Is Life Like a Box of Chocolates?

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."Life is like a box of chocolates..." At first glance the quote "life is like a box of chocolates seems" rather silly. How could such a large and complicated concept such as life be compared to something as small and simple as a box of chocolates? There have been two opposing viewpoints in regards to the meaning of this quote, and each viewpoint comes about by a different analysis of what life and chocolates represent as well as what they mean in today's world.

The conclusion to the question can only come about through a thorough examination of the quote itself along with its possible entailments to see what both groups of people deem important and what they choose to ignore.

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Both arguments seem to work well to counter the other and show the flaws in the other explanation's theory.

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.According to the World Book Encyclopedia, life is "a state, existence, or principle of existence conceived as belonging to the soul.

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" Most people, when questioned about life would not have a very clear or concise answer because life is not something that is wholly tangible. In general life is considered to be everything that happens to a person from the moment they are born to the moment they die. All of their interactions with the world and all of their thoughts and actions. There does not seem to be any plan or order to these events, just everything that happens. Everything. Life is a long process with good, bad and indifferent points.

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.According to the World Book Encyclopedia, a box is "a container, usually with four stiff sides, a bottom, and a lid to pack or put things in," and chocolate is "a substance made by roasting and grinding cacao seeds." A box of chocolates would logically be a container which holds cacao products. A scientific dissection of a box of chocolates would show a box (usually rectangular or heart shaped) filled with anywhere from one to dozens of small, individually wrapped chocolates. Usually the type of chocolate and the filling of each individual varies inside a given package. In America however, a box of chocolates means much more then this simple addition of definitions and a direct visual analysis would lead one to believe.

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.A box of chocolates, in our referent system, is a symbol. It generally symbolizes love, and through metonymy, has been made to mean love. When a gift of a box of chocolates is given on Valentine's Day, it more than symbolizes love, it actually means love. The meanings have become blurred over the years as chocolate has become a standard gift. It is not an original thought to give someone chocolate, but more a means of showing love. Not an act of love, but merely an expression of love. The first group of people generally finish the simile "life is like a box of chocolates" with the conclusion "you never know what you're gonna get." This group views all the meanings of life and of the box of chocolates and found the best compilation to be that both in life, and in chocolates, there is randomness and a lack of order. When a person walks out of the front door of his house on a Monday morning, there is no way for him to know if he is going to find a hundred dollar bill tucked under his doormat, or a large meteor that has fallen and crushed his car. It's hard to know if a day is going to be a good day or a bad day, you just know that it will be a day. The same holds true for eating a box of chocolates. When you open a box of chocolates, there are rows of non-differentiated chocolates.

They all look the same, and yet you know some are filled with cream, some with caramel and some with coconut. When you pick one up, much like when the man opens his front door, there is no way of knowing if you will get a good chocolate (cream) or a bad chocolate (coconut), you just know you'll get a chocolate. For both examples it will not be easy to tell if it was good or bad until the chocolate, or the day, has been completed. You never know what will happen. The second group of people generally finish the simile "life is like a box of chocolates" with the conclusion "a thoughtless perfunctory gift that nobody really wants." This group takes up an opposing analysis and says that the important part of chocolates is not the randomness of them within the package, but instead the symbol that people don't really think in life, but instead just perform as they are expected to.

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.Since chocolates have come to mean love, people no longer do creative things to express their love. They simple buy chocolates. Once the chocolates are delivered, then what. People don't actually want the chocolates, they want the love. Since the chocolates have assumed the meaning of love, the chocolates themselves go to waste. Who wants to eat their love? Instead of being eaten immediately, as chocolates are truly intended to be, they are showed to friends and relatives, and eventually put on a shelf or in a cabinet. They will get eaten if someone shows desire, but it's not important. Under this interpretation, life is pointless and merely for show. People don't do things because it is what they feel that they should, people do things because they are expected to (just as the lover is expected to give chocolate). It is better to put up an lofty facade, then to be true and honest to the people around you.

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.

Works Cited

  1. Forrest Gump. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, performances by Tom Hanks, Gary Sinise, Robin Wright, and Sally Field, Paramount Pictures, 1994.
Updated: May 30, 2022
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Is Life Like a Box of Chocolates?. (2019, Dec 06). Retrieved from

Is Life Like a Box of Chocolates? essay
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