Misunderstood Film Characters #2 Jenny (Forrest Gump)

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Jenny & Forrest

Click here to read Misunderstood Film Characters #1 Uncle Max and The Baroness (The Sound of Music)

Click here to read Jenny Returns

Jenny Curran in Forrest Gump is, I think, one of the most misunderstood film characters in cinema history. I know many people who have seen Forrest Gump and constantly tell me that although they love the film, they hate the character of Jenny.

Warning: Spoilers are contained below!

I guess on the surface, it is easy to see why Jenny is not the most likeable of characters. She is annoyed at Forrest for trying to protect her in the face of hostile men. She only seems to return to Forrest when she needs somewhere to stay. Forrest writes to her constantly when he is in Vietnam, only for her to not receive any of the letters as she is out travelling with her hippie friends.

Forrest and Jenny have very different lives – Forrest is trying to do his best throughout life and is seemingly the nicest protagonist that any film has ever had. Although naive, he is a loveable character who has good intentions at heart. It is easy to see that Jenny is the antagonist of the film, and her lifestyle varies from Forrest’s greatly, as she becomes part of the hippie movement in the 1960s through to the drugs culture of the 1970s.

It is clear that Jenny does hurt Forrest, more than once, but why does Forrest always stick by her? For one simple reason, love (awww!)

Forrest loves Jenny, and Jenny loves Forrest. She loves Forrest throughout the whole film, but she is scared to express this love. From what we know of Jenny’s childhood, she had an unhappy time living with her abusive father (her mother is dead) and she eventually moves in with her Grandmother.

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After being thrown out of University, she becomes a singer in a sleazy bar, where Forrest sees someone throw a drink at her feet, and he tries to pick Jenny up and carry her out to safety, much to her annoyance. It is not long after this that we see Jenny join the hippie community, and eventually the drugs culture, whilst we see Forrest constantly thinking about Jenny and wondering what she is doing as she is off in the world.

We know that Jenny has had a difficult childhood, so her relationship with men is messed up. When Forrest tells Jenny that he loves her for the first time, she replies with ‘Forrest, you don’t know what love is.’ As much as Jenny cares for Forrest, although it may not be completely obvious, she convinces herself that he cannot love her. Everytime she and Forrest get a little closer, Jenny ends up moving further away.

As Jenny’s life takes darker turns, from her sad childhood and abusive boyfriends, to her drug usage and suicidal thoughts, the only bit of optimism we have is that she will return to Forrest, who is good and wholesome. This leaves the audience with a very clear line between both characters – Forrest is good, Jenny is bad.

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We can see a clear change in the character of Jenny, when she finally returns to Forrest to escape from the drugs culture that she has become embroiled in. One evening, Forrest asks Jenny to marry him. After she refuses him, Forrest says ‘I may not be a smart man, but I know what love is.’ Later that evening, Jenny tells Forrest that she does love him, and they sleep together, only for Jenny to leave the next morning.

Jenny has now left again, and a few years later when she writes to Forrest to tell him to come and visit her, we find out that Jenny has had Forrest Gump Junior. This is also the first instance when Jenny apologises to Forrest, telling him she was ‘messed up for a long time’. In Forrest’s eyes, there is seemingly nothing to forgive, even though he only finds out at the moment that he has become a father.

We now find out that Jenny is dying, and she asks Forrest to marry her. They get married, and finally the love that they have felt for each other throughout the whole film is cemented.

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Jenny has always loved Forrest, but thought she was helping Forrest by running away from him, only for her to realise as her life is coming to an end that she and Forrest make each other happy and that is what love is. It is simple enough for even Forrest to understand, and now they only have a few months to enjoy what they have before it’s all over.

I assume there will be some people who don’t agree with this, and will still see Jenny as someone who uses Forrest, but I think there is more to her character than that. She is undoubtedly messed up, and trying not to let Forrest get too close because of it, but her true feelings of love for him are undeniable by the end of the film.

Next time you watch Forrest Gump, try and see everything from Jenny’s point of view, and you may get a different perspective on her character. Added bonus – the Forrest Gump soundtrack is A-MAZ-ING!

What are your thoughts on Jenny from Forrest Gump? Let me know in the comments below!

Read the piece at readwave.com


About writingsuzanne

History graduate. Freelance writer and reviewer. Passionate about film, theatre and music (film soundtracks!).
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26 Responses to Misunderstood Film Characters #2 Jenny (Forrest Gump)

  1. Pingback: Misunderstood Film Characters #1 Uncle Max & The Baroness (The Sound of Music) | Writing Suzanne

  2. bhdandme says:

    Thanks for following the blog. I like your take on the Forrest Gump film. I always thought it was a better film than people seemed to be saying – deeper, wittier, and quite subversive too!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. kzisnbk says:

    I watched the movie first when I was very young, and I did not get the abuse. I had to ask my mother why she didn’t want to go home. It never occurred to me to think of her as bad, I always saw her as one of the broken people that Forrest helps. Thank you for helping me to understand how other people saw her, I have heard her criticized, but never had a clear reason why. Even though we agree, your explanation of the other side was the clearest I have heard.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much! I never thought of Jenny as bad either, although I could understand why other people did – I’m trying to bring everyone round to our way of thinking about Jenny 🙂


  4. Jamie says:

    Interesting – I’ve not watched the film in ages, but I never saw Jenny as ‘the bad’. I thought the enemy was the outside world (the people who thought Forrest was just some slow-witted idiot), and Jenny represented his shifting relationship with that world – from friendly obliviousness as children, to the shock of reality when he sees her in the bar, to the eventual reconciliation.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree with you. I always liked and understood Jenny. She is a well rounded character with some very deep issues. And Forrest Gump is not a stupid man at all. That’s the whole point. Therefore, she could not be using him, without his knowledge.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. ksbeth says:

    hi suzanne – thanks for reading and following me, and i look forward to doing the same – i like your take on jenny in this one )


  7. authormbeyer says:

    I do really love that film, and the tragic romance with its enduring, all-forgiving love is one of the main reasons why. I never thought of Jenny as an antagonist. I always saw her through Forrest’s eyes, even though I can see things and understand them that he doesn’t. It’s the reason I still cry at the end even the twenty-ninth time I watched that movie. And thank you for such an insightful character analysis. You made me think about the movie in a different way, and love it even more.


  8. Pingback: Behind the Scenes: ‘Forrest Gump’ (1994) | Writing Suzanne

  9. kelleysdiy says:

    I liked the character Jenny. Very sad character…they could have made a film just on her character alone.


  10. Pingback: My Most Read Piece: On Jenny from ‘Forrest Gump’ (1994) | Writing Suzanne

  11. srogouski says:

    This is definitely a well-written review. It actually makes me want to see Forrest Gump again.


  12. I know this is old but I wanted to add my 2 cents lol. I always thought Jenny was in search of true love, something Forrest had always had from his mother. Jenny only told Forrest twice that she loved him.The first time was when Jenny thought love was just the physical act. The second was when Forrest told her she was always with him. That second time was when I believed she actually realized what love was. Even when she married him, I think she was starting to get the idea but was still only doing it for little Forrest’s sake/ I always thought Jenny was a sad character since she spent her entire life looking for something right in front of her just because she really didn’t know what she was looking for to begin with. I have never thought of Jenny as evil or bad or negative, just misguided through no fault of her own.


    • Despite how old this piece is, it’s still the most read on my blog!
      Thanks for your comments – I have always felt that Jenny couldn’t see the love right in front of her from Forrest, due to her traumatic childhood. Very sad that she only allows herself to love Forrest back when she knows that she is dying.


  13. noelleg44 says:

    Very good! Great insight. I’ve watched Forrest Gump more than a few times and felt Jenny was by far the most flawed character. Thanks for following my blog – stop by any time!


  14. John Cena says:

    I agree with your insight on Jenny completely. Here’s the rub though. I think people misplace their anger onto the Jenny character instead of directing it at the anger they don’t realize they have to the ending of the movie itself.
    I did this for the longest time myself. Here’s why
    Because Zemeckis should had never had Jenny die at the end. Her character is redeemed at the end by coming back to Forrest and giving him a son and marrying him. That makes all the shorty things she did to Forrest be forgiven because you realize she was running from being fully loved by Forrest because she didn’t think SHE deserved it.
    Funny how her and Forrest both ran physically and symbolically.
    But back to my point, by having Jenny die soon after he finally redeeming herself and marrying Forrest. It robs the audience with full closure and the happy ending they wanted.
    Zemeckis really failed by not following the book where Jenny does live.
    That one simple change completely changes the way people look at Jenny. Its bittersweet yes. But its kind of like a punch tothe stomach.
    Forrest finally gets to be with his love only for fate to now take her.
    The ending also in my opinion turns and comedy drama into a full drama peppered with comedic scenes. It imo tunrs the entire story into a melancholy sad lost love story, instead of a redeeming love story.
    Finally to cement my point I will leave this.
    Had Jenny contacted Forrest at the end so he could meet his son and for her to be ready to marry him and it wasn’t under the content of her knowing she was dying, it would complete her journey and give everyone wanted they wanted.
    But by giving her a fatal virus ( AIDS) and her knowing she was dying and then having her contact Forrest it makes her come off as a desperate manipluating person who in her final act once again reaches out to Forrest and uses his love for her and his low IQ to get him to take care of her when she had no one else. Not to mention it also opens up the question of had Jenny not found out she was dying would she had even contacted Forrest in the first place to let him know he had a child with her?
    The viewer really should despise Robert Zemeckis for robbing them of the ending they wanted and for changing the ending and making Jenny’s character look unlikable.


    • Thank you for your thoughts; as with most films adapted from a book, plot points and characters are changed. I think the character of Forrest was changed quite a lot also.


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