Symbolism In The Film 'Forrest Gump'

Released in 1994, Forrest Gump is a classic movie seen by millions over the years. Forrest Gump is based on the 1986 novel by Winston Groom. The story follows Forrest Gump, as a child. He is claimed to have an IQ of 75 and claims that he is an ‘idiot’. The movie follows his life and many interesting journeys while living with minor disabilities and a child-like thinking. As the movie progresses, Forrest follows a sequence of events and adventures that define who he is.

He becomes a football player while he studies at the University of Alabama. He is drafted into the Army and goes to Vietnam where he gets the National Medal of Honor and meets several presidents. Throughout the story, he follows his lover Jenny and in the end of the movie they have a child and the movie ends with Forrest Jr. getting on a bus for his first day of school.

  1. General Nathan Bedford Forrest – Racism- The act of prejudice against someone of a different race Forrest claims he was named after General Nathan Bedford Forrest who helped found the KKK (Klu Klux Klan).

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    Which is a racist group against blacks.

  2.  Forrest’s Mother – Maternalism – Having motherly characteristics Forrest’s mother says life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get. She also says, ‘sometimes we do things that don’t make any sense’. Forrest says his mother always had a way of explaining things so he could understand them. She possesses Maternalistic behaviors that help Forrest define himself and ideals throughout the film.

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  3. The two men sitting on the bench – Avoider – To act like nothing is happening or keeping a blind eye on a situation. The two men on the bench see Forrest’s leg get stuck in the rain vent but just stare at him and his mother. His mother says, ‘What are y’all staring at? Haven’t you ever seen a little boy with braces on his legs before?’ This is an example of avoider because the two men could have offered help or just not stared at Forrest.
  4. Forrest’s Family/House – Immigrant – Act of living in one country that isn’t your home country. Forrest’s family house has been in their family ever since his family immigrated over to the United States over a ‘thousand years ago’ according to Forrest.
  5. Forrest’s Principal – Social Norms – Acceptable and promoted basic knowledge of a culture Forrest’s Principal claims that he has an IQ of 75 and shows a chart which shows his theoretical IQ is much lower than other students in his grade. IQ is a socially defined grading system. His mother even claims, ‘What is normal anyway?’ Forrest doesn’t follow social norms as a child but it doesn’t slow him down.
  6. Three boys on Bikes – Discrimination – Act of rejection or hate against one’s culture The three boys on the bikes throw rocks at Forrest and call him a dummy and retarded. As Forrest tries to run away, the boys chase him on their bikes until Forrest is able to run away. The boys are bullying and discriminating against Forrest because of his disabilities.
  7. Greenbow Alabama – Ascribed Status – A status you are born with or your parents already possess Forrest was born into a white family and a predominately white community in Alabama. All his neighbors and schoolmates are white. This gives Forrest the opportunity to go to college to play Football after the coaches notice his running skills. He was born into an ascribed status that gave him more opportunities than if he wasn’t.
  8. University of Alabama – Jim Crow Laws – Laws that enforced racial segregation until 1965 The University of Alabama was a racially segregated school consisting of only whites until they started the process of desegregation when admitting two black students to the school. The Jim Crow Laws were banned in 1965 allowing segregation and it is shown in this example.
  9. Forrest in College – Ethnophaulism – A racial slur created to offend another race or culture When Forrest learned about the two black students admitted to his college, one of his fellow students uses racial slurs such as ‘coons’ or ‘niggers’. The student used Ethnophaulic terms to describe black students.
  10. Jenny – Deviance – Departing from social norms or the usual cultural behaviors Jenny got kicked out of college for taking nude photos in her school uniform and takes to performing nude at a gentleman’s club. She is being deviant from social norms of finishing college and becoming a singer like she had hoped. She is becoming famous as she wanted to, but in a pornographic way.
  11. Forrest and Bubba – Multiculturism – Presence of multiple cultures in a society Forrest and Bubba meet in the Army and when they become friends, they reveal their own different cultures. The military typically is like a melting pot of cultures because you meet people of all different cultures which allows for people to have multiculturism.
  12. Lieutenant Dan’s Lineage – Cultural Pluralism – Act of maintaining your own culture within a larger culture For Lieutenant Dan, the movie explains that he comes from a long line of military families. One of each of his family members served and died in every American war. He is maintaining cultural pluralism by serving in Vietnam continuing his family’s military traditions.
  13. Vietnam – Culture Shock – When someone experiences and new culture and is unfamiliar with the culture When Forrest and Bubba get to Vietnam, they experience culture shock. This is because the military culture in Vietnam is completely different than what he experienced in the United States.
  14. Southern United States – Dominant Group – A group with power and privileges over others The southern United States during the Vietnam war was predominantly white. This was portrayed by most of the people in the film being white. The dominant group during this time in America was whites.
  15. Vietnam Refugees – Refugees – Someone forced to leave their country for political reasons Many political refugees came to America because of the Vietnam War. The film portrays what Vietnam was like during the war and shows why many people would have left their country to become a refugee.
  16. Forrest’s Childhood – Upward Mobility – Rising from to a higher social class or economic position. Throughout Forrest’s childhood and teenage years, he emerges from a disabled child into a college graduate and military medal of honor recipient. He emerges through fate and doesn’t let anything get in his way. As Forrest gets older, he experiences upward mobility with his actions and way of life.
  17. Forrest – Naïve Offender – Someone who mistakenly makes an error in an aspect of diversity Forrest is often seen as a Naïve Offender because he of his child-like mindset that is different from the social norm. One example is when he mistakenly offends a black man when Jenny takes Forrest to their protest group house.
  18. Military – Amalgamation – Result of combining or uniting as one group The military is portrayed as an amalgamation during the film. Many different races are shown in the film in the Military and this is the result of young men joining the military from all over the United States. They all bring different cultural beliefs but their main goal is to win the Vietnam war in this film.
  19. Black Panther Group – Change Agent – Act of a group or person focused on changing something for the better In the film, the Black Panther group that Jenny is a part of is a change agent against the killing and unfair treatment of blacks in the Vietnam war. They stand to protest any war where black soldiers are sent to fight.
  20. Forrest – Machismo – The sense of being manly or masculine Forrest displays Machismo throughout the movie whenever Jenny is being hurt or hit by a male. Forrest feels like he has to intervene because he believes women shouldn’t be hurt or hit.
  21. Vietnam War – Selective Perspective – Selecting what you want to perceive without acknowledging the other side The Vietnam War had a very selective perspective when it came to what the government showed the media. The war was anything but what they showed it to be. The film greatly shows what the war was actually like when Forrest was in the war.
  22. Forrest’s Education – Stereotyping – An over-generalized belief about one’s culture or ethics The film shows a very stereotypical education path for many white males along with joining the military. The film shows this as just Forrest’s journey through life but it is the reality for millions of Americans every year. In my opinion, it is a very stereotypical path for white males.
  23. Forrest’s Interviews – Scapegoat – Someone who is blamed for wrongdoings or mistakes There are many examples in the movie where Forrest is a scapegoat. One example is when Forrest is giving a speech about Vietnam in front of thousands of people. He doesn’t realize it at that moment, but he is a scapegoat for the war. Another example is when he is sent to play ping-pong in China.
  24. Vietnam War – Xenophobia – A prejudice against people from other countries The Viet Cong is a term used to distinguish Vietnamese communists. This term is very xenophobic toward the Vietnamese. It was difficult for Americans to distinguish between Viet Cong and normal Vietnamese citizens which brought up many war crimes against the United States.
  25. America – Ethnocentrism – Belief that your own culture is superior to others Ethnocentrism is displayed many times throughout the film. One example is the protests where the man is wearing an American Flag shirt. Another example is Bubba trying to explain that the shrimping business is the best around. He believed the best thing in life was shrimping before he died.

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Symbolism In The Film 'Forrest Gump'. (2020, Oct 23). Retrieved from

Symbolism In The Film 'Forrest Gump'

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