In Winston Groom’s novel Forrest Gump (1986), Forrest is portrayed as an idiot savant. Quoting from Chapter 4, Dr. Mills says to a group assembled to study the strange case of Forrest: “Idiot savant … A person who can not tie a necktie, who can barely lace up his shoes, who has the mental capacity of a perhaps a six- to ten-year-old, and – in this case – the body of, well, an Adonis … But the mind, the mind of the idiot savant has rare pockets of brilliance, so that Forrest here can solve advanced mathematical equations that would stump any of you and can pick up complex musical themes with the ease of Liszt or Beethoven. Idiot savant.”
In the movie Forrest Gump (Paramount Pictures 1994), the term idiot savant is not used nor even implied. Forrest was depicted with a low IQ (75), although just above what is considered mental retardation (below 70). And there are two scenes in the movie that show Forrest demonstrating savant-like abilities:
- When he assembles and disassembles his rifle with lightning speed during his Army basic training.
- When he plays ping-pong with laser-like focus and superhuman physical performance.
Since Forrest Gump is a fictitious character and I’m not a doctor, my opinion is purely speculative and just for fun. I believe Forrest was an idiot savant in the book version but not in the blockbuster movie. In the movie version that starred Tom Hanks, Forrest was depicted as extremely simple yet profoundly wise – a sage.
Here are some more facts about savantism, idiots savants, and autism.