Character Analysis Essay on Forrest Gump: A Protagonist Who Changed a Storyline

Paper Type:  Research paper
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1474 Words
Date:  2023-03-11


Forrest Gump is a personality who features as the protagonist in the American film titled in the same. Released in 1993 and directed by Robert Zemeckis, the movie is an adaptation of a novel bearing the same title, which was published back in 1986. As the main character in the film, Gump plays a critical role in developing not only the storyline but also engages in actions that are quite revealing in so far as the theme of the movie is concerned. Therefore, Gump's significant position in the film's success is what motivated the choice for this activity of assessing personality and behavior. In this regard, the paper covers the character trait of Forrest Gump as demonstrated in the film and how such expressions correspond to the personality theories.

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How Gump handles issues in the film shows how unique his personality is in the context of the story. The story begins in 1981, with Gump seated on a bench with strangers while holding a white feather that had landed in the area. The story recounts a series of events that had occurred in the life of the protagonist. Thus, the whole narration is captured in the form of a flashback, almost perfectly capturing the personality of the character. Gump is depicted as an individual with mental retardation with an IQ measuring 75. Due to this trait, he was sneered and bullied as a boy. However, the presence of a strong-willed mother and the understanding of a schoolmate named Jenny helped Gump to live through the hard experience of bullying and sneering successfully. More importantly, the role of the mentioned individuals shaped Gump into a unique character, which would prove critical in his ability to navigate the various challenges of life (Yang, 2014). This can be demonstrated in his accomplishments as well in the manner in which he related to people throughout the movie.

Despite mental having retardation, Gump surprisingly turns to be a man of great personality. Throughout the movie, he is depicted as an intelligent person, a personality attribute that plays an important in helping accomplish what is registered in the storyline. Besides, Gump relies on is life experience to not only relate with individuals and also get himself out of situations that challenge his abilities to achieve personal objectives. According to Yang (2014), Gump's intelligence and life experience decide how the characters in the film relate with others, thereby enhancing his role in the development of the theme of the movie. For instance, following the deployment to serve in the US Army in Vietnam, Gump shows great bravery when he saved several of his platoon-mates after an ambush. The emotion and compassion shown in this scene depict Gump as an individual who cares for others and thus would not hesitate to help whenever necessary. Such acts relate to the essential elements of his personality.

Gump and Personality Theories

Personality contributes significantly to how one responds to situations. It constitutes characteristics that make an individual unique when compared with other members of society (Kernberg, 2016). In this respect, personality theories help one to understand why a particular individual behaves in a specified manner as opposed to the other. In the case of Gump, personality theories can also be used to illustrate the personality of the protagonist, as portrayed in the film. For this investigation, the psychoanalytic and humanistic theories will be used to explain the character of Gump and how such perspectives influence his actions in the movie.

Psychoanalytic Perspective and the Life of Forrest Gump

The psychoanalytic perspective seeks to explain personality in the context of unconsciousness. According to this theory, all human beings possess unconscious feelings, thoughts, memories, and desires. These emotional elements often create conflicts within an individual when in the unconscious state hence the need to turn the unconscious content into conscious awareness to effectively deal with such conflicts. By so doing, one is capable of relieving themselves of the unconscious conflicts and gain insight into their current state of mind as a way of recognizing that something is bothering with their healthy lives. Based on this perspective, the development of personality is heavily influenced during childhood (Hindle & Smith, 2013). Manifestations of personality as per the psychoanalytic perspective may be in the form of enhanced or weakened ability to deal with psychological problems such as depression and anxiety in the ordinary course of life. In the case study, there are situations in the film which support the provisions of psychoanalysis as a means of explaining the personality of Gump.

A look at the life of Gump in the course of the film reveals that the attempts to deal with unconscious aspects of his mind during childhood may have played a significant part in the development of his personality. As noted previously, Gump appeared retarded as a child, and this exposed him a lot of ridicule among his peers. Although he got some support from his mother and friend, a positive personal reaction to such a depressing experience as an individual cannot be underestimated. Set Gump's childhood, the audience sees the young boy run away from the bullies upon realizing he no longer needs the leg braces to escape the brutal life of mistreatment from others. Forging up a relationship with Jenny is also crucial as it shows the consciousness on the part of Gump regarding the ability of friendship to help him overcome the bullying challenges. Even in the case of tracing his girlfriend, Jenny, he manages to deal with the reality of having sired a son without knowing for a long time. He reconciles with the new revelation with easy for his peace and happiness. The highlighted cases suggest an ability to resolve conflicts as proposed in the psychoanalytic perspective.

The Humanistic Perspective and the Life of Forrest Gump

The humanistic theory emphasizes the role of empathy and doing good unto others in society as an explanation for some personalities. The expectation of being humane is based on the idea that all human beings are assumed to have similar aspirations. It also focuses on elements such as psychological growth, free will, and personal awareness. Under this theory, individuals believe that their destiny depends on the conscious choices they make, and sustainable happiness can be achieved if their own flaws and bad past experiences are discarded (Stefaroi, 2012). In essence, it seeks to explore the positive outlook of human beings and the ability to achieve individual potential. In the case of Gump, freewill and showing empathy (by doing good to others) are vital in explaining the personality displayed in the film.

One incident in the movie that explains Gump's personality is the conversation with his mother. Throughout his childhood, the mother played a vital role in guiding the life of Gump. It is based on this background that the protagonist seeks advice from the mother on how he would navigate the challenges of life when she is gone. For instance, shortly before dying, she advises his son to make his destiny by getting out the best God gave him as a human being. Practically, it offered Forrest the opportunity to steer his life as he intended, and this can be seen in his decision to look for Jenny despite the disjointed life the girlfriend lived. Gump also decided to enroll in the US Army. He further built a successful business after leaving the forces. All these actions show a man who seeks to create personal success and happiness with little control from other people.

Being emphatic and doing good to others are prominent. From childhood, Gump is determined to good to others despite encountering harsh experiences. Perhaps the most eye-catching scene is his determination to save his friend, Bubba, on the battlefield in Vietnam. Although he failed to save his friend, he rescues his fellow combatants, an act of heroism and humanity. In exposing the Watergate Scandal, one can only see good to the public by exposing the ills of the Nixon administration.

Humanistic Perspective versus Psychoanalytic Perspective

One personality theory may be more extensive in explaining the life of an individual than another. In this case scenario, both perspectives give great insight into the life of Gump. However, the humanistic theory provides a more detailed account of the personality of Forrest Gump. This can be seen in the various incidences in the film that support such a theory.


Hindle, D., & Smith, M. V. (2013). Personality development: A psychoanalytic perspective. London, England: Routledge.

Kernberg, O. F. (2016). What is personality? Journal of Personality Disorders, 30(2), 145-156. Retrieved from

Stefaroi, P. (2012). The humanistic approach in psychology & psychotherapy, sociology & social work, pedagogy & education, management and art: Personal development and community development. Petru Stefaroi.

Yang, R. (2014). The influences of Forrest Gump's characters on his language characteristics in film Forrest Gump. Canadian Social Science. Retrieved from

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Character Analysis Essay on Forrest Gump: A Protagonist Who Changed a Storyline. (2023, Mar 11). Retrieved from

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