JENNY: BEING ON THE DRIFT
Speaking in terms of ‘a box of chocolates’, the key metaphor of the movie, JENNY CURRAN inherited a diverse taking of life benefits and drawbacks to start her life with. At the age of only five, a girl found herself motherless ‘in a house that was as old as Alabama next to a limitless cornfield. Forrest’s misinterpretation of the eye of the problem did not free Jenny from the fact that her father had been a colorless drunk farmer with dishonored relations towards his daughters. A sickening fear of being at home and traumatic memories from a corrupted childhood would later trigger the girl to directionless nomadic life across the United States as far as possible from Greenbow, Alabama.
Well, she lived in a house that was as old as Alabama. Her Momma had gone up to heaven when she was five and her daddy was some kind of a farmer. He was a very lovin’ man. He was always kissing and touchin’ her and her sisters.
In face of every traumatic misfortune of Jenny’s family history, life awarded her with undeniable bright spots and silver lining in a cloud. Jenny had always been a good-looking girl since the early years and once she found herself to be a young lady, had all chances to earn a spot in the magazines. Her personal appearance had been desirable by school-college boys and later by men all over the country. As opposed to Forrest Gump, Jenny Curran was initially favored with intellectual endowments and feasibility of entering college despite her family misfortunes and modest life at her grandmother’s camper van. As opposed to every traumatic event in regard to her tyrant pervert father, Jenny had been a kind and sympathetic child. It was she who welcomed a strange, unearthly boy ‘with braces on his legs’ to sit together in a bus. This way, ever since school days Jenny was granted the privilege to have a devoted friend embodied in Forrest Gump, who had always stood firm for her, with a mind addicted to Jenny. In contrast to a variety of men in her journey through life, it was Forrest who never treated Jenny as an object.
I had never seen anything so beautiful in my life. She was like an angel. From that day on, we was always together. Jenny and me was like peas and carrots.
DEAR GOD, MAKE ME A BIRD SO I CAN FLY FAR, FAR, FAR AWAY FROM HERE. While still a child, Jenny had a burning physical need to abandon her native town, and a move to grandmother’s van was fated to become a stop number one in a merely endless journey through decades of life. In a well-known scene, the female protagonist Jenny pushes Forrest (Run, Forrest! Run!) to her worldview, that anyone can avoid problems by running away, which would affect her lifestyle for two decades to come. To run away from her home, her native town Greenbow, from school friends and Jenny’s best friend Forrest, later from graduating the university and a fair wage. Jenny takes a shot to find one’s place in this world by changing sexual partners, places of residence, activities, political groups, and even drugs. To be fair enough, she would see the world, yet this chase for another version of Jenny would not make her happy until the birth of her son.
Well, you’ll always be you, just another kind of you. You know? I
want to be famous. Jenny picks up a towel, then walks back toward Forrest.
Having a privilege of charming appearance, Jenny wasted her position in a college because of the immodest photographs in Playboy. For years since school days, she would be accompanied by men, who used to make use of her without respect and even used their fists on Jenny. She had a way more superior intellect than Forrest, yet it brought her neither advantage nor joy in life. Jenny goes on a tirade toward her best friend, that he could not protect her from life, yet it is Jenny, who besieges herself with misplaced people and endangers her own life by playing life close to the edge. The girl is severe upon Forrest because he ‘doesn’t know what love is’, yet she has no guts to get things in the open and say that she had always loved him. It would take Jenny another twenty years of pilgrimage and the birth of a son to give her heart to her child. In a number of the most vulnerable scenes, Jenny finds herself at the edge of committing suicide. WHY’RE YOU SO GOOD TO ME? YOU DON’T WANT TO MARRY ME. In fact, Jenny does not respect herself and tries to find an argument that Forrest could not love her as she is. For years to come, she would not find the inner strength to express her feelings toward Forrest.
Forrest, you stay away from me, okay? You just stay away from me, please.
As the story goes on, Jenny experiences her first tipping point, apparently following her last (on the screen at least) suicide attempt at the balcony. All while her unexpected advent on the doorsteps of Forrest’s home in the latter half of the movie is generally interpreted as an act of egoism and benefiting from Forrest’s naivete, the key female character in fact figures out a way to change herself. With all her hidden sympathy and love toward her best and only friend, for years Jenny regarded Forrest as a shallow and limited boy, who had no intellect to share her ambitious expectations of life. For nearly all her life, Jenny used to chase boys from Berkley, who in fact got her into trouble more often than not, manhandled her and made Jenny drug-addicted. The irony is that a ‘real man’ spent all his life since he was six cultivating thoughts about Kenny without a place for another woman. Nearly two decades after leaving Greenbow, the female protagonist made her way back to the place, she never meant to come back to. In the aftermath of all her misfortunes, Jenny finally made a stop to draw conclusions of the years behind and came to the understanding that she has no future as a music star. She works at a bistro bar to pay for a rented apartment, invests all her efforts into her son, and collects newspaper clippings on Forrest’s nationwide recognition with an open heart toward his ‘success’. As opposed to a general critical appraisal of her character, Jenny asks for no money from Forrest and even calms him with the assurance that he ‘DIDN’T DO ANYTHING WRONG’. Only for reasons of her deadly disease, Jenny requests Forrest’s involvement in the life of their son.
Hey, I kept, I kept a scrapbook of your, of your clippings and everything. There. Listen, Forrest. I don’t know how to say this. Um, I just… I want to apologize for anything that I ever did to you, ’cause I was messed up for a long time.
Forrest, I do love you.
LIEUTENANT DAN: ACCEPTING ONESELF
In the case of Lieutenant Dan Taylor, we indeed know next to nothing about his life before the Vietnam War except for the fact that ‘SOMEBODY IN HIS FAMILY HAD FOUGHT AND DIED IN EVERY SINGLE AMERICAN WAR’: American War of Independence, The Civil War, The First World War and the Second World war retrospectively. ‘A box of chocolates’ of life gave a young man with family heritage, good health, and handsome appearance, an inquiring mind, and abilities, which would make Dan Taylor a respected officer. In the years to come after the war and particularly as a business partner of Forrest Gump, he would prove himself to be a successful entrepreneur, an investor (‘INVESTED IN SOME KIND OF FRUIT COMPANY’). In the course of the warfighting halfway around the world, Dan Taylor proved himself as a made leader, who cared about the life and health of his soldiers from day number one of their service under his command.
I’m Lieutenant Dan Taylor. Welcome to Fourth Platoon. You stick with me, you learn from the guys who been in country awhile, you’ll be right.
Lieutenant’s words of despair upon Forrest in a well-known and cited scene on the floor of the hospital is conventionally misinterpreted as a grounding for the idea that Dan Taylor had made his mind to die on the battlefields of Vietnam. It is of low probability, that Lieutenant sought for an appropriate occasion to lose his life thus jeopardizing the lives of his soldiers, yet he had no fear toward death. In requesting a friendly fire on the current position, Lieutenant Dan had enough inner strength to sacrifice one’s life in order to eliminate the enemy life force to the extent of this local jungle fight. Apparently, the devoted officer Taylor had no doubts about the ‘validity’ of this strange war halfway across the world as well as toward the idea that there is a no bigger honor than dying for his country. In Vietnam, he had the authority to command a fighting squad and since retiring, Lieutenant Dan is unable to use the bathroom unassisted.
It would take years for Lieutenant Dan Taylor to express his gratitude to Forrest Gump for saving his life ‘RIGHT THERE BY THAT RIVER IN VIETNAM’. In the course of this period, he would experience utter despair, a social breakdown, a loss of respect for oneself and for others, grades of humiliation, and obsessive thought on the loss of a life purpose. By being a healthy young man, Dan Taylor used to live surrounded by an aura of the battle glory of one’s ancestors and a definite idea in what way he should direct his life. All those years prior to the loss of legs at war, he had always had a sense of one’s relevance in this world, certain predestination to be fulfilled. That kind of self-awareness used to bring order to the chaos of the modern world and particularly the dark pages of the bloody jungle war. Lieutenant Dan was entitled with the duties to protect the lives of those young men from the heartlands of the United States, to follow orders, and to annihilate the enemies. A severe injury in that fight damaged Taylor’s life way beyond the physical harm. Apparently, a disabled Lieutenant could continue his service by means of a desk job, But active service, and especially glorious death on the battlefield for his country, was no longer an option to choose.
Now, you listen to me. We all have a destiny. Nothing just happens, it’s all part of a plan. I should have died out there with my men! But now, I’m nothing but a goddamned cripple! A legless freak. Look! Look! Look at me! Do you see that? Do you know what it’s like not to be able to use your legs?
Having lost such a long-cultivated picture of the world, Lieutenant Dan Taylor was now deprived of not only his ability to use his legs but also his sense of a life purpose. All while Forrest Gump, with all his persistence, tenacity, and focus on the chosen direction, proves that we make our own destiny, Taylor feels himself cheated. With great probability, the very return to a civil life beyond army barracks never happened to be on Taylor’s life agenda and he had no other image of himself than a military man. Once has found himself on the sidelines of life (as it seems to him at the very least), Dan Taylor is devastatingly discouraged to the extent he chooses to go with the flow. He takes advantage of the disabled person’s allowance without even trying to apply for a job. Lieutenant Dan overdrinks, finds a momentary joy next to dubious women within hotel rooms and bars. The drama goes as far as the former handsome officer looks like a tramp and pathetic next to a well-tailored Forrest Gump at the back entrance of the TV studio. It’s like he can’t get any lower in this world.
Lieutenant Dan said he was living in a hotel. And because he didn’t have no legs, he spent most of his time exercising his arms.
All while getting started with the shrimp boat business seems the most obvious entering point for changes for Lieutenant Dan Taylor, apparently it was that very New Year night in the pub and a scene in a hotel, a promise had been given to Forrest: all this triggered a mechanism of transformations. It is highly likely that Lieutenant Dan had admired Forrest’s adventurousness and he later unconsciously craved to receive the news that his former soldier succeeded to become a captain of the shrimp boat. Anticipation of such developments was to give Taylor a sense of purpose. By having an intellect and a habit to be rude to Forrest, it was now Lieutenant Dan Taylor, who had found himself on the sidelines of life. Well before one’s courage to express gratitude to a friend for saving his own life, Taylor did appreciate a friendship with Gump. He sacrificed his minutes of joy with a woman to defend his friend’s regard. In this scene, a legless Lieutenant up to a certain moment silently observes the critique toward Gump as if the pronounced humiliation on ‘menergy’ regards himself and finally blows a fuse. It may well be that at that moment in time, everyone had reverted their eyes from Dan Taylor, and Gump’s ingenious integrity and his joy to get acquainted with the Lieutenant transforms Dan’s predominantly skeptical worldview.
Now hear this! Private Gump here is gonna be a shrimp boat captain. Well, I tell you what, Gilligan, the day that you are a shrimp boat captain, I will come and be your first mate.
Hey! Don’t call him stupid! You shut up! Don’t you ever call him stupid!
Down the road of life, Lieutenant Dan keeps one’s word and makes his way to the South to join Forrest Gump at his preneur of a shrimp boat. One would consider the whole business is downmarket and unambitious, yet Tayor lays oneself out in a way Forrest used to do. The former Lieutenant in some way leaves behind feeling sorry for himself and painful existential doubts in order to become the first mate even being legless. He gets another chance to obtain a purpose in his life: not only everyday hard labor but also a friendship with Forrest Gump, which makes all things easier for both of them. Lieutenant Dan no longer loses his heart on the occasion of some misfortunes: he now is focused on the process rather than on the end result. Dan Taylor finally finds the strength to express his gratitude to Forrest and even ‘MADE HIS PEACE WITH GOD’. This formerly discouraged and broken man starts to appreciate the little things of life: a fellowship of a friend, a swimming at the sunset, cooked shrimp dinner, and a great catch on the back of the day. At the end of the story, Lieutenant Dan Taylor is privileged to become a male in his family, who survived another war to live on. On the day of Forrest’s and Jenny’s marriage, we see Dan Taylor shaved and well-tailored with no more getting stuck on the loss of his legs, with a lady next to him and a successful business behind the scenes. His entire life has been transformed due to a friendship with Forrest Gump and the once again discovered faith in his own place in this world.
Forrest, I never thanked you for saving my life.
He never actually said so, but I think he made his peace with God.
FORREST GUMP: FOCUSING ON THE PROCESS
Coming back to the same metaphor with the ‘box of chocolates’, the initial selection of Forrest’s virtues happened to be inferior to even Jenny’s family drama, whose key tragedy had been cultivated by a tyrant father. Forrest was lucky enough to be raised by a loving mother, who had always lived for the sake of her son and used to give a spirited encouragement to Forrest. Apart from this, the boy was initially deprived of a father’s involvement of a man, whom Forrest apparently had not seen. His level of intelligence seems to be a denominative disadvantage in this world, a matter for everyone around him (except his mother, Jenny, Bubba, and maid) to pinpoint toward Forrest. In regard to a family doctor, Forrest’s back is ‘as crooked as a politician’, which one would think makes any sport impossible. His appearance and reserved character was always a matter of a joke both in Greenbow and the American army. While still a child, the boy had to bear humiliation on the part of his school peers, who quite literally chased Forrest first by bikes and later with a car. Back in the times of his first-ever ride on a school bus, none but Jenny let him take a seat. Years from that day, he would still feel discomfort by entering a bus to get to a training camp with Bubba to welcome Forrest.
Forrest’s wins and fortunes are conventionally attributed to a ‘destiny’ or ‘faith’ or simply to luck, which has supposedly accompanied him throughout his entire life being nothing but ‘a concourse of circumstances’ and ‘useful acquaintances’. In practice, it’s notably Forrest’s ‘narrow-mindedness’ which has always let him focus on one particular thing without doubts and misdirections. Whereas Jenny Curran actlessly dreams of being a star, Forrest literally lives in the direction, which he has previously chosen. He does running as a matter of his entire life: FROM THAT DAY ON, IF I WAS GOING SOMEWHERE, I WAS RUNNING! In practice he does something, which stands him out from the crowd in a volume which no one is ready to do: this finally gets him an appreciation of the football coaches. All while every other player in the team used running only as a means to do football (in a way, they were demanded to do it), Forrest does running for the simple reason he has a passion for running. Forrest in fact never complains in regard to his back issues and a verdict of the Greenbow doctor, as well as he overlaps the commentaries of those around. His football coach lost in admiration admits that Forrest may be stupid, yet ‘HE SURE IS FAST!’.
By being naturally void of acuity of mind, Forrest Gump devotes himself to a basic clearer doing of running, in fact differently demanding and fills shoes of the best. As the story goes on, his run across the United States would make Forrest a national celebrity in a way that no American had ever done such more running than he, notably for no particular reason. In this vein, the journalists’ appeal seems comic in a way that none of them gets a handle on why a man can run for merely three years without some long-run objective. Forrest joins the army and shows qualities of putting weapons together faster than anyone else before (THIS IS A NEW COMPANY RECORD), shining army boots and floor, and later qualities of being a good soldier in Vietnam. Forrest is not assailed with doubts regarding the ‘rightfulness’ of his choice, the viability of the war. In response to the Sergeant’s appeal regarding the ‘SOLE PURPOSE IN THIS ARMY’, Forrest gives a simple answer: To do whatever you tell me, Drill Sergeant! All while the thoughts of Bubba had always been forged in dreams of a shrimp boat business, Forrest was always focused on military service as it was. To this extent, the process itself had always been more important for Forrest than a particular direction.
Forrest’s advancement in ping-pong may be as well regarded as some born talent or just luck. In practice, back in his school days, Forrest never had good health and a spine to be a successful sportsman and definitely had no ambitions to become a ping-pong champion. His journey through the ping-pong world in fact originated from a simple hint: NOW THE SECRET TO THIS GAME IS, NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS, NEVER, NEVER TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE BALL. In actual terms, this quintessential phrase resembles Forrest’s ‘secret of success’ in any affair he chooses and the destiny of fate has nothing to do with it. Forrest Gump completely devotes himself to a particular process and matter. Though he never thinks much on own motivational background, Forrest appreciates a journey itself rather than the final destination. Jenny Curran has lived in a world of inflated expectations for years, deluding oneself with dreams of success, yet she has never put enough effort for the benefit of her dream. Forrest is not interested in his own recognizability and regards an acquaintance with another US president as something boring, focusing rather on free drinks. When it comes to money, he is never concerned on the matter of accumulated wealth: Forrest wholeheartedly shares his fortune with Bubba’s family, patronizes the building-up of a church and a hospital in Breenbow (we even do now see Forrest in the crowd of the attention recipients in this scene). Once earned national notoriety and millions of dollars, Forrest finds delight in an unpaid job of taking care on the lawn, thus reducing the general ‘consumer-society thinking’ to an absurd.
Godamnit, Gump! You’re a goddamned genius! That’s the most outstanding answer I’ve ever heard. You must have a godamned I.Q. of a hundred and sixty! You are godamned gifted, Private Gump!
MY MOMMA ALWAYS SAID. As the story goes on, Forrest pays his heartful regard towards ‘mother’s wisdom’ which always leads his way through life in a way an established truth does. He taught himself to give new grades of meaning to these voiced guidelines in response to events and his own experience. One would say that Forrest Gump has not taken a single important decision on his own, being pathologically influenced by his Mother, Jenny, army officers, Lieutenant Dan Taylor, Bubba, and others. If truth is said, the protagonist indeed puts undoubted trust into the words of his close entourage and has no habit to scrutinize their recommendations upon one’s life. He always keeps his word and overlooks the critics around him. Forrest’s lack of skill in interpreting metaphors in fact makes his life more ordered and simple: helps him to see the key matter. When Forrest invests his life into the shrimp boat business, he definitely throws his heart into the process. Emotionally charged scenes of losing the close ones: Bubba, then his Mother, and finally Jenny, hurts Forrest to the extent of despair, yet he understands the importance of life and people around him. He had no alternative of how he should name his ship: Jenny.
Bubba was my best good friend. And even I know that ain’t something you can find just around the corner.
Harkening back to the ‘box of chocolates’ metaphor, life collides us against obstacles and misfortunes and Forrest may serve as an example of incredible firmness and endurance in the face of failures and setbacks. A few of making a failure or being scrutinized is never on his mind and life agenda. It’s not about overconfidence or fate or a sinless creed: Forrest dedicatedly does what he has chosen. He is not frustrated by the garbage in his nets instead of the shrimps and just keeps doing. In contrast to the misfortunes, which devastated Jenny Curran, Forrest Gump admits that ‘SHIT HAPPENS, SOMETIME’. It is his ability to keep one’s ground and direction that is to be regarded as Forrest’s main choice in life. Even if these directions are being suggested by the others, Forrest keeps one’s character: AREN’T I GOING TO BE ME? It is love toward Jenny, which also makes Forrest himself in a way that all his conscious experience he spends no day without thinking about his girlfriend, notably when she’s gone. Keeping close to the ‘wisdoms’ of his beloved mother helps Forrest to live his truth as well as a promise, which he gave to Bubba. He always stands firm for his close ones and friends and has no doubts on the matter should he cover up for Jenny.
As opposed to a general belief, that Forrest used running only as a means to avoid difficulties or to do what he was meant to do, he used running as a means to come closer to the people in his life. He makes his way to find Bubba in the face of death on the battlefield in Vietnam; toward his sick mother and finally to Jenny when he understands that he needs no bus. One way or another, Forrest Gump succeeded in fulfilling the dreams of the others. He achieves one’s potential in a way his mother always wanted him to do and Forrest put efforts into being a good father, he himself never had. With no regard for success, he became a national celebrity and a millionaire as Jenny once dreamed on her own. Forrest is awarded honorable recognition due to his military service, probably a dream of Lieutenant Dan. He proves himself to be a good captain of a shrimp boat thus fulfilling Bubba’s ambitions. At the end of the story, Forrest invests all his heart into his son and they do everything together. Initially having not the best chocolates out of the box of life, Forrest Gump MAKES THE MOST WITH WHAT HE HAS AND WHERE HE IS.
I didn’t know it, but I was destined to be your momma. I did the best I could. You do your very best now, Forrest.
I sure will, Momma.