Title: Forrest Gump.
Author: Winston Groom.
Genre: Fiction, humour, mental health, war lit, Vietnam War, politics, football, romance, historical fiction.
Publication Date: 1986.
Summary: "Bein a idiot is no box of chocolates", but at least he "ain't led no hum-drum life," says Forrest Gump, the lovable, surprisingly savvy savant hero of this comic tale. When the University of Alabama's football team drafts Forrest and makes him a star, that's only the beginning. He flunks out—and goes on to be a Vietnam war hero, a world-class ping-pong player, a wrestler, and a business tycoon. He compares battle scars with Lyndon Johnson, discovers the truth about Richard Nixon, and suffers the ups and downs of true love. Now, Forrest Gump is telling all—in a madcap, screwball romp through three decades of the American landscape.
My rating: 7/10.
♥ Let me say this: bein a idiot is no box of chocolates.
♥ Now I know somethin bout idiots. Probly the only thing I do know bout, but I done read up on em—all the way from that Doy-chee-eveskie guy's idiot, to King Lear's fool, an Faulkner's idiot, Benjie, an even ole Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird—now he was a serious idiot. The one I like best tho is ole Lennie in Of Mice and Men. Mos of them writer fellers got it straight—cause their idiots always smarter than people give em credit for. Hell, I'd agree with that. Any idiot would. Hee hee.
♥ So whatever else ole General Forrest done, startin up that Klan thing was not a good idea—any idiot could tell you that. Nonetheless, that's how I got my name.
♥ Well, they tried splainin it to me, an then one of the goons says to the other that I'm a "dummy" or somethin like that, an I guess he thought I wouldn't understand him, but I did, on account of I pay special attention to that kind of shit. Not that it hurt my feelins. Hell, I been called a sight worse than that. But I took notice of it, nonetheless.
♥ That year I made the All State Football team. I couldn't hardly believe it. My mama give me two pair of socks an a new shirt on my birthday. An she done saved up an bought me a new suit that I wore to get the All State Football award. First suit I ever had. Mama tied my tie for me an off I went.
♥ Finally it come time to get handed out prizes, which was little gold-colored footballs, an when our names was called we was sposed to go up to the microphone an take the prize an say "thank you," an they also tole us if anybody has anythin else he wants to say, to keep it short on account of we want to be gettin out of there before the turn of the century.
Most everbody had got they prize an said "thank you," an then it come my turn. Somebody on the microphone call out "Forrest Gump," which, if I hadn't tole you before, is my last name, an I stand up an go over an they han me the prize. I lean over to the mike and say, "Thank you," an everbody starts to cheer an clap an stand up in they seats. I spose somebody tole them aforehan I'm some kind of idiot, an they makin a special effort to be nice. But I'm so surprised by all this, I don't know what to do, so I jus kep standin there. Then everbody hush up, an the man at the mike he lean over and axe me if I got anythin else I want to say. So I says, "I got to pee."
Everbody in the audience didn't say nothin for a few moments, an jus started looking funny at each other, an then they begun a sort of low mumblin, an Coach Fellers come up an grap me by the arm and haul me back to my seat. Rest of the night he be glarin at me, but after the banquet is over, Coah an the goons done take me back to the bathroom an rip open my pants an I done peed a bucket!
"Gump," Coach say after I am finished, "you sure got a way with words."
♥ But when we git back home, I finally realize why she bawlin an carryin on—they was a letter come from the Army sat I got to report to the local daft board or somesuch. I didn't know what the deal was, but my mama did—it was 1968 an they was all sorts of shit fixin to hoppen.
♥ We fixin to be late to practice which was not real good to do, so's I say to Curtis, "Why don't you take one lug nut off each of them three other tires an that way you will have three nuts on each tire, which ought to be enough to get us to practice?"
Curtis stop cussin for a moment an look up at me an say, "You supposed to be a idiot, how you figure that out?" An I say, "Maybe I am a idiot, but at least I ain't stupid," an at this, Curtis jump up an commence shasin me with the tire tool, callin me ever terrible thing he can think up, an that pretty much ruin our relationship.
♥ Anyhow, after that, Jenny got me to play with their band. It was ever Friday, an when there wasn't an out of town game, I made twenty-five bucks a night. It were jus like heaven till I foun out Jenny Curran been screwin the banjo player.
♥ But by this time we was undefeated the entire season an was goin to play for the National Championship at the Orange Bowl against them corn shuckers from Nebraska. It was always a big thing when we played a team from up North cause for sure they would have colored on their side, an that be a reason for a lot of consternation from some of the guys—like my ex-roommate Curtis, for example—altho I never worried bout it myself, on account of most of the colored I ever met be nicer to me than white people.
♥ I nod my heard, an then it be time to get back on the field. Everbody be hollerin an cheerin, but I sort of feel they is a unfair burden on my shoulders. What the hell, tho—that's jus the way it is sometimes.
♥ Every since I lef the nut school people been shoutin at me—Coach Fellers, Coach Bryant an the goons, an now the people in the Army. But let me say this: them people in the Army yell longer an louder an nastier than anybody else. They is never happy. An furthermore, they do not complain that you is dumb or stupid like coaches do—they is more interested in your private parts or bowel movements, an so always precede they yellin with somethin like "dickhead" or "asshole." Sometimes I wonder if Curtis had been in the Army before he went to play football.
♥ It is gettin to be dusk an we is tole to go up to a ridge an relieve Charlie Company which is either pinned down by the gooks or has got the gooks pinned down, dependin on whether you get your news from the Stars an Stripes or by just lookin aroun at what the hell is goin on.
♥ Somebody say Bubba was out in the rice paddy an he is hurt, an I say, "Goddamn," an Sergeant Kranz, he hear me, an say, "Gump, you can't go out there." But shit on that—I leave the machine gun behind cause it jus be extra weight, an start pumpin hard for where I last seen Bubba. But halfway out I nearly step on a feller from 2nd platoon who is mighty hurt, an he look up at me with his han out, and so I think, shit, what can I do? so I grap him up an run back with him fast as I can. Bullets an stuff be flyin all over. It is somethin I simply cannot understand—why in hell is we doin all this, anyway? Playin football is one thing. But this, I do not know why. Goddamn.
♥ I hadn't noticed it, but it had quit rainin an the sky done turned a awful pinkinsh color. It made everybody's face look like death itsef, an for some reason, the gooks done quit shootin for a wile, an so had we. I played "Way Down Upon the Swanee River" over an over again, kneelin nex to Bubba wile the medic give him a shot an tend to him best he could. Bubba done grapped a holt to my leg an his eyes got all cloudy an that terrible pink sky seem to drain all the color in his face.
He was tryin to say somethin, an so I bent over real close to hear what it was. But I never could make it out. So I axed the medic, "You hear what he say?"
An the medic say, "Home. He said, home."
Bubba, he died, an that's all I got to say bout that.
♥ I think that settin there talkin to Dan was a thing that had a great impression on my life. I know that bein a idiot an all, I ain't sposed to have no philosophy of my own, but maybe it's just because nobody never took the time to talk to me bout it. It were Dan's philosophy that everythin that happen to us, or for that matter, to anythin anywhere, is controlled by natural laws that govern the universe. His views on the subject was extremely complicated, but the gist of what he say begun to change my whole outlook on things.
All my own life, I ain't understood shit about what was goin on. A thing jus happen, then somethin else happen, then somethin else, an so on, an haf the time nothin makin any sense. But Dan say it is all part of a scheme of some sort, an the best way we can get along is figger out how we fits into the scheme, an then try to stick to our place. Somehow knowin this, things get a good bit clearer for me.
♥ ..When I think back on it now, there is something in your eyes, some tiny flash of fire that comes now and then, mostly when you smile, and, on those infrequent occasions, I believe what I saw was almost a Genesis of our ability as humans to think, to create, to be.
This war is not for you, old pal—nor me—and I am well out of it as I'm sure you will be in time. The crucial question is, what will you do? I don't think you're an idiot at all. Perhaps by the measure of tests or the judgment of fools, you might fall into some category or other, but deep down, Forrest, I have seen that glowing sparkle of curiosity burning deep in your mind. Take the tide, my friend, and as you are carried along, make it work for you, fight the shallows and the snags and never give in, never give up. You are a good fellow, Forrest, and you have a big heart.
♥ One day when I was back at Fort Dix shovelin coal in the Steam Heat Company, a feller from the Pentagon showed up with a chest full of medals an a big smile on his face, an he say, "P.F.C. Gump, it is my pleasure to inform you that you is been chosen as a member of the United States Ping-Pong Team to go to Red China an play the Chinese in ping-pong This is a special honor, because for the first time in nearly twenty-five years our country is having anything to do with the Chinamen, an it is an event far more important than any damn ping-pong game. It is diplomacy, and the future of the human race might be at stake. Do you understand what I am saying?"
I shrug my shoulders an nod my head, but somethin down in me sinkin fast. I am jus a po ole idiot, an now I have got the whole human race to look after.
♥ The other people that play on the ping-pong team are real nice fellers what come from ever walk of life, an they is specially nice to me. The Chinamen is nice, too, an they is very different sorts of gooks from what I seen in Vietnam. First off, they is neat an clean an very polite. Second, they is not tryin to murder me.
♥ The American State Department have sent a feller with us who is there to tell us how to behave aroun the Chinamen, an of all I have met, he is the only one not so nice. In fact, he is a turd. Mister Wilkins is his name, an he have a little thin moustache and always carry a briefcase an worry about whether or not his shoes is shined an his pants is pressed or his shirt is clean. I bet in the mornin he get up and spit-shines his asshole.
Mister Wilkins is always on my case. "Gump," he say, "when a Chinaman bow to you, you gotta bow back. Gump, you gotta quit adjustin yourself in public. Gump, what are them stains on your trousers? Gump, you have got the table manners of a hog."
In that last, maybe he is right. Them Chinamen eat with two little sticks an it is almost impossible to shovel any food in your mouth with em, an so a lot of it wind up on my clothes. No wonder you do not see a lot of fat Chinamen aroun. You would think they would of learnt to use a fork by now.
♥ When I get to the bank, all the people there be jumpin up and down an cryin an slappin me on the back, an they pick me up an carry me on they shoulders to the bus. But when we is on the road again, Mister Wilkins come up to me an be shakin his head. "You big dumb goof," he say, "do you not realize that the best thing that could of happened for the United States was to let that sumbitch ([Chairman Mao]) drown! You, Gump, is lost us the opportunity of a lifetime."
So I guess I done screwed up again. I dunno. I am still jus tryin to do the right thing.
♥ I know I ought to go on home an see my mama, cause she's in the po house an all. I think maybe I ought to get started with the little shrimp bidness, too, an begin to make somethin of my life, but all this time, in the back of my mind, I have been thinkin of Jenny Curran up at Harvard University. I got a bus to the train station, an all the way there I am tryin to figger what is the right thing to do. But when the time come to buy my ticket, I tole them I wanted to go to Boston. There are jus times when you can't let the right thing stand in yo way.
♥ The band start up again and Jenny begun to sing. She has grapped hole of the microphone an is dancin all aroun the stage, jumpin up an down an wavin her arms an tossin her hair aroun. I am tryin to understan the words to the song, but the band is playin too loud for that, beatin on the drums, bangin on the piano, swattin them electric guitars till it seem like the roof gonna cave in. I am thinkin, what the hell is this?
..I had my harmonica in my pocket, so's to pass the time, I got it out an started to play a little. I could still hear the music from Jenny's band, an after a wile I foun myself bein able to play along with them, sort of usin the chromatic stop to get half out of key so it would fit in with what they was playin. I don't know how long it was, but it didn't take much afore I was able to make runs of my own, way up in C major, an to my surprise, it didn't soun half bad when you was playin it—so long as you didn't have to listen to it too.
♥ "The idiot," Doctor Quackenbush say, "has played an important role in history an literature for many years. I suppose you has all heard of the village idiot, who was usually some retarded individual livin in a village someplace. He was often the object of scorn an mockery. Later, it become the custom of nobility to have in their presence a court jester, a sort of person that would do things to amuse the royalty. In many instances, this individual was actually an idiot or a moron, in others, he was merely a clown or jokester..."
He go on like this for a while, an it begun to become apparent to me that idiots was not jus useless people, but was put here for a purpose, sort of like Dan had said, an the purpose is to make eople laugh. At least that is somethin.
"The object of having a fool for most writers," Doctor Quackenbush say, "is to employ the device of double entendre, permittin them to let the fool make a fool of himself, an at the same time allow the reader the revelation of the greater meaning of the foolishness. Occasionally, a great writer like Shakespeare would let the fool male an ass out of one of his principal characters, thereby providing a twist for the readers' enlightenment."
♥ But ever night I an Jenny are playin with The Cracked Eggs an all day long we is makin love an takin walks an having picnics on the banks of the Charles River an it is heaven. Jenny has written a nice tender song called "Do It to Me Hard an Fast," in which I get to take bout a five-minute ride on my harmonica. It were a splendid spring an summer...
♥ The ape ain't so bad, actually. It is a big ole female orangutang called Sue, what has been captured in the jungles of Sumatra or someplace. Actually they has got a whole bunch of them up into space for a long wile, but they says Sue will be best on this trip on account of she is a female an will be friendlier than a male ape, an also, this will be her third space flight. When I find this out, I am wonderin how come they gonna send us way up there with the only experienced crew member bein a ape. Kind of makes you think, don't it?
♥ Actually, after you get used to it, bein in outer space is kind of fun. We is without gravity, an so can float all over the spaceship, an the scenery is remarkable—moon an sun, earth an stars. I wonder where Jenny Curran is down there, an what she is doin.
Aroun and aroun the earth we go. Day an night go by ever hour or so an it sort of put a different perspective on things. I mean, here I am doin this, an when I get back—or should I say if I get back—what then? Go an start up my little shrimp-growin bidness? Go find Jenny again? Play in The Cracked Eggs? Do somethin about my mama bein in the po house? It is all very strange.
♥ ..but when she ain't sleepin, she is bitchin. Crabbin bout the ape, crabbin bout what kind of jackoffs they is down at groun control, crabbin bout she got no place to put on her makeup, crabbin bout me eatin food when it ain't supper or lunchtime. Hell, all we got to eat is Granola bars anyway. I don't want to be complainin too much, but it seem like they might of picked a good-lookin woman or at least one that don't bitch all the time.
♥ "Ain't this where cannibals come from?" I axed.
"I reckon we will soon find out," she say.
Spaceship is gently swingin towards the lake, an jus afore we hit, they start beatin they drums an movin they mouths up and down. We can't hear nothin on account of bein in the capsule, but our imaginations doin just fine.
♥ "I spose we better go on out an idenity outselfs. The people from NASA will be here in a few minutes to pick us up." As it turns out, that is the biggest piece of bullshit I have ever heard in my life—before or since.
♥ "We have been at war with the pygmies for many generations. Somebody stole a pig once, I think—nobody remembers who or where—it is lost in legend. But we are virtually surrounded by the pygmies, and have been ever since anyone can remember."
♥ I walked a wile, down past the White House where the President live, an to my surprise they is a whole bunch of people out front got on rubber masks of the President's face an they is carryin some kind of signs. I figger he must be pleased to be so popular with everbody.
♥ He unbutton his jacket an inside, on his shirt, is all his medals—Purple Heart, Silver Star—must of been ten or twelve of them.
"They remind me of somethin," he said. "I'm not quite sure what—the war, of course, but that's jus a part of it. I have suffered a loss, Forrest, far greater than my legs. It's my spirit, my soul, if you will. There is only a blank there now—medals where my soul used to be."
♥ "Sounds like you might need some help," he say.
I look over at Dan an his eyes is gleamin from behin his beard. Somethin is tellin me he is the one needs some help, but that's okay with me.
♥ She shake her head an say, "This is where the Vietnam War have got us."
There ain't much disputin that either. It is a sad an sorry spectacle when a no-legged man have got to pee in his hat an then dump it over into the toilet.
♥ ..but to be perfectly truthful, I jus ain't quite ready to leave.
You see, it ain't really been since we played them Nebraska corn shucker jackoffs at the Orange Bowl that I has really felt like I done accomplished somethin. Maybe for a little bit durin the ping-pong games in Red China, but that lasted just for a few weeks. But now, you see, ever Saturday night ever week, I am goin out there an hearin them cheer. An they is cheerin for me—idiot or not.
♥ "Well I ain't gonna wait aroun forever, neither," Jenny say, but I didn't believe she meant it.
♥ ..But when you got shot up in the spaceship and were lost in the jungle for nearly four years, I think maybe I changed. I would be satisfied with just a simple life somewhere. So, now I must go an find it.
Something is changed in you, too, dear Forrest. I don't think you can help it exactly, for you were always a "special" person, but we no longer seem to think the same way.
I am in tears as I write this, but we must part now. Please don't try to find me. I wish you well, my darling—good-bye.
Dan handed the note to me but I let it drop on the floor an just stood there, realizin for the first time in my life what it is truly like to be a idiot.
♥ So off I went again, an for a long time that night my head was full of dreams—of going back home again, of my mama, of po ole Bubba an of the shrimp bidness an, of course, of Jenny Curran too. More than anythin in the world, I wished I were not such a loony tune.
♥ "You best not be talkin that way aroun my mama," I says, an he say back, "Yeah? What you gonna do about it?"
So I showed him.
First, I grapped him an picked him up in the air. Then I carried him into where they was washin all these clothes in a big ole oversize laundry machine they use for quilts and rugs, an I open the top an stuff him in an close the lid shut an turned the dial to "Spin." Last I seen of him, his ass were headed for the "Rinse" cycle.
♥ "There's somethin I been wonderin all these years, Forrest—what do you think Bubba died for?"
"Cause he got shot," I says, but he say, "No, that ain't what I mean. What I mean is, why? Why was was over there?"
I thought for a minute, an say, "Well, we was tryin to do the right thing, I guess. We was jus doin what we was tole."
An he say, "Well, do you think it was worth it?"
An I says, "Look, I am jus a idiot, see. But if you want my real opinion, I think it was a bunch of shit."
Bubba's daddy nod his head. "That's what I figgered," he say.
♥ An then one day some people come by the office an say they want to run me for the United States Senate.
"Look," I tell him, "I am just a idiot. I don't know nothin bout politics."
"Then you will fit in perfectly!" Mister Claxton say.
♥ "We are currently on the brink of nuclear disaster," she say, "the economy is in ruins, our nation is reviled throughout the world, lawlessness prevails in our cities, people starve of hunger every day, religion is gone from our homes, greed and avarice is rampant everywhere, our farmers are going broke, foreigners are invading our country and taking our jobs, our unions are corrupt, babies are dying in the ghettos, taxes are unfair, out schools are in chaos and famine, pestilence and war hang over us like a cloud—in view of all this, Mister Gump," she axe, "what, in your mind, is the most pressing issue of the moment?" The place was so quiet you coulda heard a pin drop.
"I got to pee," I says.
At this, the crowd went wile! People begun hollerin an cheerin an shoutin an wavin they hands in the air. From the back of the room somebody started chantin an pretty soon the whole auditorium was doin it.
"WE GOT TO PEE! WE GOT TO PEE! WE GOT TO PEE!" they was yellin.
.."It's vulgar and disgusting—besides, what does it mean?"
"It's a symbol," Miste Claxton says. "Just think, we'll have billboards and placards and bumper stickers made up. Take out television and radio ads. It's a stroke of genius, what's what it is. We Got to Pee is a symbol of riddance of the yoke of government oppression—of evacuation of all that is wrong with this country... It signifies frustration and impending relief!"
"What!" Mama axed suspiciously. "Is you lost your mind?"
"Forrest," Mister Claxton says, "you are on your way to Washington."
♥ When the shrimp bidness first started up, I kind of enjoyed the work, gettin up at dawn an goin down to the ponds an puttin up the nets an then harvestin the shrimp an all, an me an Sue settin at night on the porch of the fishin shack playin the harmonica, an gettin a six-pack of beer on Saturday an gettin drunk.
Now it ain't nothing like that. I got to go to all sorts of dinner parties where people servin a lot of mysterious-lookin food an the ladies wearin big ole earrings an shit. All day long the phone don't never stop ringin an people be wantin to axe me bout everthin under the sun. In the Senate, it would have jus been worse. Now I ain't got no time to mysef as it is, an somehow, things are slippin past me.
Furthermore, I look in the mirror now an I got wrinkles on my face, an my hair is turnin gray at the edges an I ain't got as much energy as I used to. I know things are movin along with the bidness, but mysef, I feel like I'm jus spinnin in place. I'm wonderin jus why am I doin all this for? A long time ago, me an Bubba had a plan, which has now gone beyon our wildest dreams, but so what? It ain't haf as much fun as the time I played against them Nebraska corn shucker jackoffs in the Orange Bowl, or took a ride on my harmonica up at Boston with The Cracked Eggs, or, for that matter, watched "The Beverly Hillbillies" with ole President Johnson.
An I spose Jenny Curran has somethin to do with it, too, but since ain't nobody can do nothin bout that, I might as well forget it.
♥ "I can't believe it sometimes," she say. "We've knowed each other nearly thirty years now—ever since first grade."
The sun is shinin thru the trees, right on Jenny's face, an they might of been a tear in her eyes, but it never come, an yet they is somethin there, a heartbeat maybe, but I really couldn't say what it was, even tho I knowed it was there.
"I just can't believe it, that's all," she say, an then she lean over an kiss me on the forehead.
"What's that?" I axed.
"Idiots," Jenny says, an her lips is tremblin. "Who ain't a idiot?" An then she is gone.
♥ But what I was thinkin was this: here I have done foun Jenny again after all this time. An she have got our son, an maybe, somehow, we can fix things up.
But the more I think about this, the more I finally understan it cannot work. And also, I cannot rightly blame it on my bein a idiot—tho that would be nice. Nope, it is jus one of them things. Jus the way it is sometimes, an besides, when all is said an done, I figger the little boy be better off with Jenny an her husband to give him a good home an raise him right so's he won't have no peabrain for a daddy.
♥ But let me tell you this: sometimes at night, when I look up at the stars, an see the whole sky jus laid out there, don't you think I ain't rememberin it all. I still got dreams like anybody else, an ever so often, I am thinkin about how things might of been. An then, all of a sudden, I'm forty, fifty, sixty years ole, you know?
Well, so what? I may be a idiot, but most of the time, anyway, I tried to do the right thing—an dreams is jus dreams, ain't they? So whatever else has happened, I am figgerin this: I can always look back an say, at least I ain't led no hum-drum life.
You know what I mean?