Groom, Winston - Forrest Gump as an Example of the Transformation from a Novel into a Movie

Facharbeit (Schule), 1998

11 Seiten, Note: 1


Table of Contents

1. Having seen the movie – Who is Forrest Gump?

2. ”Screenplay by: Eric Roth” – A first impression of the changes

3. The transformation of Forrest’s life and character
3.1 The life as a child
3.2 The football career – high school and college years
3.3 Military service and the Vietnam War
3.4 The shrimp business
3.5 The continuing relationship with Jenny Curran

4. The missing chapters and events of Forrest’s life

5. The transforma tion of the other characters
5.1 Mama Gump
5.2 Lieutenant Dan Taylor
5.3 Jenny Curran

6. Tom Hanks = Forrest Gump?

7. The role of special effects in the movie

8. Can the transformation be called appropriate or successful?

1. Having seen the movie – Who is Forrest Gump?

”Hello - My name is Forrest, Forrest Gump!”

Everyone who knows the movie Forrest Gump remembers this first sentence, the beginning of Forrest’s story. This sentence is an introduction as well as the foundation for a story that describes Forrest’s life in a very detailed way.

In the film Forrest is a narrow-minded, naive and completely innocent boy from the Deep South who lives in a very strange way through a decisive period of America’s immediate past. His participation in this period is so strange because he is actively making history without realising that; he only lives from day to day – and his most immediate goal is to finally reach his one and only love – Jenny. Therefore, his life can be described as ”accidental-like on a breeze”, and at the same time he has a ”destiny” as well – and in the end Forrest is smart enough to understand this paradox of his life.

Forrest Gump is basically a mirror of the sixties and seventies of our century. Through his eyes we can see our immediate past. ”We” includes the older audience – who lived through that period themselves – as well as the younger audience who can learn a lot about the era of their parents.

The movie touched the souls of many Americans who can identify certain parts of their own life (or the life of their parents) in that of Forrest, but those feelings were shared throughout the world by many nations as well.

But the movie itself is based on a novel written by Winston Groom. Here the author describes a different Forrest Gump – and yet the same. This other Forrest Gump had a different life, but the key elements are still the same in his modified ”counterpart”.

Therefore it will be my goal to find out by what means and how well Groom’s original novel Forrest Gump was transformed into the movie version Forrest Gump. There will be a detailed comparison between the two characterisations of Forrest Gump, a look at the ”minor” characters, different views on the ”visual conversion” and a final decision whether the transformation itself can be called appropriate or not.

2. ”Screenplay by: Eric Roth” – A first impression of the changes

Eric Roth, listed in the movie credits as screenplay writer (who was awarded the Oscar for ”best adapted screenplay” for Forrest Gump), rewrote quite a few of the novel’s qualities for dramatic and cinematic purposes.

He offers a very different view on the life of the main character compared to the original novel plot of Winston Groom. Certain character traits have been added or taken away, intelligence and smartness are not the same any more, Gump’s attitude and morals have changed, certain key events (e.g. the Vietnam War) occur differently and the course of Forrest’s life tends to be more spectacular than originally planned by Groom. And although the movie is 142 minutes long Roth naturally was not able to put all of Forrest’s experiences into the plot – he had to find certain priorities. This is one reason why many of the minor characters of the novel have been left out, but it does not completely explain why the remaining ones were converted the way it can be seen in the film.

The following list contains a few the most obvious and interesting changes of characters and events compared to the Winston Groom’s novel:

- Forrest is handicapped as a child
- He is more virtuous and more innocent
- He is a college graduate
- He goes to the army voluntarily instead of being drafted
- He cares more for his mother than in the novel
- He saves Lieutenant Dan’s life
- Jenny’s father is abusive
- He marries Jenny
- Jenny raises his child
- Jenny dies

This is only a small extract of all final changes, but it shows that screenplay writer Eric Roth seems to have used quite a few unnecessary means of adapting the novel’s action. They appear to have no purpose other than making the story itself differ from the novel – which implies that the transformation cannot be seen only under the aspect of adapting the action of the novel itself.

It will be one of my objectives to find out to what end those apparently superfluous transformations were made and what motives might be the real reasons for those changes.

3. The transformation of Forrest’s life and character

3.1 The life as a child

Winston Groom does not give many information about Forrest’s childhood. He is characterised as shy, reserved and quiet, and looking back on his years in ”nut-school” he is completely aware of his mental disability. Forrest shortly describes his first relation to Jenny and the physical changes of his body caused by puberty.

The movie however gives a wider, longer and slightly different view on young Forrest. The first characterisation remains almost unchanged, but there are lots of decisive events that Groom does not mention.

The fact that Forrest has to wear leg-braces is the starting point of many newly added details to Forrest’s life. Another example is that Forrest’s mother bribes the principal of the primary school so that he forgets about her son’s too low IQ. Furthermore we can see Forrest dancing for Elvis Presley, finally bursting his leg-braces and being chased together with Jenny by her abusive father. Those events do not contribute to Forrest’s characterisation though, they only show that the life of the title character is very spectacular already in his childhood.

But the decisive element Groom considered important was completely left out in the screenplay: The years in ”nut-school”. Groom’s first person narrator - Forrest Gump himself - describes those years and in the further course of his story he refers to that school several times. This important chapter of the novel Forrest Gump was replaced by a participation in a ”normal” school in the film Forrest Gump. However, the justified question how Forrest – being so mentally handicapped – is able to graduate from a ”normal” school remains unanswered in the screenplay.

3.2 The football career – high school and college years

After the short exposition of Forrest (by describing his years as a child) the action of the novel begins when he is sixteen years old. Because of his stature and strength the teenager is

”drafted” into the high school football team. In the beginning Forrest does not understand the different rules and tactics of the game, whereas in the further course of his career Forrest even recognises the mistakes of his fellow players.

Groom uses this football episode as a starting point to show the development of Forrest’s character, his attitude and his views towards different social and moral matters. To show that influence the author describes Gump’s first contacts with sexuality (he has an affair with one of his private teachers), and especially with force and violence. Since football is a tough and sometimes dangerous game Forrest learns to react on certain offences and assaults in real life, and so for the first time he hits back when he is beaten by another teenager (compare p. 18 l. 21)1.

The author of the novel intended football to be an important influence on Forrest’s growth of character, whereas the screenplay writer does not emphasise this game to show a change of personality at all. Therefore, the adoption of Gump’s football career from novel to movie appears very superficial – only the cinematic aspects seem to be relevant. This can be observed in the way the filmmakers had Forrest come to play football in the first place: The extraordinary ability that Forrest seems to be the fastest boy all around his home town (and probably throughout America) provided the creators of the movie with quite a few great shots that look wonderful on the big screen.

Added to that, the makers of the film obviously wanted an innocent and ”immaculate” main character and therefore the sexual component is diminished to a short ”incident” with Jenny – and Gump’s newly obtained will to defend himself is transformed into an instinct of protecting her.

Again, the problem of having an imbecile graduating from high school (and later on even from college) arises – in both novel and movie. Groom treated this problem by showing that teachers give private lessons to Forrest – justified by good contributions to the football team – and in college Forrest has to live in a dormitory together with other pupils that have equal mental handicaps.

The movie however shows none of Forrest Gump’s school activities, in fact, there is yet another contrast to the novel: Forrest is not allowed to go to high school because he plays football, he comes to high school in the ”normal” way, graduating from primary school. But maybe Groom’s idea was taken over one step later: Although it is not said directly, football seems to be the reason for Gump’s enrolment at college.

But the otherwise standard education is a sign of one of the big errors made in the transformation: Forgetting about the original title character’s enormous logical capabilities, Forrest Gump is made generally smarter in the movie than he is in the novel.

3.3 Military service and the Vietnam War

Winston Groom decided to describe Forrest Gump’s time in the army and in Vietnam in a very detailed way, and so he emphasises one of the most cruel and unnecessary chapters in American history through the eyes of the title character.


1 This and all following quotations given with page and line are taken from the novel ”Forrest Gump”. See Appendix, sources.

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Groom, Winston - Forrest Gump as an Example of the Transformation from a Novel into a Movie
Leistungskurs Englisch
ISBN (eBook)
363 KB
Groom, Winston, Forrest, Gump, Example, Transformation, Novel, Movie, Leistungskurs, Englisch
Arbeit zitieren
Tim Horz (Autor:in), 1998, Groom, Winston - Forrest Gump as an Example of the Transformation from a Novel into a Movie, München, GRIN Verlag,


  • Gast am 14.4.2002


    Nach drei Stunden geschlagener Suche über das Thema "Forrest Gump" bin ich hier nun endlich auf etwas brauchbares gestoßen...

    Nirgendwo fand ich etwas zu Lieutenant Dan und hier war das Verhältnis zu Forrest sehr schön beschrieben, auch Dans Verhalten und seine Art.


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