Narrative analysis of "Forrest Gump"

Analyse\tolkning av filmen "Forrest Gump" fra 1994.

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“Forrest Gump” is a drama with comical aspects. It was directed by Robert Zemeckis and released in 1994. It is about a man facing the challenges in his life. The story spans from 1951-1984 (which the historical references prove), and takes place in different locations of America, and Vietnam.


The story is mostly narrated retrospectively, but in the end it is goes chronologically. It is told from a third-person view, but Forrest narrates the story and his thoughts are revealed. The movie starts out in a comical and happy tone, but goes on to be sad further into the movie. Most of the characters have an Alabama accent.


The main characters in the movie are Forrest Gump and Jenny Curran. The story mainly follows Forrest, but it would be right to call Jenny the female protagonist. Forrest’s mother: Mrs. Gump, Lieutenant Dan and Bubba are the more peripheral characters.


Forrest Gump isn’t the smartest guy on earth. He is on the slow side when it comes to understanding academic things and figuring things out, and that is not very strange when he is on the borderline of mental retardation. He is a loving and kind person, who tries to protect those he cares about, especially Jenny, the main female character in the movie, who is a childhood friend. Forrest is quite fond of his mother, who had a big influence on him as a kid, and shows this by recollecting what she used to say to him, throughout the movie.


As a child, Jenny Curran was sexually abused by her father. One can assume that her bad childhood greatly influenced her life, as she later takes drugs, becomes a prostitute, and tries to commit suicide. Jenny lives her life, by gradually destroying it. However, later in the movie she becomes more stable; maybe because of her child or the fact that she is dying. Jenny doesn’t really return Forrest’s great affection for her, though she does care for him. She lets him down throughout the movie, by leaving him several times.


Lieutenant Dan Taylor is a proud man, before he gets his legs amputated after his part in the Vietnam War. Forrest saves him in the war, but Dan, who did not want to be saved, becomes bitter because of this. Later his liking towards Forrest increases.


Forrest’s life is in disarray and his biggest drawback is his mental retardation, with his IQ of 75, which is discovered when he is a kid. Forrest was also physically handicapped as a kid, with his crooked back. Because of his disabilities he was bullied at school. Forrest’s main conflict is with Jenny, who was his only friend during his childhood. He is in a perpetual conflict throughout the movie, as he doesn’t know whether to be in love with Jenny or be her friend. Death is another aspect of life Forrest learns to cope with, as everybody he cares for dies, one after the other. First Bubba dies, then his mother, and in the end: Jenny. However, Forrest accepts death as a part of life, and therefore this does not become a conflict. His problem with Jenny is resolved in the end, when she accepts him and marries him.


The movie begins with Forrest Gump sitting at a bus stop, and a feather falling down to his feet. Forrest picks up the feather and puts it inside a book. Then he starts telling the story of his life to a woman sitting next to him. An interesting part of the movie is that throughout, the people listening to Forrest’s story keep changing.


Forrest tells about his childhood, when he went to the doctor with his mother. Since he had a problem with straightening his back, he had to use special shoes to make it right. Forrest’s mother, Mrs. Gump, used to tell Forrest that he was no different than anybody else, but this was proved wrong when it was discovered that his IQ was 75, which was below normal.


As a child, Jenny Curran was Forrest’s only friend. Because of Forrest’s disabilities he was bullied by other boys. Once, being chased by bike riders, he discovered that he could run pretty fast (this saves his, and others’, lives many times). This same incident occurred again a couple of years later: Forrest, being chased by cars, ran like the wind and he continued through a football field, where a match was going on. A football coach, amazed by his speed, made him join the football team, and this was how Forrest got into college.


Forrest, always trying to protect Jenny, once, beats up her date, because he misunderstands the situation. This happens several times in the movie, and not necessarily because he doesn’t know what’s going on. After graduation, Forrest joins the U.S. Army, while Jenny is kicked out of school because of some pictures of her in the Playboy magazine.


While serving his duty in the U.S. Army, Forrest is sent to the war in Vietnam. Here he makes a good friend, Bubba, who knows everything there is to know about shrimps. Forrest and Bubba makes a deal, that they will start their own shrimp business one day. However, Bubba never makes it back to America alive, since their squad is ambushed, but many other people survives because of Forrest and his noble act in running through the forest and carrying people out. One of these is Forrest’s Lieutenant: Dan Taylor, who does not want to be saved, and gets his legs amputated later. Forrest gets the Medal of Honor for his deeds.


After some time, Forrest goes to Bayou La Batre, where Bubba’s family lives, and buys a shrimping boat, to start the “Bubba Gump Shrimp Company”. Lieutenant Dan joins him. After the hurricane, Carmen, their business becomes a big success, since their boat is the only one left. As a sign of kindness, Forrest sends money to Bubba’s family. Shortly after this, Forrest’s mother passes away, and Forrest goes back home.


After Mrs. Gump’s death, Forrest stays in the house, and is soon visited by Jenny. That night Forrest proposes to Jenny, but she turns him down. Later that night, they make love. The next morning, Jenny leaves Forrest…again. This is how Forrest begins his “three years-two months-fourteen days-and-sixteen hours-run” across America. People think he is doing this for some special reason and he becomes an inspiration for many, but Forrest just does this because he “felt like running”.


Now as Forrest is telling his story, an old woman is sitting next to him. Forrest tells her that he is here to visit Jenny and shows her a letter she has sent. The woman tells Forrest where the place is, and that he does not need to take the bus.


Forrest runs off to Jenny’s apartment, and discovers that he is the father of her son, who is not mentally retarded (unlike him). Jenny finally wants to marry Forrest and this they do, but not long after, Jenny dies, because of an unknown and deadly virus.


The movie ends with Forrest’s son, Forrest Jr., boarding the school bus on the first day of school. The feather from Forrest’s book falls out and soars through the sky.


The key theme in “Forrest Gump” is life and not to give up on it; it is about managing the obstacles on one’s path. Forrest faces all these challenges, but he pulls himself through them. It is like the phrase his mother told him: “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get”. Forrest handled things, as they came. Another theme is accepting yourself for who you are, and for what you do. The phrase: “Stupid is as stupid does” is important here. It means that you are as stupid as the things you do. Forrest Gump was not really stupid in this case. He was mentally dumb, but he didn’t do stupid things (maybe some, but who doesn’t?).


The movie also deals a lot with death, so accepting death as a part of life is another message.


Some symbolism is already mentioned, but the feather in the beginning and the end of the movie is important. It symbolizes destiny and luck. Forrest came across Jenny many times, after she left him. It was plain luck or/and destiny. Forrest says it himself: “I don't know if we each have a destiny, or if we're all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze, I think maybe it's both. Maybe both is happening at the same time.”- Forrest Gump


The acting in the movie was incredible. You can really see that Forrest Gump is “special”. What else can you expect from Tom Hanks? The camera angles varied: sometimes there were close-ups, other times you saw the character(s) from slightly above. The lighting was a bit different for the different periods; Forrest’s childhood, with Jenny, was sunny and bright, while the Vietnam War was dark and cloudy. The editing was fast-paced at certain times, e.g. when Forrest’s squad was ambushed in Vietnam, but dwelling at other scenes, e.g. in the school bus, when Forrest was talking with Jenny.


The music played describes the scenes and time-periods in the movie, e.g. when Jenny is about to jump off the balcony ledge, “Free bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd is played (also referring to the fact that she had wanted to become a bird when she was little).


Some noteworthy special effects are the scenes of the different presidents and Forrest together, especially them handshaking. Let’s not forget John Lennon and Governor Wallace.

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