Forrest Gump is one of those movies that needs no introduction. Ever since it was released in 1994, the movie became an instant classic which is now deeply ingrained in popular culture. Proof: Over 25 years later, we still hear people doing the “life is like a box of chocolates” line with a bad Alabama accent.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis, Forrest Gump is based on the 1986 novel of the same name by Winston Groom. However, the movie differs greatly from the book as key details were reshaped and powerful symbols were infused to turn the story into a massive allegory.
As its name stipulates, Forrest Gump revolves around the life of a slow-witted yet kind-hearted man from Alabama who goes on to accomplish great things. In fact, he ends up taking part in most major events in American history between the 1950s and the 1980s.
That’s a lot of accomplishments for one person. That’s because Forrest Gump represents more than a single person. He represents a force, a spirit that characterized America, defined its people, and fueled its history.
There’s also another force that defined American history. And it is represented by Jenny, Forrest’s lifelong friend who ultimately becomes his wife. Through their tumultuous relationship, the movie compares the history of the United States to a feather that is transported by contrary winds.
Is it all random? Or is there an ultimate destiny? Here’s a look at the profound symbolic meaning of the movie’s characters.
Run Forrest, Run
Forrest is a God-fearing country boy from the South. He represents the heart and soul of America. Despite his low IQ, he’s been inculcated with strong moral values from a young age. This fact is illustrated in the first scenes of the movie.
As Forrest tries on his braces, the doctor says to his mother:
“His legs are strong, Mrs. Gump, as strong as I’ve ever seen. But his back’s as crooked as a politician. But we’re going to straighten him right up now, aren’t we, Forrest?”
While the braces did straighten out Forrest’s back, they also symbolize the moral rectitude he’s been imparted with since childhood – a trait that will define his entire life. This rectitude is mostly the result of his mother’s love, care, and knack for teaching Forrest important values in words he could understand.
Passed down from generation to generation, Forrest’s large ancestral home represents “wholesome America”.