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Forrest Gump Development Analysis

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Autor:  anton  30 October 2010
Tags:  Forrest,  Development,  Analysis
Words: 2265   |   Pages: 10
Views: 1982

Forrest Gump is a complex and interesting lead character and provides a unique contrast to typical early adulthood behavior. In the film, from the time he attends college, towards the end of the film where he begins his role as a father, Forrest goes through normal events that occur in the lives of many young adults. His reaction and development is different from most however, and he goes through interesting events and experiences. This contrast between typical life events and a slower than normal development shows that some expectations about cognitive abilities may not be as important. Even those who are considered "slow" by the mainstream population can be successful and live a life full of typical life events that fall within a typical timeframe.

Through most of the film, which is the focus of this stage in life, Forrest goes from about 18 years old, to mid-thirties. This encompasses the general range known as early adulthood. Physically, Forrest is strong, athletic, and healthy. He does go through some health-related issues in childhood and suffers from such injuries as a bullet wound during the Vietnam War, but in general his health remains consistently good in comparison to the other characters who suffer from chronic and fatal diseases and one who suffers from a permanently disabling injury resulting in the amputation of his legs. His cognitive status is not as advanced as his physical abilities, however. Since very early childhood he has been classified as "slow" and this has not changed in adulthood. Despite this, he is able to attend college, and graduate, signifying that he does indeed have some cognitive abilities in the classroom. Emotionally, Forrest does experience emotions such as falling in love, grief, excitement, nervousness, and so on. These emotions come very naturally and are experienced as one might expect, for example, when Forrest's mother dies he is very sad and when other people in his life pass away he experiences the same grief that would be expected out of anyone his age. In some cases however, the emotions that he experiences is not the same as his peers. One example of this is his tolerance to insults. Throughout the film, people call him many names and he doesn't seemed bothered by it. He's repeatedly called stupid and slow, but he doesn't get offended, but rather responds with, "Stupid is, as stupid does." This is not typical of many other young adults who seek acceptance and approval from others.

Socially, Forrest participates in activities with his peers. In college he is active with his football team, and when he's in the Army he also is part a group. He is able to make friends, including Jenny, Bubba, and Lieutenant Dan, but probably not in the typical way that most people would make friends. His idea of friendship is very basic and either people are his friends or they're not. He doesn't complicate things and wonder what people really mean or what they really think of him. Trust and loyalty are important to him and he would do anything for the people close to him. He does not participate in some activities that are often seen in young adulthood such as drinking, partying, and drug use. This has an effect on him in many aspects including socially and physically. Socially he is left out because of many reasons, but one is because he isn't comfortable with situations that include sex and drinking. There are risks involved in drinking and unprotected sex, and since he does not participate, he's not at risk at the same levels as some of his peers, such as Jenny.

One major issue that is discussed in the book that is often presented to young adults is the transition to parenting. When Forrest discovers that he is a parent, he goes through many changes and is affected by this new development. Some common advantages to becoming a parent is getting more responsibility, becoming more accepted as an adult, a connection to another person and the comfort that comes with that. In this case, Forrest does undergo a stronger sense of responsibility now that he has a child to care for, especially since Jenny passed away. It is also a way to comfort the loss of Jenny, and even the loss of the other important people in his life, now that he has someone to share his life with and care for. He still has to deal with the fact that he's considered slow, but it's helpful that now he can prove in yet another way that he's capable. Common disadvantages of parenthood include financial and marital strain, too much responsibility and uncertainty about parental abilities. While Forrest doesn't experience all of these, he does wonder whether he will be able to care for his son properly and whether his son will be negatively affected by the fact that his father is slow. However, he overcomes this and is able to function as a parent and the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. His overall personality remains the same, but it does appear that he is somehow more mature and responsible now that he's a parent. Often times parents will refrain from as much irresponsible activities, like partying hard and staying out late. Since Forrest never really participated in these activities, no change is required.

Another major issue for young adults is that early adulthood is a time of decisions. During this time they must choose a career and possibly a college. They also must choose a mate and start to worry about their future. For many, they take this time to think about many possibilities and make the best possible decision after a lot of consideration. Forrest does not treat these decisions in this way and ends up doing things based on coincidences. For example, he goes to college because the coach recruits him. He enters the Army because the recruiter comes up to him after graduation. He becomes famous after running across the country just because he had a whim to start running. He even starts the shrimp boat because that was his plan during the Army when Bubba suggested it. The majority of adults take time and consideration in these decisions, but Forrest tends to fall into these things and then doesn't question them. He is very accepting of whatever comes his way and doesn't like to question his current situation or wonder about the future. When the Army recruiter comes up to Forrest and his mother after graduation he asks, "Have you given any thought to your future?," while handing him a brochure. As the man walks away Forrest responds, "Thought?" This shows his lack of consideration to future plans. During their time in college, Forrest goes to visit Jenny and when she tells him about her dream of becoming "somebody," he doesn't understand and can't grasp what she's talking about.

He lacks in this area and in many ways Forrest is behind as far as developmental levels. Physically, however, he is right on target. Early adulthood is a time where people are at their strongest, tallest, and healthiest levels. Forrest fits into this perfectly. He plays football in college, runs across the country, carries his entire Army group out of danger, and generally stays free of health problems. This advancement in physical development helps him to function in everyday life because he doesn't really look different from anyone else and until they get to know him, they just assume he's normal. If he also had to deal with physical impairments, he would probably have a lot harder time in life. Another signifier of physical health is fertility and Forrest is able to conceive a child with Jenny without really trying. A factor that may have helped in his physical health is the fact that he never got involved with drugs, alcohol, or risky behavior. Early adulthood is a time where people suffer from depression, which may be linked with risky behavior, but Forrest does not suffer from this.

Despite his normal physical attributes, Forrest is behind cognitively. One indicator of this is his lack of thinking about his future. He falls into activities like college and the Army and doesn't have to worry about them at all. During this time of life, many people experience a change in thinking as they reach what is known as "Post formal stage" of thinking. This is an extension of Piaget’s theory and incorporates the combination of emotion and logic in adult thinking. Forrest does not reach this level and is basically stuck somewhere between middle/late childhood and early adolescence. He doesn't realize that most ideas are provisional rather than permanent. In his mind, once he believes something or find something out, he believes it as true. There is no room for adjustment or change over time. An example of this is when his mother gives him advice or tells him something and he immediately incorporates it into his working knowledge rather than process it and compare it to other things that he already knows. One aspect where he shows this is in his friendships. In his mind a friend is a friend and that's it. He's loyal to his friends no matter what and it doesn't seem like betrayal could even cross his mind. This is apparent in his moral reasoning as well. Forrest's level of moral reasoning is Conventional thinking. If his mother tells him that something is right or wrong, he doesn't question it. He does the right thing, because to him it's the only option. He follow the laws of the land because they are laws. His cognitive flexibility is lacking and it shows in his behavior. Another difference between Forrest and his peers is that for many

this is a time where they move from "problem solving" to "problem finding." Forrest doesn't make this change and instead stays at the stage where there's no need to think about problems until they arise. Once a problem strikes, that is the time to find a solution.

Similar to his problems cognitively, Forrest is also behind psychosocially. Maslow's hierarchy of needs states that people will make sure that they can fulfill certain basic needs before they proceed onto more complicated needs. Forrest has an understanding of his basic needs such as food and water and knows that he has to fulfill these. The next level of needs are love and friendships. While Forrest attempts to make friends and form relationships, he doesn't seem to be pursuing a romantic relationship in the same way as his peers. He has known Jenny since childhood and basically accepts that he is in love with her and despite the fact that she does not share the same feelings through most of the film, he remains loyal to her. He believes in a sort of naive view of love but at the same time is trying to fulfill this need for intimacy like any of his peers would. The next level is success and esteem, and it doesn't seem that this is too important for Forrest. He is successful in everything that he does, but it isn't a strong goal of his, it just seems to happen. Erikson's theory of development states that Forrest should be having two conflicts. The first being intimacy vs. isolation and the second being generativity vs. stagnation. Forrest is not incredibly worried about either of these conflicts. He ends up with friends and ends up in love, but it isn't a driving force that causes him much stress. And he doesn’t worry about being stagnant. Even though he's already achieved great success as the captain of a shrimp boat he chooses to mow fields because he likes it.

Often times in early adulthood, many people acknowledge the idea of a social clock and that there is a set time for certain events to occur. There is a broad range for many of these things and they often depend on gender and socioeconomic status. Although Forrest is not at the same level in many ways developmentally, he is able to keep up with the social clock. He goes to college at 18, enters the Army in his early-twenties, starts a business after the war, is really successful at that business and makes enough money to retire, has a child in his early-thirties, gets married in his early to mid-thirties, then spends the rest of his time taking care of his son. Although there are some variations to what is expected, he follows it fairly closely. In many cases, it would seem ideal to be married first, and then have children, but it's not that uncommon for things to occur as they did with Forrest. The fact that he was able to achieve these events in a similar timeframe as his peers shows that maybe his developmental disparities are not as severe as everyone wanted them to seem and that maybe he wasn't as different as everyone thought.

By watching this movie, it’s easy to see that Forrest Gump is not developing at a normal rate. He’s not the same as his peers, and it’s apparent throughout the film. By taking a closer look it can be seen that despite his developmental downfalls, he was able to achieve a successful life by many standards. Perhaps even more successful than he would have without his “slowness.” It’s important to realize that maybe the norms that we believe to be ideal may not be so and perhaps our idea of what is normal and ideal should be broadened to include people who develop at all rates.

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