Forrest Gump: The True Cause of Jenny's Death (2024)


  • Jenny's death in Forrest Gump is left ambiguous, but it is widely accepted that she likely died from HIV/AIDS due to the setting and her lifestyle.
  • The scrapped sequel to Forrest Gump revealed that Jenny died from late-stage HIV, which would have been passed on to their son, Forrest Jr.
  • The purposeful ambiguity in the film about Jenny's illness avoids adding an unnecessary layer of tragedy and allows the focus to remain on Forrest's triumphs.

Given the tragic end of her story, there are still many fans wondering what Jenny died from in Forrest Gump. The confusion surrounding these questions is due to the fact that the movie provides only clues about Jenny's death and does not adapt how Jenny dies in the book. Though Robert Zemeckis' 1994 film centers on Forrest's life accomplishments, the story is grounded by his unconditional love for Jenny, despite her often not treating him very kindly in return. Unbeknownst to the naive Forrest (but plain to the audience), Jenny from Forrest Gump was an abuse victim and often struggled with her own past traumas.

Forrest Gump chooses to gloss over Jenny's true diagnosis for reasons unknown, and it's hard to say if the film worked better without the admission. At the time, the AIDS pandemic was sadly a devastating reality, and given every historical event in Forrest Gump, Jenny succumbing to HIV is widely accepted as the likeliest cause of her death. While the book has its own conclusion, the movie presents various clues to Jenny's death.


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How Jenny Dies In Forrest Gump

Jenny Not Explaining The Illness To Forrest Reflects How She Understands His Limitations

Jenny's death in Forrest Gump comes after she and Forrest share a bittersweet journey together throughout their lives. They bond as young children but separate as adults because of the Vietnam War — a fate that befell many people back when one could be drafted into the military. Although, in Forrest's case he enlisted. Forrest fulfills his vow to write letters for Jenny, only to discover that they'd been returned due to an invalid mailing address.

After becoming a war hero and receiving the Medal of Honor, Forrest reunites Jenny at a 1967 anti-war rally in Washington D.C. but then doesn't see her for nearly a decade. In 1976, Jenny returns home to Alabama and has sex with Forrest before taking off again, continuing the cycle of her floating in and out of his life. While Forrest Gump's early conflict stems from events that took him away from Jenny, the final act drama explores what brings them together, leading to a resolution that's in some ways cathartic, but in others quite upsetting.

Forrest Gump's climax explains the opening premise and builds to two major reveals. In 1981, Forrest travels to Georgia upon receiving a letter from Jenny, who knows the truth about why her long-time friend spent years running across America: he was heartbroken and nostalgic for the past. Forrest discovers that Jenny gave birth to Forrest Jr. (Haley Joel Osment), thus making their bond stronger.

Then he learns that Jenny has "some kind of virus" that doctors can't explain. Jenny dies after marrying Forrest, and her illness is never clarified within the film. Jenny's true cause of death in Forrest Gump was long rumored to be associated with either HIV/AIDS or Hepatitis C due to the early '80s setting and the character's lifestyle from years prior.

Jenny Was An Unfortunate Casualty Of The HIV/AIDS Pandemic

Screenwriter Eric Roth Detailed The Unmade Forrest Gump Sequel

Forrest Gump: The True Cause of Jenny's Death (2)

In 2019, Forrest Gump screenwriter Eric Roth confirmed that the illness Jenny died from was late-stage HIV. During an interview (viaYahoo Entertainment) about the film's 25th anniversary, Roth discussed the details of a sequel that was canceled after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. He reveals that the Forrest Gump sequel was actually going to open with the revelation that Forrest Jr. had late-stage HIV, the result of acquiring the disease from his mother, Jenny. Roth also notes that he wrote a humorously dark scene involving Florida kids who refused to attend the same school as Forrest Jr.:

"We had a funny sequence where they were [desegregation] busing in Florida at the same time, so people were angry about either the busing, or [their] kids having to go to school with the kid who had AIDS. So there was a big conflict."

Per Roth, the Forrest Gump sequel had a darker subtext beyond the HIV plot line. One scene involved Hanks' character riding in the back of O.J. Simpson's Ford Bronco during the infamous 1994 freeway chase in Los Angeles. Another scene had Forrest ballroom dancing with Princess Diana (who tragically passed away in 1997). Roth also wrote a sequence where a Native American character whom Forrest befriends gets killed in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

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Did The HIV Virus Transmit To Forrest Gump and Forrest Jr.?

The Movie Wisely Avoids Addressing The Dark Possibility

Forrest Gump: The True Cause of Jenny's Death (3)

The question of the future implications of Jenny's illness lays a dark overtone to Forrest Gump as a whole: It's medically possible that HIV transmission occurred to both Forrest Gump and Forrest Gump Jr., but the creators never officially answered the question. If Jenny were to pass on HIV to Forrest, then it's probable her son, Forrest Jr., would have the virus as well. If Forrest (and his son) possibly did have the virus, it would cause numerous complications over his life, spanning far into the future. This would assuredly cast a shadow over the purpose of the film, which is about a man and his triumphs while living with learning difficulties.

Whether Forrest acquired the virus doesn't serve the intent of Forrest Gump. Nothing in the movie denotes that Forrest has HIV, though, the film keeps Jenny's diagnosis purposefully vague. What Jenny died from is only discovered when information about the scrapped sequel came out. Since it's unknown when Jenny acquired the illness in Forrest Gump, it's very possible that HIV transmission didn't take place. It's sad enough that Jenny faced the impact of the HIV pandemic. Exposing Forrest to it as well would only add an unnecessary layer of tragedy to the movie.

The sequel was ultimately canceled when the 9/11 tragedy made the screenplay "meaningless." Therefore, movie fans are left with Forrest Gump: a '90s classic that does indeed cover many historical events but ultimately settles on Jenny's legacy. Considering how underwhelming most belated sequels to beloved classic movies turn out, though, Forrest not returning for a sequel is probably for the best, especially due to the original being viewed by some as problematic by modern standards.


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Tom Hanks Was An HIV/AIDS Activist Before Forrest Gump

Hanks' Charity Work Coincided With His First Oscar-Winning Role

Forrest Gump: The True Cause of Jenny's Death (5)

While starring in Forrest Gump, Tom Hanks was known for another controversial (at the time) movie — 1993's Philadelphia. This Tom Hanks movie saw the actor in the role of Andrew Beckett, a gay man who enlists the help of lawyer Joe Miller (Denzel Washington) to sue his former employers for firing him when they found out he had AIDS. Playing a gay man in an early 90s movie was quite unheard of, and rather controversial, at the time — portraying a character openly living as HIV-positive added additional uproar in less-than-progressive circles too. However, the role won Hanks a "Best Actor" Oscar in 1994, proving that the film was a cultural landmark.

Unlike Forrest Gump's deliberate ambiguity around the subject, Philadelphia was on a mission to bring awareness surrounding the AIDS pandemic to those who might not normally care, putting Washington's character into the shoes of the average person at the time, who had qualms about helping someone out that was gay and had AIDS. Outside his role in Philadelphia, movie star Tom Hanks is known for charity work for AIDS/HIV relief and research. Forrest Gump isn't necessarily known for AIDS activism, since Jenny's diagnosis was glossed over, but her character and illness are important nonetheless, and yet another way Hanks brought awareness to the reality of living with AIDs and HIV.

Jenny Dies From Hepatitis C In The Forrest Gump Books

The Adaptation Of Forrest Gump Changed A Lot From The Source Material

Forrest Gump: The True Cause of Jenny's Death (6)

The question of how Jenny dies in Forrest Gump is further confused by the fact that the book is different from how screenwriter Eric Roth has spoken about it, and Forrest Gump author Winston Groom has given conflicting comments over the years. That said, what's clear is that Jenny dies of Hepatitis C in the second book, while she dies of AIDS in the movies, even though it was only implied. Notably, Hepatitis C was discovered in 1989, which is why the doctors could do little for Jenny in the '80s. Moreover, Hepatitis C - especially during the '80s - was transferred through blood contact with shared needles, which is also consistent with Jenny's character in Forrest Gump.

  • Forrest Gump

    In this iconic piece of American film history, the presidencies of Kennedy and Johnson, the events of the Vietnam war, Watergate, and other history unfold through the perspective of an Alabama man with an IQ of 75.

    Release Date:

    $55 million

    Mykelti Williamson, Gary Sinise, Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Sally Field

    Robert Zemeckis

    Romance, Drama


    142 minutes

    Eric Roth

    Paramount Pictures

    Paramount Pictures
Forrest Gump: The True Cause of Jenny's Death (2024)


Forrest Gump: The True Cause of Jenny's Death? ›

Jenny Dies From Hepatitis C In The Forrest Gump Books

Why did Jenny leave Forrest after sleeping with him? ›

Why did Jenny leave Forrest before he went on the long run? She recognised the innocence and purity of Forrest and all his actions and due to her childhood trauma that had caused her to have a tough life she did not want to burden Forrest with the same suffering.

Was Forrest Jr. really his son? ›

Curiously, the Forrest Gump novel by Winston Groom ends with Jenny raising her and Forrest Gump's son with a man who is none the wiser, a secret shared between Forrest and Jenny. Ultimately, this theory is rendered moot by the simple fact that Forrest accepts Jr. as a son with no questions asked.

Why was Jenny messed up in Forrest Gump? ›

She was raised by her father, a farmer, who physically and sexually abused Jenny and her sisters. Forrest naïvely believed that he was simply a loving father as he was always kissing and touching Jenny and her sisters.

Did Jenny and Forrest have a child? ›

Little Forrest (referred to in the film as Forrest Jr.) is a character in the Forrest Gump novel and film. He is the son of Forrest Gump and Jenny Curran and is played by Haley Joel Osment in the movie.

What disease did Jenny have? ›

In the book that's the sequel to Forrest Gump, Gump and Co., author Winston Groom reveals that Jenny died of hepatitis C, a bloodborne illness which would probably have been the result of her intravenous drug use during her hippie years.

How old was Jenny when she died in Forrest Gump? ›

Forrest asks Jenny and Forrest Jr. to live with him, and Jenny proposes to Forrest. The two marry in the backyard. After some time of living together as a family, Jenny dies at age 32. Her illness is never explicitly stated, though screenwriter Eric Roth confirmed in a 2019 interview that she died of AIDS.

Did Forrest Gump have autism? ›

It would have been extraordinary if Groom had created the character with autism in mind and all evidence points to the idea that he simply intended Forrest to be a low-IQ individual stumbling through some of recent history's most historic events.

WHat happened to Forrest Gump's dad? ›

The novel also provides additional backstory on his father. It is revealed that his father was a longshoreman who worked for United Fruit Company. He was killed when a crate of bananas being loaded off of a boat fell on top of him, crushing him to death.

Was Forrest Gump based on a true story? ›

Forrest Gump uses real historical events as a way to introduce Forrest and his acquaintances as products of America's turbulent narrative, but many of the factual occurrences were adjusted to account for Forrest's inclusion and dramatic effect. Here's the Forrest Gump true story explained.

What was the real reason Jenny died in Forrest Gump? ›

Summary. Jenny's death in Forrest Gump is left ambiguous, but it is widely accepted that she likely died from HIV/AIDS due to the setting and her lifestyle. The scrapped sequel to Forrest Gump revealed that Jenny died from late-stage HIV, which would have been passed on to their son, Forrest Jr.

How long were Forrest and Jenny married before she died? ›

Jenny and Forrest finally marry, but she dies a year later. The film ends with Forrest seeing his son off on his first day of school.

What is the main point of Forrest Gump? ›

The film, "Forrest Gump", deals with finding the true meaning of the life despite facing numerous hurdles. It encourages never to stop and cry over the past experiences. The story is about a man named Forrest Gump. He was born with disabled legs and had a very low IQ of 75.

Was that really Forrest's son? ›

Most likely yes Forrest was the true father. There would be no reason for her to lie to him. If I recall correctly, Jenny sneaked into his (Forrest's) bedroom one night and they did it for the very first time.

Why did Jenny leave Forrest in the book? ›

Forrest Never Ends Up With Jenny

After being inseparable as kids, the two ventured on different life paths, with Forrest leaving school to join the army and Jenny ultimately succumbing to a life of drug and alcohol abuse. This set up the most crucial turning point in the story of Forrest Gump.

Did Jenny really love Forest? ›

Jenny is clearly not presented as the antagonist of Forrest Gump. She is a lifelong friend of Forrest's and has been shown to be one of the few people who loves and supports him for who he is. Despite this, her character has seemed to amass a fiery storm of hatred over the internet recently.

Why did Jenny come back to Forrest the first time? ›

While Jenny repeatedly rejects Forrest as her lover, she is romantically attracted to him enough to keep coming back into his life. After Forrest's mother passes away Jenny comes back, saying she misses home and is here to stay.

How many times did Forrest Gump sleep with Jenny? ›

Jenny, to be honest, probably knew that, so there would likely be little to no worry on her end of being discovered. I'm not suggesting there needs to be an additional scene that makes things more clear, but by no means do we know Forrest and Jenny had sex. And even then, we only know they had sex once.

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