Forrest Gump is a 1994 drama film based on the 1986 novel of the same name by Winston Groom and the name of the title character of both. The film was a huge commercial success, earning US$677 million worldwide during its theatrical run (the top grossing film in North America released that year). The film garnered a total of 13 Academy Award nominations, of which it won six, including Best Picture, Best Visual Effects, Best Director (Robert Zemeckis), and Best Actor (Tom Hanks).

The film tells the story of a man with an IQ of 75 and his epic journey through life, meeting historical figures, influencing popular culture and experiencing first-hand historic events while largely unaware of their significance, due to his lower than average intelligence.


  • Feather, Fate, and Freewill

The issue raised by the feather and how events in the story reflect it is one of the more compelling aspects of the story of Forrest Gump.

At the outset and conclusion of the story, we see a feather drifting in space above and around Forrest. At the start of the film, it drifts randomly, and then lands at Forrest's feet. It almost seems to have consciously landed next to him. (It can also be argued the other way -- that it "accidentally" lands there; that it was mere coincidence, indicating pure randomness and chance.)

At one point in the story when asked in essence if we have free will, he says that it is a little bit of fate, i.e. there is both a bit predetermined destiny and a bit of free will. The feather aimlessly drifting shows the freedom of life to be anything; the fact that it lands at his feet shows a purposefulness. We see in the course of Gump’s life that he somehow participates in so many of the famous events of the time and meets with so many of the famous people. His life is too extraordinary. It is as if it were intended that way.

And yet we could say that he has free choice to do so because after all he makes the decisions to take particular actions. It can be counter-argued that he was a dim wit and was willing to do anything, and so went as the wind blowed. But that too could be countered that he has such an open nature, that he was open to such things. I.e. he had a less mental, intuitive capacity to move in the right direction. In sum, the way the feather drifts indicates a randomness (indicating free will, choice, that anything is possible) as well as an intended fate (determination, destiny).

At the end of the film we see the feather drift away, as if to say that Forrest has fulfilled his essential destiny in life, and now the feather is moving on to something else; perhaps someone else. Now that he has completed his super normal journey through life and a stable existence through his son, the feather moves on.

In the end, just like the monoliths in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the feather can be interpreted many ways. The Indian sage and seer said that we have free will within the determination of the Divine intent. In other words, there is a divine purpose in life, though we have a choice to collaborate with it or not. We can choose to become conscious or not. Everything we do is our choice. Still behind is a Spiritual Intent. The higher the consciousness, the more we see this connection. In the lower consciousness we strand somewhere between destiny and fate, though we are not sure where. The philosophers of the world have grappled with this issue since time immemorial, but alas cannot come up with any definite conclusion.

Sri Aurobindo begins to resolve this profoundest of issues for us. He says that there is infinite variation in creation, which in essence gives us free will. Yet he also says that there is a purposefulness behind, indicating an Intent of an Original, Higher Power. There is thus free will within the determination of the Divine.

  • Forrest's Nature that Breeds Success

Forrest lacks intelligence but he has two other great endowments – a native goodness and an indomitable will. The lack of intelligence does not interfere by telling him what is impossible. You can take it as absence of mind rather than absence of intelligence. In the absence of mind the power of the physical (to run fast) and the emotions (to feel intensely) find full play. Life responds to their intensity. Opportunities come to Forrest because of his native goodness and self-giving.

  • Physical, Vital, Mental, Spiritual

-At the physical level Forrest accomplishes in a way that borders on the infinite. There are few emotional and vital impediments in Forrest that prevent him from accomplishing here. All is made possible. At the vital level of life-relation to others it is similar, although at the vital level of his emotions, he does not succeed in winning over Jenny. There is little there at the mental level, except perhaps an intuitive sense of saying or doing the right thing at times. He does after all have a very positive outlook on life. He also has a spiritual-like belief in things, as well as a certain faith in a Higher Power.

Without impediments of developed mentality and sophisticated emotion, Forrest just acts, and does so successfully. His underlying personality while simple, is positive, intuitive, and unfettered by the negative.

-He thus has a power over life that borders on the mystical and transcendent.

-He also does not react negatively to difficult circumstance. He accepts them as is for the most part (except perhaps the death of Bubba, and certainly with Jenny.)

-His relationship with Jenny serves to open him up at the emotional level, where he is not developed. We see this growth in the way he interacts with young Forrest.

  • Life is a Box of Chocolates ...

Several times in the movie Forrest or his Mother exclaim that "life is a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get."

A box of chocolates is all positive – we may like some more than others but there are no stones inside. That is a positive mental attitude that expects and looks only for good in life and other people and finds it as a constant surprise. That is Forrest’s mentality or world view. (GJ)

  • A Baby Boomer Fantasy

-Can a person live such as life as Forrest's, or is this all within the realm of fantasy?

-The story is a summary of the entire baby boomers' experiences and aspirations.

-Why did this film touch such a nerve with that generation?

-What are the positive and negative qualities of the baby boomers as seen through the film, and outside it?

--There is something of higher fantasy in the positive expectations of the flower children of 1960s which was creative and self-fulfilling especially when the negative side was absent as it was in Forrest. Forrest shows there is a truth in it. (GJ)

  • Other Points

-How we can develop the same capacity as Forrest, and yet do it a more conscious way; and do it within the context of our higher intelligence?

--Roy 15:58, 7 December 2007 (UTC)

External links

Download Forrest Gump