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Forrest Gump - Winston Groom

Jim Colyer

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Forrest Gump introduces himself. He is an idiot with an IQ of 70. He is from Mobile, Alabama. He is named after Nathan Bedford Forrest, the Civil War General. Forrest recounts being put in a school for retards. Jenny Curran is the only girl who will not run from him. He and Jenny go on an ill-fated date. Forrest is eventually recruited for football because of his size. He gets into the University of Alabama on a football scholarship. His and Jenny's paths cross again in college. Forrest's friend, Bubba, gives him a harmonica, and Forrest becomes a virtuoso. He plays in Jenny's band. It is explaind that idiots have pockets of brilliance. But Forrest flunks out of school and gets drafted. He goes to Fort Benning, Georgia and on to Vietnam. This is the late 1960s. Forrest survives a gook attack and meets up with Bubba, who is also in Vietnam. Nothing is said in the book about Bubba being black. Forrest learns that Jenny quit school and is protesting the war. Forrest and Bubba agree to go into the srimp business after they get out of the Army. Bubba is killed in combat. Forrest is shot in the ass and spends time in an Army hospital. He plays ping-pong. He is awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor. Lyndon Johnson pins it on him at the White House. Forrest admits the war is "a bunch of shit." He is then chosen to play against the Chinese as a member of the U.S. Ping-Pong Team. While in China, he happens to save Chairman Mao from drowning. Forrest and Jenny hook up. She is in a heavy rock band in Cambridge. They have sex. It becomes a regular thing. Forrest's odyssey takes him to NASA and into space. The narrative is nearly out of control at this point. Indeed, Forrest confesses to seeing life as a chain of events with no underlying purpose.


Winston Groom's novel is satire. It is meant to be funny while conveying basic truths. Forrest Gump's speech is colloquial, country slang. After all, he is a simple man. The book is written in the first person as Forrest tells his story. There is nothing in the book about life being like a box of chocolates. There is no Elvis and no Dick Cavett interview with John Lennon. The movie added them. Groom was born in 1943. He is a consumate baby boomer like Forrest.


The spacecraft Forrest shares with a lady astronaut, lands in the jungle. They are taken captive by cannibals and forced to plant cotton. Forrest is rescued although the lady astronaut chooses to remain with her jigaboo lover. Groom's language becomes bolder as his novel progresses. Forrest returns to the White House for an encounter with a paranoid Richard Nixon. He finds Jenny working for a tire company in Indianapolis. From there, he becomes a pro wrestler. He wrestles under the name, "The Dunce." Jenny is turned off by it and eventually leaves again. Jenny and Forrest are forever moving in and out of each other's lives. Forrest finds himself in Hollywood doing a remake of The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Naturally, he is the creature. Raquel Welch is his co-star. When Forrest carries her in his arms butt naked, we sense that Groom is giving vent to his own fantasy. Forrest and Raquel make it to a dress shop on Rodeo Drive. She tries to buy a dress but has no money and no identification. The police come. Raquel tells Forrest he will never work in this town again. He returns to Alabama, dreaming of his mother, Jenny and the srimp business. He starts his srimp business and turns it into a multi-million dollar corporation. He hires many of the characters he has come across in the book. Even Raquel Welch does TV ads. But Forrest is haunted by the fact that Jenny has married. He leaves his business to go to Savannah. No surprise that he runs into Jenny. It is a poignant revelation when he learns that he is the father of her young son. In the movie, Jenny dies with AIDS. That does not happen in the book. They merely go separate ways.

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