Forrest Gump: Comparing the book and its movie adaptation

I could never quite get myself to watch ‘Forrest Gump’ but when I did; I had to write about it.

Once, I was on YouTube and saw this episode featuring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep on Ellen’s show where Tom Hanks enacts the famous line ‘Life is a box of chocolates’. The next thing I knew I was watching ‘Forrest Gump’.

Certainly, Forrest Gump is strange; strange in a way that ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ and ‘The Great Gatsby’ are. Such stories cannot be ‘The Help’ which is like a telltale of a real-life situation. Forrest Gump is unusual, a bit slow at times but absorbing.

Forrest Gump is about this boy, born with cognitive disability but lives an extraordinary life. He is able to get an education, enroll for sports and excel in every aspect of life. Though there is a certain doom, landing Forrest in disastrous situations on account of his marginal intelligence. Forrest’s personal life is tied with world events – that of the Vietnam War, protests against the war back home in America, a chance meeting with Lennon and so on.

Once the movie was over, I was keen on reading the book. (Yes, I believe – books and movies happen to you as and when they decide so my TBR always goes for a toss.)

The moment you open the book, you realize Mama never said ‘Life is a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get’. Rather, Forrest begins by saying, “LET ME SAY THIS: BEIN A IDIOT IS NO BOX OF CHOCOLATES”. The book was published in 1986 and the movie came out in 1994, and I think the movie was written on the premise that cognitive capabilities cannot be picturized with negativity. The hero of the movie suffering from whatever condition has to be the ‘hero’, he needs to bring happiness, laughter, and the feeling of final victory.  

In the book, you see Forrest grow in front of you; he is narrating his story to you. It is an incredible story that even a local newspaper guy refuses to believe. The movie begins with Forrest Gump recounting his life’s tales to strangers waiting for their bus at a bus stop. And, he begins his story as a young kid with braces on his legs, the physical disability in addition to his low IQ.

Forrest Gump is described as 6’6’’ tall and weighing 240 pounds in the book but then Tom Hanks made the character his own. As Hollywood stepped in to make movie on this book, it is said that the book sales skyrocketed. Yes, a brilliantly written and conceived book needed the movie to get the readers to reach ‘Forrest Gump’.

Forrest Gump is mentioned as an ‘idiot’ without giving us the specifics on his actual cognitive abilities but surely, he is autistic as inferred from the writing. In my head, I have succumbed to spell ask as ‘axe’ just like Forrest.

People laugh, lose patience, treat you shabby. Now they says folks sposed to be kind to the afflicted, but let me tell you – it ain’t always that way. 

There are many things that you would dislike about the movie once you have read the book. First, you realize why ‘Bubba’ is so overtly caricatured in celluloid…because the makers wanted to merge Bubba with Big Sam and Sue, the Orangutan. The portions set in Vietnam are kind of eccentric. But the book never tried to be funny or eccentric. Forrest genuinely faces trouble in the war-torn highlands of Vietnam. It is a personalized account of the experience in a distant foreign land with strong emotions and told with great honesty. You cannot question Forrest Gump’s state as an overt depiction in the narrative.

Second, Jenny isn’t the character built by Winston Groom. It is as if the writers of the movie wanted to justify Jenny’s rebellious attitude towards life, she couldn’t just take off to be a singer in a music band or be part of protests on free will. So, childhood abuse had to be added to her character.

It is adorable to see Forrest and Jenny ‘Like Carrots and Peas’ in the movie. There are umpteen Google searches asking if the book also describes them the same. Sadly, no. Jenny and Forrest have a very different relationship, a more longer and equal relationship. And, Forrest isn’t an idiot when it comes to sexuality in the book. His relationship with Jenny is one of the key parameters where the author wants to convey that more than mental faculties, sometimes life is how it is destined to be.  

Hmm…I really wish the section where Forrest Gump lands amidst the natives in the forlorn New Guinea could have been part of the movie. I enjoyed reading this section so much, but then the makers would have needed to add Big Sam playing chess with Forrest in the settlement with native cannibals. Plus the later part of Forrest playing in an international chess championship. From the moment Forrest is picked up by NASA for being an incredible mathematical genius and sent to space, it is like reading fantasy. It actually made me be on my toes to prepare myself to stumble upon a sentence reading then Forrest woke up in the mental asylum but refused to leave his delusions behind.

From Ping Pong and saving Chairman Mao to running with the famous actress Raquel Welch (wearing nothing but a banana leaf to cover herself) and becoming rich over shrimp business, it is unbelievable how Winston Groom could think of all this! Even letting this Forrest try hands at wrestling and playing harmonica. Intermittently, meeting the Presidents of America, brushing them on the wrong side every time and yet as Mama said, “Don’t worry, Forrest – everthin gonna be okay.”

Do watch the movie and read this book! And, write to me what you thought about it.

4 thoughts on “Forrest Gump: Comparing the book and its movie adaptation

  1. Pingback: Forrest Gump by Winston Groom: A Letter to the Book Cover #A2Z Challenge – Bookishloom

  2. Pingback: Leap Year Book Tag – Bookishloom

  3. I’m a big fan of Forrest Gump, the movie. I like its sentimental nature, and of course, the characters are all likable. It’s a movie without a villain. Just a larger than life story about a very innocent character. I’ve never read the book, but I did read its sequel, Gump & Co. I did not like literary Forrest at all. He seemed cynical and bitter. He continues to alter history by fighting in the Gulf War and inventing New Coke. It may not be anything like the first book, but it made me steer clear of reading it ever since. So thanks for breaking it down here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thankyou for visiting my blog. I have not read Gump & Co…but after reading Forrest Gump, I am looking forward to the sequel. I guess the sequel always waters down the effect of the first book and going by your comment, it seems so. Hence not attaching high hopes with it. Hopefully, you will like Forrest Gump in his first book!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s