Study Guide

Forrest Gump Summary

Forrest Gump Summary

We open with a shot of a feather blowing through the air and wafting gently down to land on Forrest Gump, who puts it in his suitcase while he sits on a bus-stop bench. A woman plops down beside him, and he offers her a chocolate. 

Turns out, you really shouldn't take candy from strangers because you might find yourself roped into listening to their life story. Forrest reminisces about his past and tells the woman the whole sad story of how he grew up with an IQ of 75 and braces on his legs but never minded because he had his momma and his friend Jenny to help him.

Yep, this is gonna be a long one.

Forrest's story takes us all the way back to college, which Forrest enters on a scholarship after he learns to run without his braces, and he turns out to be an amazing football player. He periodically visits Jenny at her own college, but Jenny is more interested in running off and pursuing her own hippie dreams than she is in being with Forrest and living in their hometown of Greenbow, Alabama.

Which, when you put it that way, seems legit.

After college, Forrest signs up for the Army and ships off to fight in the Vietnam War. There, he buddies up with a guy named Bubba who dreams of going into the shrimping business once the war is over. He and Forrest pinkie swear that they'll go into business together once the war is over. We've never known anyone to break a pinkie swear, so that sounds like a solid deal.

Unfortunately, Bubba dies during the war. But Forrest manages to save his commanding officer, Lieutenant Dan, who has lost his legs in a firefight. So, new friend.

While recovering in a veterans' hospital, Forrest tries ping pong for the first time and finds out—wait for it—that he's basically a ping-pong superstar. He tours as a ping-pong player to promote Army recruitment and even travels to Communist China to play their best players.

So, there's that.

Eventually, Forrest is discharged, travels back to America, and immediately runs into Jenny in Washington, D.C. He tries to save Jenny from an abusive boyfriend, but Jenny runs away from him again. 

Next, Forrest heads to New York City. He meets up there with a wheelchair-bound Lt. Dan, who hears about Forrest's plan to become a shrimp boat captain in memory of Bubba. Lt. Dan finds it so funny (uh, and sweet?) that he promises to be Forrest's first mate if it ever happens.

Naturally, Forrest then heads down to Louisiana to become the captain of a shrimping boat with Lt. Dan as his first mate. (It's Forrest, people. Don't act surprised.) It's a big failure until a hurricane destroys every shrimping boat along the Gulf Coast except theirs. Now, they're raking in shrimp and also millions of dollars.

While he's making all of his money, Forrest finds out that his momma is sick, so he heads back to his hometown of Greenbow to be with her until she dies of cancer. Forrest lives in her house for a while until Jenny shows up on his doorstep one day. Oh, and meanwhile, Forrest makes even more money after Lt. Dan makes a savvy investment in a little company called Apple Computer.

Forrest and Jenny live together for a while (and do a little living in sin while they're at it). Eventually, after Forrest proposes, she runs away again, and Forrest runs, too—back and forth across America, inadvertently inspiring the nation.

Until one day, he up and stops running—and heads home.

Back home after three years of running, Forrest gets a letter from Jenny asking him to visit her. This takes us right back to the present day, with Forrest sitting on the bus-stop bench waiting to get to Jenny's house. An old woman sitting next to Forrest tells him that Jenny's address is only a few blocks away, so—yep—he takes off running.

It turns out that Jenny is sick, probably with AIDS, and they have a son together—also named Forrest. Forrest wants to know if his son is like him (low IQ) or if he's smart, and Jenny tells him that their son is one of the smartest in his class. Jenny ends this scene by asking Forrest to marry her.

Jenny and Forrest head back to Greenbow to get married. Not long after, Jenny dies. Forrest buries her and lives on to raise their son, Forrest Jr. The movie ends with Forrest sending his son off on his first day of school and telling him that he loves him.

We hope you have a sweet tooth 'cause that's the (oh-so-saccharine) end.