Early Life and Education
Forrest was born on June 6th, 1944, in Greenbow, Alabama. His birthdate coincided with Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Normandy in World War II. Because his father was absent during his life, reportedly "on vacation", he was raised by his mother, who named him after Civil War Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was also first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, and a supposed ancestor of Gump's. This was to remind Forrest that "sometimes we all do things that, well, just don't make no sense."
As a child, Forrest had strong legs, but a weak spine, which the family doctor claimed was "as crooked as a politician." Because of this, he was forced to wear leg braces which made walking and running difficult, and also discovered he had an sub-standard IQ, which the principal of the local school said excluded him from attending the school. (Forrest's mother made the man reconsider after they slept together.) Forrest's mother told him never to let anyone tell him he he was different, saying: "Stupid is as stupid does."
Because Forrest and his mother lived in a large house, they rented the rooms out to travellers to make money.One such guest was a young Elvis Presley, who used Forrest's peculiar dancing style to invent the "hip dancing" moves for the song "Hound Dog."
On the bus to school, Forrest met Jenny Curran, and was instantly attracted to her. He later said: "I had never seen anything so beautiful in my life." Forrest and Jenny spent much time together, usually near a large tree. Jenny accepted Forrest for who he was and taught him to read, as well as to stand up to bullies. However, Jenny had an unhappy home life; her mother had died when she was young, and her father molested her and her sisters, which led to Jenny being taken to live with her grandmother, and she would often stay at Forrest's house to escape.
One day, a trio of bullies were throwing fruit at Forrest and chasing him on their bikes. Jenny urged Forrest to just run away. As Forrest struggled to run, his leg braces broke apart. Once he was free of them, Forrest was able to run incredibly fast. Forrest never wore leg braces again, and was able to run everywhere after that.
Forrest remained close friends with Jenny throughout high school, and one day, when he was targeted by the same bullies, he ran across the high school's football field, disrupting the practice, but also running faster than the players on the team. This caught the attention of the head coach of Alabama Crimson Tide, Paul "Bear" Bryant, and Forrest received a football scholarship to the University of Alabama where his impressive speed helped the team to win several games. He was then admitted to the All-American football team, and got to meet President John F. Kennedy at the White House. In a ceremony in the Oval Office, Forrest was asked by the President how he felt (to be an All-American), and Forrest, who had drunk fifteen Dr Peppers, honestly replied, "I gotta pee."
Forrest also witnessed the desegregation of the University of Alabama, and was clearly visible in the background of the news footage of Governor George Wallace in front of the Foster Auditorium, denouncing the desegregation by "standing in the schoolhouse door." While other students jeered and booed the black students, Forrest, not entirely understanding what was happening, simply walked up to a black woman and handed her a book she dropped, saying simply "Ma'am? You dropped your book...ma'am?" before following her and the others into school.
Later, Forrest goes to Jenny's college campus in the pouring rain with chocolates to surprise her, and sees her making out with her boyfriend, Billy, in his car. Forrest, thinking he is hurting her, drags Jenny out of the car and punches Billy, who drives off. Despite being initially annoyed with him, Jenny invites Forrest into her room, where they have a brief sexual encounter.
Forrest graduates from college in 1967, and, at the ceremony, he is approached by an army recruiter, who asks him if he has given any thought to his future. Forrest joins the United States Army, and meets a young black man, Benjamin Buford Blue, also called "Bubba" on the bus, a fellow recruit from Bayou La Batre whose ambition is to buy a shrimping boat to continue his family history of cooking shrimp.
Forrest excels in army training, and breaks a company record by assembling his M14 rifle quickly, and his drill sergeant often singles him out as an exemplary soldier to other recruits, and tells him he could be a general one day. Meanwhile, Jenny had been expelled from school for wearing her school sweater to pose in Playboy and had found work singing in the nude at a strip club in Memphis, Tennessee. Forrest goes to visit her one night and beats up some patrons who were harassing her. Forrest tells Jenny that he loves her, but Jenny replies that he "doesn't know what love is." Jenny is angry, but later becomes concerned when Forrest tells her he was being deployed to Vietnam. Jenny tells him not to try being brave if he was ever in trouble and to run away instead.
Upon arrival in Vietnam, Forrest and Bubba are assigned to Company A, 2/47th Infantry, 3rd Brigade, 9th Infantry Division. They meet their platoon commander, Dan Taylor, whom Forrest calls "Lieutenant Dan." While on patrol, Bubba proposed that he and Forrest go into the shrimping business together after their time in the army was finished, and Forrest agreed.
After several months of uneventful patrols, the platoon is ambushed by the Viet Cong, and several soldiers are killed or wounded. After becoming isolated during the retreat, Forrest goes back into the jungle to look for Bubba, and ends up extracting the rest of the wounded soldiers to the riverbank before finding a wounded Bubba, who Forrest manages to carry to safety, but Bubba died once they reached the riverbank, his last words being: "I wanna go home." Forrest then finds Lieutenant Dan in the jungle, and carries him to safety as the US Air Force bomb the area with napalm. Forrest was shot in the buttocks, and recovered in an army hospital, next to Lieutenant Dan, who had lost both his legs in the ordeal.
Forrest later receives the Medal of Honor for his bravery in Vietnam, and is awarded it by President Lyndon B. Johnson, who asks where he was hit. Forrest tells him "in the buttocks, sir" Johnson remarks: "I'd like to see that." Despite the audience in the room, and the televised nature of the ceremony, Forrest drops his pants and shows the President the wound. Johnson smiles and walks away, saying: "God damn, son."
Shortly thereafter, Forrest went out sightseeing in Washington, D.C. and accidentally found himself among a group of veterans attending an anti-war rally led by Abbie Hoffman. While at the rally, he was reunited with Jenny, who had since become a hippie. Forrest disliked her new boyfriend Wesley, the president of the SDS at Berkeley, and beat him up after he saw him hit Jenny during an argument at a Black Panther Party gathering. Forrest and Jenny stayed up all night while Jenny told Forrest of her travels. Before they departed again in the morning, Forrest gave Jenny the Medal of Honor he earned in Vietnam.
After recovering in the army hospital, Forrest took up Ping-pong, and rather than returning to Vietnam, Forrest was assigned to the Special Services, entertaining wounded veterans with his ping-pong skills. He would later travel to the People's Republic of China during the Ping-Pong Diplomacy period. When he returned in 1971, he was a national hero, "famouser than even Captain Kangaroo " and was invited by Dick Cavett to appear on The Dick Cavett Show. John Lennon was also a guest on the show at the time and hearing Forrest talk about the Chinese having "no possessions" and "no religion too", inspired him to write the song "Imagine".
Soon after, Forrest was briefly reunited with Lieutenant Dan, now a bitter alcoholic who used a wheelchair and had lost his faith in God. Lieutenant Dan was also annoyed that Forrest, whom he declared as "an imbecile who embarrassed himself on television," was given the Medal of Honor. When Forrest told him of his and Bubba's plan to go into the shrimping business, Lieutenant Dan laughed and jokingly remarked that if Forrest was ever a shrimping boat captain, he would be his first mate.
Upon visiting President Richard Nixon, he was invited by the President to stay at the Watergate Hotel complex. Forrest was awakened by flashlights in the offices opposite his room. Believing the tenants to be having difficulty with a fusebox, he calls Frank Wills at the security office to notify the maintenance crew, inadvertently initiating the Watergate scandal, which leads to President Nixon's resignation in 1974. Shortly after this, Forrest was from honorably discharged from the Army with the rank of Sergeant and returned home to Alabama.
Shrimp Boat Captain
Upon his return, Forrest finds his Greenbow house filled with memorabilia capitalizing on his fame as a ping-pong player in China. At his mother's insistence, Forrest made $25,000 endorsing a brand of "Gump-Mao" ping-pong paddles, and used most of the money to travel to Bubba's hometown of Bayou La Batre and purchase a boat. When someone pointed out it was bad luck to have a boat without a name, Forrest named the boat after Jenny, which he calls, "The most beautiful name in the wide world." Unbeknownst to Forrest, Jenny had descended into a life of drugs and sexual promiscuity at this point and even contemplated suicide over her choices.
Sometime later, Forrest was visited by Lieutenant Dan, who as a man of his word, had come to be Forrest's first mate, just as he said he would do on New Year of 1972. For several weeks, the two had no luck catching shrimp. However, things changed when the area was hit by Hurricane Carmen. Forrest's boat was the only one left standing and they found themselves with a monopoly of shrimp. Under the name Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, they soon became very wealthy. Having faced his demons during the storm, Lieutenant Dan thanked Forrest for saving his life in Vietnam, and Forrest assumes that Dan (without actually saying so) made peace with God.
Home in Alabama
Forrest returned home to Greenbow in September 1975 when he learned his mother was dying of cancer. After her death, Forrest stayed at the house and leaves his shrimping industry in the hands of Lieutenant Dan and retired to mowing and cutting grass and lawns, as he apparently enjoys doing it. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Dan participated in a substantial investment into what Forrest says to be "some kind of fruit company." In reality, the company was the fledgling Apple Computers , and it is implied that their investment largely kick-started Apple's rise and success. Even though Lt. Dan said he was crazy, he gave Mrs. Blue Bubba's share of the money, to which she promptly faints since that was enough for them to never work again. With the money he got from the Apple Computers investment, Forrest spent them on renovating the church he frequents and establishing a medical center at Bubba's hometown.
Jenny returns to Greenbow and moves in with Forrest. The two spend time together and Forrest later describes it as "the happiest time of my life." One night, July 4, 1976, the night of the US National Bicentennial, Forrest asks Jenny to marry him, but she turns him down, saying "You don't want to marry me." Forrest replies with, "I'm not a smart man, but I know what love is." After this exchange, Jenny comes to Forrest's bedroom, tells him she loves him, and the two make love (have sex). Jenny hails a cab very early the next morning and leaves, unbeknownst to him before he wakes up.
Forrest's newfound loneliness leads him to take a run "for no particular reason." At first, he decides to run to the end of the road, then across town, then across the county, then all the way to the Mississippi border. Eventually, he traverses the country several times over a span of three years. Forrest attracts media coverage, and eventually, dozens of followers initiating and inspiring what would become the jogging craze of 1978–79. During the run, he inspires the phrase "Shit Happens" to a bumper-sticker salesman after stepping in a pile of dog shit. He also uses a yellow t-shirt provided to him by a designer to wipe off his face after being splattered by mud. In the process, he forms the iconic "Smiley face" logo and tells the man to "Have a nice day." One day, while running in the Western United States, Forrest decides he's tired and stops. He immediately turns around and walks back to Alabama. His followers are dumbfounded at his sudden decision. Meanwhile, Jenny has taken a job as a waitress in Savannah, Georgia, and sees news coverage of Forrest's run on television.
Back to the present (the "present" in the film being around 1981, as seen from a car and on a bus, and televised footage of Ronald Reagan's assassination attempt), Forrest tells his latest companion on the bench, an elderly woman, he'd recently received a letter from Jenny asking him to come see her. When told Forrest's destination, the old lady informs him that it is only a few blocks away. Thanking her, Forrest sets off on foot towards Jenny's home.
Forrest and Jenny are happy to see each other. However, before they can do much catching up, Forrest is introduced to Jenny's young son, a bright young boy whom she named Forrest after his father. Forrest at first thinks she met another man named Forrest, until she explains "You're his daddy, Forrest." Forrest's fearful inquiry as to Little Forrest's intelligence leads Jenny to quickly assert that he is completely normal. Forrest learns that Jenny is sick from an unknown virus (implied to be HIV or AIDS) which has no known cure. He invites her and Little Forrest to come home and stay with him. She asks him to marry her and he accepts.
Forrest and Jenny's wedding is a quiet, intimate ceremony attended only by a handful of family and friends. Among the attendees is Lieutenant Dan, who has titanium prosthetic legs, with his Vietnamese fiancée Susan. It is the only time Jenny and Dan meet. Forrest, Jenny and Little Forrest have a year together as a family before Jenny dies on Saturday March 22, 1982 (which was actually a Monday). Forrest has her buried under the tree where they played as children, then buys her childhood home (where her father had mistreated her) and has it bulldozed to the ground. Though he misses Jenny terribly, Forrest becomes a good father to Little Forrest.
Visiting Jenny's grave one day, he reflects on the idea of fate and destiny, wondering if Lieutenant Dan was right about people having their own destiny, or if his mother was right about description of life as floating around accidentally like on a breeze. Forrest eventually decides "maybe it's both, maybe both are happening at the same time." He leaves Jenny a letter from Little Forrest and tells her "If there's anything you need, I won't be far away."
Forrest is last seen outside his home, seeing Little Forrest off on his bus ride to school, telling his son he loves him.