Gump and Co.

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

As GUMP AND CO. opens, the shrimp business Forrest Gump had been engaged in at the close of the previous book has gone bankrupt, probably because of fraud by his former partners. Now, Gump is working as a janitor in a New Orleans bar. He is contacted by an old friend, Snake, who wants him to play football for the New Orleans Saints. Gump is highly successful in this activity and eventually becomes rich.

Shortly before a crucial game, Gump receives a letter from the mother of his former girlfriend, Jenny. Jenny and her husband have died, and Mrs. Curran wants Gump to come to Mobile, Alabama, to see young Forrest, who had been reared by the couple, but was actually Gump’s child. Gump agrees to this plan, and is fired by the Saints for missing the important game.

In the ensuing years, Gump engages in a variety of occupations, including encyclopedia sales, pig farming, and playing Goliath at a theme park called Holy Land, run by the reverend Jim Bakker. In every case, he is treated, at least at first, as a total idiot, but makes substantial improvements in the businesses. Each enterprise results in disaster, often followed by riots.

Throughout this book, Forrest Gump admits his own lack of intelligence; it is written in the first person, with numerous grammatical and spelling mistakes. Nevertheless, he manages to become involved in almost every major political event of the time, and unwittingly changes history.

GUMP AND CO. is a masterpiece of comedy and satire. It pokes fun at many institutions and individuals, and presents a version of recent history which is ridiculous, yet somehow believable.