I had never read “Forrest Gump,” but, like most people, I have seen the movie at least a dozen times. I am a huge fan of the movie, and not just because Tom Hanks is one of the greatest actors of all time. However, the book, written by Winston Groom, is nothing like the movie.
First of all, the novel is much more crude than the movie. Expletives color the pages and neither Forrest, nor any other character, seems capable of uttering a sentence without some type of curse word thrown in for good measure. Another thing is that a lot of slang terms for Vietnamese people are used in the novel. I understand that this was during the Vietnam War and that is just how people refer to them, but it still caught me off guard because the movie doesn’t have any of that.
The novel also varies from the storyline that is portrayed in the movie. Forrest does go to Vietnam and there is another solider named Bubba. However, Forrest meets Bubba at a university while he is playing football. Forrest has some pretty exciting adventures in the movie and almost all of those, plus some, are in the novel.
Forrest is a ping pong champion and he is in love with Jenny. However, Forrest also goes to space and crashes into the jungle, somewhere in Borneo, with an ape and an astronaut that was sent into space with him. They encounter head hunters, cannibals and the astronaut even ends up falling in love. The novel was obviously a lot crazier than the movie lets on.
I think everyone remembers Lieutenant Dan and how he “ain’t got no legs,” but in the novel, Dan is actually vastly different. In the movie, Lieutenant Dan is a military man, through and through, and comes from a long line of other military men who have all died in wars. In the novel, Dan is a high school history teacher who doesn’t actually believe in the war. That’s a pretty drastic change on the director’s part.
One thing that definitely stayed the same from novel to movie was Jenny Curran. She still sleeps around and she still strings Forrest along quite a bit. However, Jenny and Forrest do break up and get back together more often in the novel than they do in the movie.
I won’t tell you how the ending is different; you’ll have to read the novel yourself to figure that out. I will warn you, again, that the novel is crude and, at times, disgusting. It is also a little difficult to read at times because the novel is written in the dialect that Forrest speaks in, which is how Tom Hanks speaks in the movie.
All in all, I liked the novel well enough, but I think I liked the movie version too much to really appreciate the novel. Read it for yourself to discover a whole new version of “Forrest Gump.”