Forrest Gump, directed by Robert Zemeckis, is a movie about the exceptional life of an ordinary man. Forrest Gump is simple-minded man who grows up in a small town in Alabama. At school all of his peers reject him except a troubled girl named Jenny who becomes his life long friend.
When kids bully Forrest, Jenny always tells him to run. Running not only saves Forrest, but is the reason he accomplishes so much in life. He gets a scholarship for football, is a Vietnam War hero who saves many lives, including his friend Lieutenant Dan, and even inspires people to join him while he jogs across America.
Toward the end, he finally gets to be with his true love Jenny and he finds out they have a son together. Soon after, Jenny dies and he is left to care for Forrest Jr. (Forrest Gump 1994). Forrest Gump, directed by Robert Zemeckis, portrays the theme of fate vs free will, through symbolism, dialogue, and actions of the characters throughout the movie.
A feather is a symbol that is shown at the beginning and end of the movie that helps convey the theme of fate vs free will. This white feather floats through the air with no direction or destination (Forrest Gump 1994). Many believe life is predetermined, while others believe life is just random events.
This feather floating around symbolizes destiny because it does not have a determined destination or purpose, it is just going wherever the wind takes it. Also, the feather showing up again at the end of the movie has significance because although it was just going wherever the wind took it, it still managed to end up at Forrest’s feet.
This feather is a lot like Forrest’s life.
He never really has a clear plan, but always seems to be at the right place at the right time. Though Forrest’s childlike demeanor makes it seem like he is floating through life, just like the feather, he gets to be apart of important events in history because he was just following wherever life took him.
The theme is also depicted throughout the movie through the dialogue of the characters. Forrest’s mother tells him the famous quote, ” Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get” (Forrest Gump 1994). This quote is a metaphor for how life is full of chances.
For every new day, there is a million different things that could occur. Forrest’s mother is telling him that no one knows what is going to happen or how life is going to turn out. With chocolate, one will not know what flavor it is until they bite into it. Just like with life, no one will know how life will turn out until they have lived it. Forrest’s mother also tells him, “Well, I happened to believe you make your own destiny.
You have to do the best with what God gave you” (Forrest Gump 1994). Though her analogy about life being like a box of chocolates relates to fate, this quote is relating to free will. She is saying one’s life is whatever they make it. Everyone has the power to write their own destiny.
Though Forrest has a low IQ and did not grow up in the best circumstances, he was able to live a life that was better than anyone expected. His mother’s wisdom contributes to the developing theme of fate vs free will throughout the movie.
Forrest and Lt. Dan’s actions throughout the movie give examples of destiny and chance. When Forrest joins the army, he is under the command of Lieutenant Dan, who is a scruffy man that believes it is his destiny to die in the war like his family members before him.
When the Vietnamese attack Forrest’s platoon, he immediately runs from the danger like Jenny always told him to do. Soon after he runs away, he realizes many of his friends are still left behind, so he runs back and saves many of them, including Lt. Dan. He begs to be left to die, so he can uphold his family tradition, but Forrest carries him to safety anyway (Forrest Gump 1994).
Although Dan believed it was his fate to die in the war, it was not. Lt. Dan was able to create a new destiny after he accepted it was not going to be what he had originally planned. He became Forrest’s first mate on a successful shrimping boat and found the love of his life.
Those are things he would have never experienced had Forrest left him behind. These actions symbolize free will because it shows that life is in one’s own hands because their actions determine the outcome. Forrest choosing to save Lieutenant Dan changed both of their lives and completely rewrote Dan’s “destiny” forever.
Though fate vs free will is something that has been argued about for years, Forrest never seems to take a side. Maybe everyone’s life is already written out, or maybe they have the decision to write their life themselves. Maybe it is a little bit of both. This classic movie provokes viewers to think about the deeper meaning. Robert Zemeckis uses these examples of symbolism, dialogue, and actions of the characters in Forrest Gump to help convey the message of fate vs free will throughout the movie.