thought it’d take me anywhere”. He eventually found himself as a recruit on the rugby team while running to escape bullies trying to run him over with a pick-up truck. The recruitment got him placed into college. He would do just as he was told. His teammates asked him to run, he’d run. He would not stop running until he was well inside the pavilion. He joined the army and was sent to Vietnam to serve in the war. Once during training, one of his tasks was to assemble a gun. He completed the drill in record time. When asked why by the Drill Sergeant, he simply replied “You told me to, Drill Sergeant.”

This is where he befriended Benjamin Buford Blue, or Bubba. Bubba came from a family who were in the shrimp business from generations. He and Gump made a pact that after they retired from service in the army, they’d start their own shrimp company and get rich catching and selling shrimp. Unfortunately, Bubba died in the same ambush that cost Gump’s super-ordinate in the army, Lt. Dan Taylor, his legs. While trying to save his platoon, Gump got shot in the buttocks. He was awarded a Medal of Honour by the President for the heroic act. While in recovery, Forrest learnt how to play Ping-Pong. He was told only one thing before he tried it out “Now the secret to the game is, no matter what happens, never, never take your eye off the ball”. He did just that, and eventually he got so good at it that he got invited by the President to the Oval Office. He acquired a large amount of money after advertising a brand of Ping-Pong racquets. Gump remembered the pact he made and after completing his service in the army, he told Lt. Taylor about it during one of his visits. The lieutenant ridiculed Gump and told him that if he ever bought a shrimp boat and became a shrimp boat captain, he’d join him as Gump’s first mate. Gump eventually invested his advertising earnings in buying a shrimp boat, gas, ropes and new nets to fulfil Bubba’s dream. He routinely gave a part of the earnings to Bubba’s family. After a few days, Lt. Taylor, to keep his word, joined Gump as his first mate and together, they laid the foundation for the famous Bubba-Gump Shrimp Corporation. For quite a while, they only picked up junk drifting around in the ocean. Hurricane Carmen hit and destroyed all the other shrimp boats. Yet against all odds, they pulled through and struck gold. Overnight, their business exploded. This teaches us that when the going gets tough, the tough gets going.

Some time later, Forrest received news that his mother was sick and on her death-bed. He hurried home. His mother simply said that she was dying. She seemed to greet death with great disregard and nonchalance. She welcomed it warmly rather than fearfully. She told him that her time had come and that death was a part of everyone’s life and destiny. This teaches us that an end is inevitable and fearing death does not grant immortality.

Lt. Taylor took care of the shrimp business and made some wise business decisions. The duo ended up as millionaires. He still gave a share of his earnings to Bubba’s family and they end up richer than they could ever have imagined. A million’s sum in the bank still doesn’t seem to affect Forrest’s outlook on life and his demeanour in general. He still remains the same down to earth simpleton he always was. He donated most of his earnings to charity. This shows us that humility exists only when one is humane and not consumed by greed. As for the Lieutenant himself, he pulls himself together and gets some order in his lifestyle. The drinking stops and he is able to stand on his feet, literally as he gets prosthetics made of a high-grade. He finally makes his peace with god. This teaches us that we mustn’t lose hope even when we feel we have lost everything else.

Throughout the story, Gump and Jenny had been meeting on and off in between. She had been going through a substance abuse problem. She was even on the verge of suicide once, but in a moment of realisation, decided not to take the leap. This is when she realised that her life was completely messed up. She went out to Forrest’s place to take a break. But again she left, making Gump feel alone and empty. He started running. He started running because he wanted to. He ran continuously for around 3 years, stopping only for rest in between. He says “They just couldn’t believe that somebody would do all that running for no particular reason”. This shows us that we are our own master and when we want to do something, rhyme or reason shouldn’t stop us; we must do what we feel is right.

Jenny winded up as a waitress in a restaurant in Savannah and one day out of the blue, she sent Forrest a letter inviting him over. It is at a bus stop on the way to her house that Gump completes his narration. He goes on and meets her and their son, little Forrest. Jenny and Forrest finally get married and live together in Gump’s home at Alabama. After a while, Jenny passes away due to an unknown viral cause (presumably HIV AIDS). Forrest talks to Jenny through her grave and tells her how life’s going without her. He tells her that he’s teaching little Forrest how to play Ping-Pong and fishing. He breaks down while talking about how smart their son is, how much he misses her and how much he wants her to be by his side. The movie ends with Forrest Jr. climbing the bus and going to school just like Forrest Gump did all those years ago.

The movie also deals with some prevalent social evils of the day like white supremacy, insensitivity towards the differently abled and misogyny. It shows that the path of life is long and arduous and that it is company of others that make it better.

A recurring motif is seen at the beginning and end of the movie. It is in the form of a feather drifting in the wind. The feather’s drifting denotes how disorderly life really is. We can’t really control its flow. It goes the way the wind takes it. Sometimes there are ups and sometimes there are downs.


FINAL THOUGHTS AND OPINIONS

As I said before, this is one of my all-time favourites and I always feel I get a newer perspective to life each time I watch it. Tom Hanks has rendered the role in the best possible way and the movie is perfect just the way it is. The locations where the movie has been filmed are realistic yet picturesque. Overall, the movie has neatly interwoven suffering and loss along with triumph and glory.

As Forrest’s mama would say, “Life is a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

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