When you open a box of assorted chocolates, what do you see? Some people look, and they know that there are some chocolates mixed in that are absolutely horrid, and they do their best to escape them. Others see the candies and know that one of them will be their demise, but they eat them all anyways. However, a few people gaze into the box and see an opportunity for surprise with each morsel. In the movie Forrest Gump, the concept of destiny is viewed by the characters in various different ways.
Lieutenant Dan believes in predetermined destiny, Jenny spends her entire life trying to take control of her destiny, and Forrest simply takes life one step at a time, believing that destiny is about the journey. Although each character is faced with poor circumstances, Forrest’s view about destiny leads him through the best life compared to the others. Early in the film, Jenny Curran’s character experiences horrifying abuse by the hands of her drunken father. As a little girl, Jenny prays to God asking him to make her a bird so that she can fly away from her circumstances. In many ways, Jenny got her wish that day.
She first flies away from her problems in Greenbow, Alabama when she goes to an all girls’ Junior College. However, this is also the first time that she gets herself into trouble, when she gets expelled for posing nude in Playboy Magazine. On a rainy night, Jenny asks Forrest if he dreams, and she tells him of her dreams to become a famous folk singer. Jenny has hopeful goals, but even those dreams lead her to an unhealthy world when she becomes a nude singer at a strip club. She is constantly migrating—much like a bird—trying to find happiness, even though all she ever finds is trouble.
The confused character of Jenny Curran continually attempts to run away from her past, and tries to find herself. Her efforts to take control of her destiny lead her into a life of drugs, abuse, possibly prostitution, and contemplated suicide. When Lieutenant Dan Taylor’s character enters the film, his views about destiny are made apparent straightaway. Lt. Dan lives his life so everyone knows exactly what he believes in. When Forrest Gump and his good friend Bubba first encounter their new Lieutenant in Vietnam, Forrest already knows that “he was from a long, great military tradition”.
Dan’s belief that his destiny is predetermined, and that he is going to die in an American war is not debatable. In Forrest’s word’s, “you could say he had a lot to live up to”. Therefore, when Forrest saves Lieutenant Dan’s life when their squadron comes under attack by “Charlie”, Dan resents Forrest. Rather than dying with honor like his grandfathers, he becomes a legless cripple. Lt. Dan laid all of his faith in the belief that he would die in Vietnam, and as effect of his undesired survival, he throws himself into alcoholism and a cynical lifestyle. A quote by Democritus describes Lt.
Dan’s character very well: “everywhere man blames nature and fate. Yet his fate is mostly but the echo of his character and passion, his mistakes and his weaknesses”. Dan’s certainty that he is meant to die in war leaves him reeling for many years after Vietnam. He does not know what his purpose in life is after that. Although he puts off a strong exterior, Dan becomes a weak character, turning to booze and openly doubting God. As a result of Dan’s once stringent belief in a prearranged fate, he struggles through most of his life until the end of the film when he makes peace with Forrest, the Vietnamese, and ultimately God.
The peculiar character of Forrest Gump, although not the smartest being, has the most encouraging and ingenious view of destiny out of all of the individuals in the film. As a young boy, Forrest not only has scoliosis, but also a below average IQ of 75. However, with his momma’s constant encouraging words, “you’re no different than anybody else, Forrest” and “stupid is as stupid does”, Forrest grows into an inspiring character. Forrest does not truly understand the concept of destiny. He rarely thinks about the purpose of events or where the destination of his life lies.
When he befriends Jenny, their differing personalities and characteristics—which only deepen as they grow older—causes Forrest to ponder the notion of destiny. One night, Jenny and Forrest were talking and she asked “do you ever dream, Forrest, about who you’re gunna be”? Forrest is confused by this question and states “aren’t I going to be me”? Forrest never thinks ahead, he simply does as he is told and faces the obstacles life throws at him as they come along. Everything in Forrest’s life happens by chance.
He never looks for something better to come along, and he does not think that events will happen before they have occurred. While running from bullies and stumbling onto a school football field, interrupting practice, Forrest’s impressive speed captures the eyes of coaches. From there, he is recruited after high school to play for the University of Alabama’s football team, and with an IQ of only 75, he achieves a college degree. When Forrest graduates, he is met by an army recruiter who asks him if he has thought about his future, while handing Forrest a flyer for the army.
Forrest looks from his momma to the soldier asking “thought”? Yet, from there Forrest goes on to become a war hero, saving his surly lieutenant’s life along with almost his entire platoon. Forrest’s character never sought out an extravagant life, but by living with an open mind, he accomplished more than any of the other characters in Forrest Gump. Only in the end of the film, after a life of so many accomplishments and sorrows, does Forrest come to his conclusion about destiny. Standing at his beloved Jenny’s grave, he reveals to her what he has deduced about destiny and fate.
In front of her headstone underneath the tree they played on as children, Forrest tells her “I don’t know if Momma was right or if it’s Lieutenant Dan. I don’t know if we each have a destiny or if we’re all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze, but I think maybe it’s both”. And so, when a person opens up a beautiful box of assorted chocolates, it is always best not to know which chocolate is which. In the end, there will always be a few foul chocolates mixed in with the tastier morsels. As his Momma always told him, “life is like a box of chocolates, Forrest. You never know what you’re going to get”.
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