Forrest Gump as American history - the hidden meaning you haven't thought of

Forrest Gump is probably one of our most famous and favorite movies. I suspect he is one of the leaders of the answer to the question "What is your favorite movie" and is certainly in the top ten movies that you need to see in your life.

Many phrases from this movie have become catchphrases, such as "Run, Forrest, run" or "Life is like a box of chocolates", and Forrest Gump is a household name.

But, revisiting this "parable of the fool" once again, have you thought about the symbolism of this work? Have you looked into the hidden meaning and tried to decipher what one or another event means?

Let's do that now.
Myths and legends of the USA
First of all, "Forrest Gump" is not just a feature film, it is a myth about America with allegorical characters. After all, in the rich history of our world, all ancient civilizations have their own myths, legends, bylinas, if you will. But America, as a younger, though now so majestic power, does not.

So it creates its own myths in recent history, right here and now, through movies. For example, the Marvel and DC universes are definitely true heroic epics. And Forrest Gump is a nation-building myth, where each character reflects one of the country's key characteristics.
The plot itself is based on the fact that Forrest, a slightly "shallow" kid, sits at a bus stop and tells his life story to everyone who gets a seat. He tells it in a very entertaining way, definitely having a gift for storytelling. And his story reflects all the significant events of America, in which he, by a ridiculous coincidence, takes part. There is even a "rewriting of collective memory" as Forrest finds himself embedded in actual documentary footage with Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Lennon.

His listeners are constantly changing, thus forming a kind of framing device, a recurring element that places the story in a kind of "frame." There are different readings of this plot device, some even believe that Forrest is an unreliable narrator and is actually crazy and made it all up. His life is so exciting that it seems so to us, too, exactly until Forrest jumps up and runs to meet Ginny, who suddenly goes from story to reality.

So let's take the premise that Forrest Gump's story is still true in this movie's universe (and we have every movie has its own universe, you remember, right?), and break down what trait of America is symbolized by which character.

Forrest Gump is the spirit of America

A simple-minded but unbending guy. That's why in his fate we see all the important events for the country. His ancestors were in the Kukluks Klan, Forrest was born in the rich 50s, as a young man he entered the 60s with their conflicts, took part in the Vietnam War, saw the rise and fall of hippie culture, helped build relations with Communist China, met three presidents, became an entrepreneur working on his boat and got fabulously rich overnight, invested in Apple in time and witnessed the death of his beloved from HIV in the 80s. Forrest is the author of The Beatles' "Imagine" lyrics, Elvis Prestley's moves and the slogan "Shit happens". Of course, all of this is for a reason.
In spite of all of his such an eventful fate, Forrest does not have the traits of a Native American per se - not that great dream, the entrepreneurial spirit, and the entrepreneurial spirit. He's like that, an accidental hero, an accidental hero who focuses on one task and succeeds at it.

Example: escape and save Bubba, but along the way save all the rest of his coworkers. Forrest is a good guy who takes on the whole world in a very comical and simple-minded way and achieves great results without even knowing it. Not for nothing "gump" from English translates as a fool. That's how Ivanushka the Fool turns out to be.
And at the same time, Forrest's fate is a perpetual longing for something beautiful. He is a very realized and confident guy, despite all his peculiarity, but the main dream - to be together with his beloved Ginny - constantly eludes him. He is always interested in life and doing what he does, but in the background he always has this sadness slipping in, this dream of building a family with his first and only love.
Well Forrest's son, Forrest Gump Jr. is America's hope for its bright future. He is very intelligent and empathic, and in the last scene of the movie he sets out to learn and expand his goizons, thus ending the story on a positive note.

Jenny is a trauma of the nation

Jenny is a reflection of all the traumatic events that the United States went through in its formative years. First the abusive relationship with her father and the sexual abuse she went through throughout her childhood, then the equally abusive relationship with men, the vagrancy with hippies, the drug use, and eventually her death from AIDS.
And you can clearly see that she would love to live a happy life, but she just can't because of the traumas she went through, her crippled psyche doesn't give her that opportunity.

Jenny is constantly running somewhere, but unlike Forrest, who runs just for himself, just for the sake of running, she is running and there is no way she can stop.
Jenny is a broken bird, and birds are her symbol. Even though she hates being a damsel in distress (archetype - Damsel in Distress), she still ends up being one.
Jenny's death can be seen as a kind of end of the 60s and 70s era with its hippie movement and loose morals. Just as Sharon Tate's death ended the era of Golden Hollywood, so Jenny's passing marked the transition to a new era, more modern, more successful in healing her birth traumas.

Forrest's mom is all about love for her family and faith in God

Именно благодаря маме, ее всеобъемлющей любви и настрою, что Форрест ничуть не хуже всех остальных мальчиков, главный герой чувствует себя комфортно в любой ситуации и в любом месте, куда бы он ни попал.

Она проповедует мысль, что все равны, и делится с сыном множеством мудрых фраз, что он потом будет повторять всю свою жизнь.

Thanks to his mom, Forrest realizes that the important thing is to be shallow, not to do stupid things, and always tries to do the decent thing.

It's an interesting parallel - both Mom and Jenny look beautiful on their deathbeds.

Bubba is the entrepreneurial spirit

An American who dreams of starting his own business and succeeding. That is why he is colored - so he symbolizes also that group of Americans who have long been oppressed and could not take advantage of all the opportunities that the modern world offers. He wants to live his best life.

So Bubba's death is also, in a way, the lost potential of the country. The heights it could have reached had it not gotten involved in the Vietnam War.

Well, Lieutenant Dan is the country's military tradition.

All his relatives were officers, so he went to war too and became a real death seeker.

There is a very interesting moment when we are shown all of Lt. Dan's relatives, who die the same way in all the wars that the country has ever fought. This technique is called Death Montage - montage of scenes of killing someone, or several characters, or one person over and over again.

At one point we see Lt. Dan seemingly wanting to commit suicide and jumping off the boat, but in fact he apparently just decided to go for a swim, as he then appears in a few more scenes.

"If you work on a boat, I'll be an astronaut" jokes Lt. Dan to Forrest, and at the end shows up at his wedding to Jeannie with new legs made from a material used to build rockets.
"Forrest Gump" is an epic movie on one hand, as it goes from the 50's through all the events in US history. On the other hand, it is a movie around the Vietnam War, as many events were dictated by it.

But at the same time, this movie is completely non-political - neither Forrest nor any of the other characters express themselves. In the only politicized moment, we don't even hear Forrest talk about the war.
Words and repetition are of great importance here. We see very often the technique of narration echo - one person says something, and then Forrest repeats it.
Forrest: [narrating] When I got home, I had no idea, but Mama'd had all sorts of visitors.
Mrs. Gump: We've had all sorts of visitors.
This technique is tightly integrated into modern culture, for example, it is used in the second season of the series "Euphoria" in 2022.
There is also a technique of historical repeats - many scenes mirror each other - old people watching TV and Forrest running through them, the death of Mama and Jenny, Bubba's mother with the servants and the shrimp, the scene on the bus where no one invites Forrest to sit with them except Bubba and Jenny.
Another symbol in the movie is the beard. It is used as a symbol of sadness. Remember when Forrest lost Jenny and was running, he became a very bearded man.

But the main symbol is, of course, running. Running as a habit of going forward no matter what. The running of Forrest, who does it simply for the process, simply because Journey is the Destination, and that no reporters can understand. Jenny's running from herself and realizing that you can't run from yourself.
The main image of the movie is Forrest running with breaking stilts.
Moral: We all have a rough start, but we all get through it and move on in different ways.
Of course, the end of the movie can't be called a happy ending, but it's definitely a bittersweet ending: although Jenny is dead, Forrest, the audience and the nation now have all their hope in their son. And a perfectly beautiful, iconic use of Bookends with a feather - where the narrative begins and ends.
"Forrest Gump" is a great movie that you can re-watch over and over again and find new nuances and symbols in it. It is very different from its book version, and is probably one of the most rewatched movies in the world. There is a reason why this story has so many nominations and awards. After all, it's movies like this, deep films with many subtexts, that leave an indelible mark on the soul.