What is the summary for Forrest Gump?

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hgarey71 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Before it was a movie, Forrest Gump was a novel written in 1986 by Winston Groom. The novel is quite a bit different than the movie.

Winston Groom's novel is told from the point of view of Forrest, who was named after General Nathan Bedford Forrest. He introduces himself as an idiot and says he only has an IQ of 70. Later in the book, he is called an "idiot savant" because he displays some remarkable talents. His physical size is also remarkable—six foot, six inches tall and 242 pounds.

Forrest is raised by his mother, as his father was killed very early in his life. The following quote is Forrest's account of what happened to his father:

My mama is a real fine person. Everbody says that. My daddy, he got kilt just after I's born, so I never known him. He worked down to the docks as a longshoreman an one day a crane was takin a big net load of bananas off one of them United Fruit Company boats an somethin broke an the bananas fell down on my daddy an squashed him flat as a pancake. One time I heard some men talkin bout the accident—say it was a helluva mess, half ton of all them bananas an my daddy squished underneath. I don't care for bananas much myself, cept for banana puddin.

Forrest is sent to a special school in his early years. He attends public school through first grade, and the teachers tell his mother he doesn't belong there. Because of his size, he is recruited for the local high school football team. At this school, he meets up with Jenny Curran. She is the only person who is nice to him.

After high school he wants to join the Army but is "temporarily deferred." He ends up on the football team at the University of Alabama. He only stays one term though and is expelled due to his poor grades. While at the university, he meets Bubba, who is also a football player. Bubba introduces Forrest to the harmonica, and he plays like a prodigy. He becomes part of Jenny's band.

After being expelled from the university, Forrest is drafted into the Army and sent to Vietnam. He is not in the same company as Bubba at first, but when most of the unit is lost, Bubba is transferred to Forrest's unit. Bubba dies in the conflict, and Forrest is shot in the buttocks. While Forrest is in the infirmary, he meets Lieutenant Dan, a history teacher from Connecticut who was drafted. Lieutenant Dan's injuries are extensive, and he gets sent to another location for treatment but writes to Forrest.

Forrest gets a letter from Jenny and learns she is playing in a band called Cracked Eggs at the Hodaddy Club at Harvard University. He goes to visit her, and they begin a sexual relationship. This ends when Jenny believes Forrest cheats on her, and she leaves. She gets arrested during a demonstration, and Forrest loses track of her after that for a while.

Forrest becomes a ping-pong champion, and this skill leads him to China. After some trouble there, he is persuaded by NASA to be sent to space. He looks for his mama after this adventure and learns that she has run off with "some protestant" according to some local nuns.

Later, Forrest finds Jenny working for a tire company. Jenny, Forrest, and Lieutenant Dan get an apartment together, and Forrest becomes a professional wrestler.

At the end of the novel, Forrest returns home to his mama, who left the protestant, and starts a shrimping boat business. He is very successful. He learns that Jenny has married someone else. He finds Jenny again in the last pages, and she introduces him to his son, little Forrest. He meets his son, but Jenny is still married and happy with her life.

gkopf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Forrest Gump is a film about a man's journey through the decades.  Forrest is born in the Deep South, and has a very low IQ.  This causes others to tease him.  He eventually makes friends with a girl named Jenny, and the two of them grow up together.  One day, while a group of bullies taunts Forrest, he starts to run away.  He is a lot faster than anyone ever expected.  As he goes on to college he joins the football team because he runs so fast and doesn't stop for anything.

Forrest later joins the military and is sent to Vietnam.  He meets Bubba Gump, who shares his dream of setting up a shrimp restaurant when they get back to the US.  He also meets gruff, proud Lt. Dan.  Bubba is killed in the line of duty, and Forrest is shot and hospitalized.  Lt. Dan loses his legs and is in the hospital as well.  When Forrest returns home, he sets out to make Bubba's dream come true, with Lt. Dan.

Jenny and Forrest reunite, and spend the night together.  Forrest asks her to marry him, but she leaves him.  Forrest runs across the country, gaining many followers.  He eventually goes home, and later finds out that Jenny has had his child.  Jenny is terminally ill, and they get married.  When she dies, Forrest takes care of their child. 

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