“Life (is) like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.”. Even though people don’t choose the box, people get choose what to do with the chocolates inside it. The hidden meaning of this simile comes to life as Forrest Gump rescues Lieutenant Dan and helps him find peace with his new life. Similar to Gump, Elroy Berdahl in The Things They Carried acts as a silent mentor and helps Tim O’ Brien confront the reality of going to war.
Before Lieutenant Dan found peace with his life, he wanted to find peace through his death. His dream was to die with honor in the battlefield similar to his forefathers. Lieutenant Dan’s fantasy crumples under Gump’s fast running feet when Gump rescues Dan from his valiant death. Now, as a double amputee, Dan’s life quickly turns to shambles; he becomes a homeless man in a wheelchair living off welfare. Forrest invites Dan to go shrimping. On the shrimping boat, Forrest doesn’t talk much; as a result, Dan figures out that life dealt him a bad hand, but he can still overcome that. Dan is able to swallow his pride as he finds new meaning in life. Later, he tells Forrest he “never thanked [Forest] for saving him.” He overcomes his initial disappointment of not dying honorably into an opportunity to find harmony from his time he spent in war and continue on in life.
Similar to Mr. Gump, Elroy Berhald acts as a quiet guardian for Tim. The draft forces Tim to fight in a war he opposes. He wants to run away to Canada to escape fighting in the war. On his way to Canada, he stops at Elroy’s inn, The Tip Top Lodge. Elroy escorts Tim to the Canadian border, forcing Tim to confront reality: running away is a choice he just cannot face. Tim realizes that he must go fight in the war. He can not run away because everyone will think less of him and he has to accept his fate. Tim understands he has to face his unfortunate destiny, but he comes to peace with it and moves.
Both Tim and Dan learn from their silent mentors. They come to identical conclusions that lead to different paths. Tim finds peace going into war, and Dan finds peace after war. “Even though you are pinned down by a war you have never felt more at peace,” (31). The divergent point of war is ironic because war should cause terror and confusion, but not peace. They both come to peace with the box of chocolates presented as they choose which chocolates they want to take out of the box. They can choose to hate life and throw the box of chocolates away, or accept that they have been given a box of chocolates they didn’t like, but taste the chocolates anyway. Thankfully, they both choose the latter. Doing so, Lieutenant Dan gets his life on track with the help of his fiancée, and Tim makes his way to Vietnam bravely.
Tim and Dan wouldn’t have been able to come to their realizations without their voiceless mentors. Similar to a father allowing his son to learn the world by himself, Forrest and Elroy help guide Dan and Tim. The parallel between Dan and Tim’s experiences of accepting what life has given to them show how effective it is to guide rather than to teach. With the proper voiceless guidance, people can understand whatever life throws at them, and they will still be able to move forward.