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the pursuit of happiness essay questions

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

SUBJECTS — U.S./1945 – 1991; Diversity/African-American; Biography;

SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Father/Son; Parenting; Surviving; Work/Career; with the student handout Episodes in the Life of Chris Gardner (What’s Not in the Movie) add: Alcohol & Drug Abuse; Breaking Out; Spousal Abuse; Child Abuse; Education; Ambition; Male Role Model.

MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Responsibility; Caring.

AGE : 12+; MPAA Rating — PG-13 for some language;

Drama; 2006; 117 minutes; Color. Available from Amazon.com .

Give your students new perspectives on race relations, on the history of the American Revolution, and on the contribution of the Founding Fathers to the cause of representative democracy. Check out TWM’s Guide:

the pursuit of happiness essay questions

Benefits of the Movie Possible Problems Parenting Points Selected Awards & Cast

Helpful Background Discussion Questions Social-Emotional Learning Moral-Ethical Emphasis

Assignments and Projects Bridges to Reading Links to the Internet Bibliography

MOVIE WORKSHEETS & STUDENT HANDOUTS

TWM offers the following worksheets to keep students’ minds on the movie and direct them to the lessons that can be learned from the film.

Film Study Worksheet for Social Studies Classes for a Work of Historical Fiction and

Worksheet for Cinematic and Theatrical Elements and Their Effects .

Teachers can modify the movie worksheets to fit the needs of each class. See also TWM’s Historical Fiction in Film Cross-Curricular Homework Project .

A more complete description of the True Story can be found in TWM’s student handout: Episodes in the Life of Chris Gardner (What’s Not in the Movie) .

DESCRIPTION

In this movie, an African-American man, abandoned by his father as an infant, vows that he will always be present in the life of his child. Caught in a perfect storm of bad luck, he becomes homeless. However, he manages to take care of his son while pursuing a highly competitive, unpaid internship as a stockbroker. The film was “inspired by” events in the life of Christopher Gardner, who was once homeless. He is now a wealthy stockbroker, as well as a proud father.

This movie is highly engaging. The story is well-written, the production values are high, and Will Smith’s acting is simply magnificent.

SELECTED AWARDS & CAST

Selected Awards:

2007 Academy Awards Nominations – Best Actor (Will Smith).

Featured Actors:

Will Smith as Chris Gardner, Thandie Newton as Linda, and Jaden Christopher Syre Smith as Christopher.

Gabriele Muccino.

BENEFITS OF THE MOVIE

“The Pursuit of Happyness” shows a homeless African-American father taking responsibility for his child, while succeeding as a stockbroker. It also has excellent messages about the importance of keeping your cool in the face of incredible disappointment and provocation. Time after time, we watch as the protagonist masters his emotions and comes up gracious and smiling after being dealt a serious blow. As a result, he is often able to go back to the people involved and create an opportunity for himself.

However, almost everything else about this movie is, in some way, problematic, including its messages about living out your dream and the benefits of hard work. Pointing out the problems and discussing them will lead to valuable lessons about:

(1) the liberties with the facts that can be taken by filmmakers in a movie “inspired by a true story;”

(2) how the movie makers, in search of a dramatic storyline, ignored Mr. Gardner’s most important achievement, which was surviving physical and emotional abuse by his stepfather to become a caring and nurturing human being;

(3) the victimization of the homeless by criminals; the homeless are at great risk of being assaulted and robbed, but this never made it into the movie;

(4) how movies can gloss over troubling ethical questions raised by the true story

During the period that Mr. Gardner pursued the internship program his girlfriend had disappeared and taken his son; Mr. Gardner looked for them but couldn’t find them; after he had passed the broker’s exam and was working as a stockbroker, the girlfriend suddenly appeared and dropped off the boy; Mr. Gardner could have worked for another broker and earned enough money to put a roof over his son’s head but Mr. Gardner wanted to spend his time building his own clientele because this would allow him the chance to become rich faster than if he worked for someone else; working to build his own client base meant that Mr. Gardner wouldn’t be able to afford a place to live for a year or two; faced with a choice of providing a home for his son and putting off his dream of getting rich or being homeless for almost a year while he tried to build his own client base, Mr. Gardner chose to subject his son to the dangers of homelessness; in other words, he put his own interests ahead of his child’s safety;

(5) how “feel good” movies often feature Cinderella stories of extraordinary good fortune which, given the economic structure of our society, are unrealistic for all but one in a million [in other words, what does the rags to riches story shown in this movie say to a culturally deprived black or Hispanic young person growing up in a central city ghetto who has been socially promoted from one grade to the next and who is not a proficient reader?].

TeachWithMovies.org has prepared an 19-page handout, Episodes in the Life of Chris Gardner (What’s Not in the Movie),which provides fascinating information on the life of Chris Gardner and the many life lessons that can be derived from his story. It is designed as a reading exercise that will interest students. With the handout and the Discussion Questions in this Learning Guide, “The Pursuit of Happyness” can become an excellent learning experience.

POSSIBLE PROBLEMS

SUBSTANTIAL. See the Benefits section above. However, with the supplementary materials provided by this Learning Guide, each of these problems can be turned into a benefit.

There is a moderate amount of profanity in the film.

PARENTING POINTS

After watching the movie, suggest that you and your child “find out what really happened” by reading TWM’s student handout: Episodes in the Life of Chris Gardner (What’s Not in the Movie) . Then talk about some interesting incidents in Mr. Gardner’s life and go over a few of the Discussion Questions. Begin with Discussion Question #2

HELPFUL BACKGROUND

the pursuit of happiness essay questions

The True Story That Inspired the Movie

Right before he started the internship at Dean Witter, Chris Gardner’s girlfriend disappeared and took their son with her. Mr. Gardner’s efforts to find his son were fruitless. Dean Witter paid its interns $1000 a month. With that money, Mr. Gardner was able to rent a room in a boarding house. Therefore, when he had to prepare for the broker’s exam, Chris Gardner had a secure place to sleep and a quiet place to study. In addition, he didn’t have to take care of a young child.

Mr. Gardner did very well on the broker’s exam and was hired by Dean Witter. At that point, he had a choice. He could work for an established broker in the office at a salary large enough to support himself at a reasonable level. Any prospective clients developed with his telephone calls would be referred to his employer. Perhaps Mr. Gardner would be allowed to take over a few small deals. Working for an established broker would give him more money right away, but he would have to put off building his own set of clients. The alternative was for Mr. Gardner to work on his own from the beginning, using the telephone to build his business. This would give him less money for the first year or two (only about $1200 a month). However, if things went well, in a year or two, or three, he would make more money from his own set of clients than he would have made had he started out working for an established broker. In addition, if Mr. Gardner tried to build his own set of clients from nothing, his success would depend entirely on his own efforts. Mr. Gardner chose to work on his own and make very little money right away with the hope of making a lot more money in a few years.

One Friday night, several weeks after Mr. Gardner had started working as a broker trying to build up his own business, his former girlfriend appeared at the boarding house. She was tired of being a single mother. (She had trained to be a dentist and was trying to get established in that field.) She gave Mr. Gardner their 19-month-old son (Little Chris), the child’s stroller, a very large duffle bag filled with the child’s possessions, and lots of disposable diapers. The former girlfriend told Mr. Gardner what Little Chris ate, that he was to have no sweets, and then she left. The boarding house didn’t allow children. Mr. Gardner and his son were now homeless. Chris Gardner had no one he could call and ask for money. Nor did he feel that he could ask his friends for a place to stay with a 19-month-old child.

Over the weekend, Mr. Gardner found day care for his son ($400 a month) and they lived in a $25-a-night motel. $400 a month for daycare and $750 a month for a motel would eat up almost all of his $1200 a month income. There’d be no money for food, diapers, or anything else. The only way for Mr. Gardner to afford a place to live was to start working for another broker. He’d have to postpone his plan to focus on developing his own group of clients.

Over the next several days Mr. Gardner made a fateful decision: he and his son would be homeless for the next year or so until his own business at Dean Witter gave him enough money to rent an apartment. He would not work for someone else to put a roof over his son’s head. (Since landlords usually require hefty security deposits and first and last months rent, this meant that Mr. Gardner would have hundreds of dollars in savings while he and his son were still homeless.) Mr. Gardner made a conscious decision that he would not postpone his chance to become rich in order to care for his son, nor would he abandon his child. As a result, Mr. Gardner and Little Chris were homeless for approximately one year.

What does a two-year-old child need? He needs at least one parent, food, dry diapers, safety, and stability. Rich or poor doesn’t mean anything to a toddler, if he has these basics. Being homeless is a risky proposition. Homeless people are more likely to be assaulted and killed than people sleeping at home in their beds. Homeless people are exposed to the elements and can become ill. Perhaps the worst thing that could have happened to Little Chris was for his father to have been seriously injured in an assault or killed. Being a parent means putting your child’s interests before your own, especially when issues of safety are concerned. In deciding to be homeless rather than pursuing the slower track to success that would have provided him with enough money to put a roof over his son’s head, Chris Gardner violated one of the basic obligations that a parent owes to his or her child. Fortunately, he was able to make it work and, apparently, Little Chris suffered no harm as a result.

HOMELESSNESS IN AMERICA: THE FACTS, THE CAUSES, A CALL TO ACTION

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH):

  • 754,000 people were homeless on an average day in the U.S. in 2005. (This was less than .3 % of the U.S. population.) Only about 55% could find a place in a shelter. The rest, about 335,000 people, were on the streets. One-third of the unsheltered homeless (approximately 112,000 people) were persons in families. Most of these were children.
  • 47% of all homeless people are men and 59% are minorities.
  • 39% are children younger than 18; 42% of these children are under the age of 5.
  • 40% are veterans.

There is a core of chronic homelessness, but there is also a large turnover of people who are homeless for several months and who are then able to find homes. Central cities have more homeless people than rural/suburban areas, possibly because there are more shelters in cities and housing is more affordable in rural/suburban areas. (HUD February 2007 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress (HUD AHAR) pages iii, iv, vi, 21 – 24 & 32 and NCH: Who is Homeless? Fact Sheet #3 page 2 & 3.)

The homeless are convenient targets for criminals and are victimized more frequently than the general population. In one study in California, 66% of homeless people interviewed reported that they had been the victim of a crime within the last year. 75% of those crimes were assaults or robberies. (Attorney General, State of California, Special Report to the California Legislature on Crimes Committed Against Homeless Persons p. 5. Data is from 2001.) The homeless who are not sheltered are at risk for becoming ill due to exposure to the elements.

WHO BECOMES HOMELESS AND WHY?

Poverty is the most important risk factor for homelessness. Without the means to pay for the most basic of necessities, poor people begin to live paycheck-to-paycheck with no way to accumulate any savings. “Being poor means being an illness, an accident or a paycheck away from living on the streets,” writes the NCH. But poverty isn’t just about not having money – it’s about the underlying causes that push people into poverty: unemployment, lack of education and training, low-paying jobs, inadequate public assistance, and lack of health insurance. NCH: Why Are People Homeless? Fact Sheet #1 pp. 1, 3, & 6.

A person’s rent should typically cost about 30% of his or her earnings (leaving money for food, clothing, education, and other necessities); however, “in every state, more than [30% of earnings at] the minimum wage is required to afford a one or two-bedroom apartment.” Then where do minimum-wage earners with families live? All too often they are forced into homeless shelters or they live on the streets. In some cities, anywhere from 13% to 26% of people in “homeless situations” are employed. Ibid p. 2.

Welfare has been steadily declining. Female-headed families and working families that leave the welfare system are at the highest risk for homelessness of any group. The NCH states, “Although more families are moving from welfare to work, many of them are faring poorly due to low wages and inadequate work support.” NCH: Why Are People Homeless? Fact Sheet #1 page 3.

Domestic violence:

Battered women and victims of domestic abuse often face bleak options: stay in an abusive relationship or become homeless. In fact, 50% of all women and children who are homeless have fled domestic violence. Ibid page 6.

Mental illness:

16% of the adult homeless suffer from mental illness. Id. page 6.

Alcohol and Drug Abuse:

Alcohol abuse is a problem for many of the homeless.

Status as a Veteran:

Veterans are very highly represented among the homeless.

Because there are several different causes of homelessness, there isn’t one over-arching program that will help all of them. The NCH believes that relief will come from “a concerted effort to ensure jobs that pay a living wage, adequate support for those who cannot work, affordable housing, and access to health care.” NCH: Why Are People Homeless? Fact Sheet #1 page 7.

WHAT WE CAN DO TO HELP HOMELESS PEOPLE

Regardless of our age, income, or talents, we can help the homeless. We could volunteer at a shelter like Glide Memorial or at a food bank or some other agency that helps homeless people. Most likely there’s one not too far away. Those who want to be more active can organize a food drive at school or work with a local shelter or soup kitchen to arrange for days when students can come and volunteer. Our imaginations and our willingness to help are the only limits on what we can do. For more ideas and suggestions see NCH Fact Sheet #19: How YOU Can Help End Homelessness .

“The Pursuit of Happyness” tells us that homelessness isn’t a problem for “other” people; it’s a problem for “real” people. It’s important to remember The Golden Rule: treat others as you would like to be treated. What if you or members of your family were without a place to sleep and there was no one to help you?

Having a large homeless population is not inevitable. By working together, learning about the causes of homelessness, and thinking creatively, we can provide housing for all of our people.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1. See Questions Suitable for Any Film .

MEDIA LITERACY

2. There is something not quite realistic about what’s shown in the movie. What is it?

Suggested Response:

Only a superman could:

  • study for a difficult brokers’ exam and
  • work in the Dean Witter office making hundreds of cold calls a day and
  • do better than all the other interns and
  • care for his son and
  • get food for them both and
  • search for a different place to sleep every night and
  • look fresh and well rested every morning like any other businessman and
  • sell a few bone density scanners on the weekends,
  • when he wasn’t getting paid and knew that only one intern would be offered a job.

In fact, what the real Chris Gardner did was very difficult. However, it becomes a superhuman task when you add the pressure of preparing for a very difficult examination with no quiet place to study, having to sell bone density scanners on the weekends, and working for no money, all the while knowing that there was little chance that he’d get the job.

3. Mr. Gardner deserves praise for his decision to keep his son with him. However, the story told by the movie avoids dealing with the ethics of the decision made by Mr. Gardner to try to become wealthy as fast as he could even though it meant subjecting himself and his son to the very real risks involved in being homeless. Little Chris was definitely a stakeholder in his father’s decision. What does his father’s decision to become homeless look like from Little Chris’ point of view?

What does a two-year-old child need? He needs at least one parent, food, dry diapers, safety, and stability. Rich or poor doesn’t mean anything to a toddler if he has these basics. Being homeless is a risky proposition. Homeless people are more likely to be assaulted and killed than people sleeping at home in their beds. Homeless people are exposed to the elements and can become ill. Perhaps the worst thing that could have happened to Little Chris was for his father to have been seriously injured in an assault or killed. Being a parent means putting your child’s interests before your own, especially when issues of safety are concerned. In deciding to be homeless rather than pursuing the slower track to success that would have provided him with enough money to put a roof over his son’s head, Chris Gardner violated a basic principle of good parenting.

The fact that Mr. Gardner’s gamble paid off and that neither he nor his child were assaulted while they were homeless doesn’t mean that Mr. Gardner made the right decision. It only means that he and his son were lucky.

4. Why did the screenwriters change the story?

There is no one correct answer to this question. A strong answer will mention that the story told by the movie is more dramatic than the true story. It’s much harder to dramatize Mr. Gardner’s decision to GO THE OTHER WAY, as he put it:

Not only was I going to make sure my children had a daddy, I was never going to be Freddie Triplett. I was never going to terrorize, threaten, harm, or abuse a woman or a child, and I was never going to drink so hard that I couldn’t account for my actions.

Also, the story of Mr. Gardner’s rape when he was 14 years old, was probably too upsetting for a PG-13 film.

5. One critic of this movie said that “The Pursuit of Happyness” and films like it, “. . . assuage the guilt of the privileged . . . and send the message that we who have ‘made it’ into the middle and upper classes are there simply because of our superior virtue and intelligence. It is far more flattering to attribute our wealth to superior character and abilities, . . . than to factor in inequitable tax codes, unequal access to health care, discriminatory education, slave-wages, international trade agreements and inheritance laws that protect privileged races and classes.” The Stories We Tell: films like ‘Pursuit of Happyness’ assuage the guilt of the privileged by Jeremy V. Cruz, America, April 30, 2007. Do you agree or disagree?

This is clearly a valid criticism. The vast majority of the poor work hard and show up for menial jobs day after day. Mr. Cruz, who is a former youth minister, said, “In fact, the poor are among the hardest-working, strongest, most selfless people I know, often holding two or three jobs to keep their families together for one more day.” It isn’t easy to get advanced education and training when there is no money to pay for it and while you are responsible for raising children or making a living. On the other hand, virtue and effort are important. Without them no one would advance. A good exercise when discussing this question is to take an example of a person who is successful and analyze their career in terms of the advantages that they received because of their birth.

For other questions relating to media literacy, see Homelessness, Question #s 1 & 2.

HOMELESSNESS

1. Is it true that most people who live in poverty don’t work hard and don’t apply themselves?

We don’t think so. See quote from Mr. Jeremy V. Cruz in the suggested answer to Discussion Question #5. Look around at people who are working menial jobs. Most work pretty hard and many work two jobs. They have to in order to make ends meet. Why do they work in these low paying jobs and why can’t they get a better job? There are many possible reasons: lack of education, inadequate training, the fact that they are immigrants and can’t speak English well, lack of ability to do other jobs. Laziness and lack of effort aren’t among them. These are respectable jobs and need to be done. The one thing we know is that the fact that people are working these jobs means that they are willing to do what it takes to keep their families together.

2. How is the version of homelessness in the movie different than what the homeless really experience?

The homeless are at greater risk for being assaulted or robbed than the general population. They are at risk of becoming ill from exposure. Nor does the movie show what happens when a homeless person has to go to the bathroom, but there are no available facilities. Nor does it show what happens when they are sick.

3. There are some developed countries in which there are fewer homeless people than in the U.S. Why are there so many homeless people in the U.S.?

It’s a matter of priorities. In the U.S., voters would rather have lower taxes than take care of the homeless. Other developed countries have made different choices and have fewer extremely wealthy people and fewer people in extreme poverty or who are homeless.

4. Has this movie changed your view of the homeless? If so, what are the changes? If not, why not?

There is no one correct response.

Short Quiz on Homelessness:

1. In 2005, approximately how many people were homeless in the U.S., both sheltered and unsheltered?

754,000 people.

2. On an average night in 2005, what percent of the homeless were not able to find a place to sleep in a shelter?

45% or 339,000.

3. What percent and approximate number of homeless people in the U.S. were children under the age of 18 in 2005? Of that number, how many are under the age of five?

Approximately 39%, or 290,000 were children younger than 18; 42% or 122,000 were under the age of five.

4. What are the main risks of being homeless?

Becoming the victim of a robbery or assault and getting ill from exposure to the elements.

5. What is the role played by the high cost of health care and lack of adequate health insurance in forcing people into homelessness?

People whose finances are wiped out by the costs of illness are at great risk of losing their homes.

6. How much should a family spend on housing if they are to have enough money left over for food, clothing, education, and other necessities?

The answer to the following question counts for four points.

7. List the five different types of people who are at risk for becoming homeless.

(1) the poor;

(2) the mentally ill;

(3) the alcoholic and drug-addicted;

(4) victims of domestic violence; and

(5) veterans.

1. One critic wrote,

Often, as I watched the movie and the Chris Gardner character was frustrated time and time again, like when he got the parking ticket for his supervisor’s car, or when he couldn’t sell a bone density scanner, or when the man at the football game said that Chris was too inexperienced to get his pension fund business, I thought the character would explode. (I would have had trouble keeping my cool in those situations.) The actor allowed you to see the character mastering his frustration and anger to respond to the disappointment in a smiling and gracious manner. He kept his cool and didn’t burn his bridges.

But there were times when the character of Mr. Gardner, as shown in the movie, did lose his cool and got aggressive with people. What do you think about the ability of this character to keep his cool and be gracious in the face of extreme disappointment and frustration? When did he express his frustration and become angry with people? Does this tell you anything about people in general? But there were times when the character of Mr. Gardner, as shown in the movie, did lose his cool and got aggressive with people. What do you think about the ability of this character to keep his cool and be gracious in the face of extreme disappointment and frustration? When did he express his frustration and become angry with people? Does this tell you anything about people in general?

There are a couple of good responses. Taking frustration graciously and not burning your bridges is a necessary ability in being a salesperson and in life in general. It tells us that people who are often disappointed, poor people in particular, have to exercise a lot of self-control throughout their lives. It also shows that the character of Mr. Gardner expressed anger and became aggressive at those who were equal to him or lower in the power structure. He generally allowed himself to lose his cool and become aggressive with poor and non-white people. This probably has nothing to do with the real Mr. Gardner, and how he acts, but it does ring true as something that people do.

2. Now that you have read about Mr. Gardner’s life, what do you think is the most remarkable thing that he accomplished? Do you think it was caring for his son and succeeding at being a stockbroker while he was homeless? Or was it something else?

There is no one right answer. Possible responses include: (1) caring for his son and succeeding at being a stockbroker while he was homeless; (2) consciously deciding to go “the other way,” i.e., not to be a child abuser like his stepfather; not to be a drunk like his stepfather; not to be a wife beater like his stepfather; and not to abandon his child, like his biological father; (3) surviving the rape with apparently very few scars; (4) keeping J.R., the racist, as a client; or (5) trying to excel in any job that he held.

3. What did you learn from reading about Mr. Gardner?

There is no one answer. See the response to the preceding question.

4. Why is Chris Gardner glad that he didn’t kill Freddie Triplett, his abusive step-father?

There are two reasons. First, he probably would have been caught and sent to jail. (Remember, as a teenager when Chris did something illegal, he would usually get caught.) Second, killing another person, even with justification, does terrible things to the killer.

FATHER/SON — PARENTING

See Media Literacy Question #3.

5. What did Chris Gardner’s mother contribute to his character?

The most important thing was that he felt loved by her. In addition, there was the encouragement that he could do anything he set his mind to and be anything he wanted to be. She gave him practical advice, like looking confident even when he was terrified and she told him about the value of libraries. She encouraged his reading and schoolwork which, as it turned out, was very important to his success. He could never have passed the brokers’ exam if he hadn’t been a good reader.

6. What are some of the risks of homelessness?

Homeless people often sleep in areas that are not secure and that are not protected from the weather. They are at increased risk of being assaulted or robbed and of becoming ill due to exposure to the elements.

WORK/CAREER

See Media Literacy Question #2 and Media Literacy Question #5.

7. What was Chris Gardner’s attitude toward work?

Whenever he had a job he would do his best and ask question after question. He would find the person who was the best at that job and learn what made that person a success.

8. Does Mr. Gardner’s story mean that anybody can become wealthy and that if you don’t, you’re a failure? Should everyone become rich?

The truth is that only a very small percentage of people in society can become wealthy. The fact is that what most people want is not to become rich but to have a happy life. Mr. Gardner’s view of this is contained in the last quote in the handout Episodes in the Life of Chris Gardner (What’s Not in the Movie).

ALCOHOL & DRUG ABUSE

9. What was the role of alcohol abuse in Freddie Triplett’s life?

According to his stepson, Mr. Triplett was an alcoholic, and when he was drunk he would terrorize and beat his wife and children.

10. Doctors and psychologists tell us that alcoholism is a family disease. Apply that to Mr. Triplett’s family.

Everyone in Mr. Triplett’s family suffered from his lack of control when he got drunk. Often, we can see members of a family developing neurotic behaviors to deal with the alcoholic and his or her illness. We don’t know enough about Mr. Triplett’s family to talk about that. We do know that they lived lives in fear and they were beaten. There had to be some residual effects from this. Mr. Gardner, due to his own strong character and his mother’s love and influence, was able to escape most of it.

BREAKING OUT

11. An admirable thing about Mr. Gardner was that he consciously decided that he would not continue the cycle of neglect, alcohol abuse, and violence to which he was subjected as a child. He calls this “going the other way” from the paths taken by his father and his stepfather. Do you know anyone who has done something similar? Can you tell us his or her story?

12. Another admirable thing about Mr. Gardner’s life story is that he did something positive in his life that no one expected him to do. Do you know anyone who has done this? Can you tell us their story?

SPOUSAL ABUSE/CHILD ABUSE

13. Describe the usual cycle of a wife beater and how Triplett’s treatment of young Chris was different.

The normal cycle for a wife beater has three parts. There is a period in which tension mounts, then the attack, and then remorse. The wife beater will promise that it won’t happen again, and he will be on good behavior for a while. But during the period of good behavior the tension mounts again and then the pattern repeats itself. With Chris, Freddie Triplett was verbally abusive all the time, taunting Chris with, “I’m not your daddy. You ain’t got no daddy!”

14. Why do you think Chris’ mother stayed with Triplett?

Most battered women stay in abusive relationships due to a mixture of fear, lack of self-esteem, and a feeling of complete helplessness. In addition, Chris thought that Triplett was responsible for his mother going to jail both times. The first time was when she tried to leave Triplett and the second was when she tried to kill him. If this is true, Chris’ mother knew that when she tried to get away from Freddie Triplett or strike back at him, he would find a way to send her to jail. Also, she could not support her children on a maid’s salary. She needed Triplett’s paycheck to feed the kids. (Compare her self-sacrifice to Mr. Gardner’s refusal to sacrifice his own desire to get rich quick to keep his son from homelessness. There are differences. He had a real possibility of finding a way out, while his mother didn’t.)

15. What is the role of education in this story?

If Mr. Gardner had not gotten a good education and had not been encouraged by his mother and teachers to read, he would not have been able to pass the broker’s exam.

AMBITION/MALE ROLE MODEL

16. Do you consider Mr. Gardner to be a male role model? Tell us your reasons, pro and con.

There is no one correct answer, but a good answer will mention: 1) his decision to “go the other way” and not to neglect his children (as his father had done) and not beat women and children in an alcoholic rage (as his stepfather had done); 2) the ethical problems with his decision to subject his son to homelessness so that he could become rich faster (see Media Literacy Question #3); and 3) his decision to excel in any job that he held.

17. Mr. Gardner was ambitious, but was he too ambitious?

This is another way to raise the ethical issue involved in Mr. Gardner’s decision that his son would be homeless for many months so that Mr. Gardner could become rich faster. See Media Literacy Question #3.

MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS (CHARACTER COUNTS)

Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing.

RESPONSIBILITY

(Do what you are supposed to do; Persevere: keep on trying!; Always do your best; Use self-control; Be self-disciplined; Think before you act — consider the consequences; Be accountable for your choices)

(Be kind; Be compassionate and show you care; Express gratitude; Forgive others; Help people in need)

1. What was Mr. Gardner’s greatest gift to his son?

His constant and consistent love and caring.

See also SEL Question #5.

ASSIGNMENTS, PROJECTS & ACTIVITIES

  • Have students read The Stories We Tell: films like ‘Pursuit of Happyness’ assuage the guilt of the privileged by Jeremy V. Cruz, America, April 30, 2007, and write an essay commenting on the points made by Mr. Cruz; this is reprinted by permission of Mr. Cruz and America magazine;
  • Have students research and write an essay on one of the following discussion questions: Media Literacy #s 3 & 5, and SEL #s 1, 2, 8, 16 & 17;
  • Have students research and write an essay on the accuracy of the presentation of homelessness in the movie;
  • Have students research and write an essay on the effects of homelessness on children;
  • Have students research and write an essay on the solutions to the problem of homelessness in the U.S.;
  • Have students research and write an essay on why women remain in abusive relationships; and

See also Assignments, Projects, and Activities Suitable for Any Film .

BRIDGES TO READING

Mr. Gardner’s autobiography, The Pursuit of Happyness written with Quincy Troupe, is a great read. It is uplifting and full of life lessons. However, the book contains a few descriptions of Mr. Gardner’s sex life and two or three references to drug use. It also has some profanity. Some parents will find these references offensive. (The sex and drugs have been omitted from the handout, Episodes in the Life of Chris Gardner (What’s Not in the Movie) . Parents considering recommending the book to their children should read it themselves before giving it to their children to make sure that it’s suitable. You’ll probably enjoy it thoroughly.

LINKS TO THE INTERNET

  • The Chris Gardner Website ;
  • Real Chris Gardner vs. Will Smith Movie article on Reel Faces;
  • Wikipedia Article on Chris Gardner ;
  • Biography of Mr. Gardner from his website ;
  • Wikipedia article on the film “The Pursuit of Happyness” ;
  • Climbing Out of the Gutter with a 5-year-old in Tow , New York Times Movie Review by Manohla Dargis;
  • From S.F. Homeless to Wall Street CEO Book Review by David Miosl, San Francisco Chronicle;
  • Happyness for Sale By Jia Lynn Yang, Fortune Magazine, September 15 2006; and
  • Interview with Chris Gardner about Difficulties in Getting Picked Up by a Cab as a Black Man in Chicago .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Mr. Gardner’s autobiography, The Pursuit of Happyness written with Quincy Troupe as well as

  • Articles on the Internet described in the links to the Internet section of this Learning Guide and interviews, articles in newspapers and in magazines described in the endnotes to Episodes in the Life of Chris Gardner (What’s Not in the Movie) ; and
  • “Come on Down: Searching for the American Dream” (2004) a documentary produced by Manifestation Television, Inc .

This Learning Guide was last updated on October 18, 2015.

LEARNING GUIDE MENU:

Benefits of the Movie Possible Problems Parenting Points Selected Awards & Cast Helpful Background Discussion Questions Social-Emotional Learning Moral-Ethical Emphasis Assignments and Projects Bridges to Reading Links to the Internet Bibliography

MOVIE WORKSHEETS:

the pursuit of happiness essay questions

RANDALL KENNEDY, Professor, Harvard Law School on the two alternative traditions relating to racism in America:

“I say that the best way to address this issue is to address it forthrightly, and straightforwardly, and embrace the complicated history and the complicated presence of America. On the one hand, that’s right, slavery, and segregation, and racism, and white supremacy is deeply entrenched in America. At the same time, there has been a tremendous alternative tradition, a tradition against slavery, a tradition against segregation, a tradition against racism.

I mean, after all in the past 25 years, the United States of America has seen an African-American presence. As we speak, there is an African-American vice president. As we speak, there’s an African- American who is in charge of the Department of Defense. So we have a complicated situation. And I think the best way of addressing our race question is to just be straightforward, and be clear, and embrace the tensions, the contradictions, the complexities of race in American life. I think we need actually a new vocabulary.

So many of the terms we use, we use these terms over and over, starting with racism, structural racism, critical race theory. These words actually have been weaponized. They are vehicles for propaganda. I think we would be better off if we were more concrete, we talked about real problems, and we actually used a language that got us away from these overused terms that actually don’t mean that much.   From Fahreed Zakaria, Global Public Square, CNN, December 26, 2021

Give your students new perspectives on race relations, on the history of the American Revolution, and on the contribution of the Founding Fathers to the cause of representative democracy. Check out TWM’s Guide: TWO CONTRASTING TRADITIONS RELATING TO RACISM IN AMERICA and a Tragic Irony of the American Revolution: the Sacrifice of Freedom for the African-American Slaves on the Altar of Representative Democracy.

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the pursuit of happiness essay questions

The Wall Street Journal

‘The Pursuit of Happiness’ Review: The Founders and the Stoics

J effrey Rosen spent the Covid lockdowns of 2020 reading various treatises by Xenophon, Seneca, Cicero, John Locke and David Hume. He was led to these and other works by a list compiled by Thomas Jefferson in 1771 in which the future president advised a friend on the books with which a good private library ought to be stocked.

For a year, Mr. Rosen writes in “The Pursuit of Happiness,” “I got up every morning before sunrise, read a selection from his list, and found myself taking notes on the reading in sonnet form, so that I could easily remember the daily lesson.” Later, he says, he discovered that important figures in Founding-era America, including Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton, similarly took notes on their reading in verse form.

All this reading and metrical note taking, Mr. Rosen tells us, changed his understanding of that famous phrase in the Declaration of Independence, “the pursuit of happiness.” Today, he says, “we think of happiness as the pursuit of pleasure. But classical and Enlightenment thinkers defined happiness as the pursuit of virtue—as being good, rather than feeling good.”

Jefferson might have been expected to follow Locke, whom he had definitely read, in naming life, liberty and “property” as the chief things to which man has rights. Instead he wrote “pursuit of happiness.” Until roughly the middle of the past century, historians tended to view the phrase as a bit of rhetorical fluff. More recent historians mostly acknowledge that “happiness” had a deeper and nobler meaning in 1776 than it would have two centuries later.

Garry Wills, in his brilliant study of the Declaration, “Inventing America” (1978), traces Jefferson’s words—“pursuit,” “happiness” and many others—to their sources in the writings of British philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries, including Locke. More recently, University of Missouri law professor Carli Conklin has concluded that, for Jefferson and the Founders, the right to pursue happiness meant something like the freedom to align one’s life with the laws of nature.

Mr. Rosen, the president of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, refers hardly at all to the long and tangled debate over the meaning of Jefferson’s phrase and cites primary sources almost exclusively. His book’s overarching argument holds that, for the Founders—he concentrates on Jefferson, John Adams, Franklin and George Mason—the pursuit of happiness lay in the ancient creed of Stoicism.

The Stoics, recall—Epictetus, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, among others—believed that the good life consisted in self-mastery and the cultivation of virtue. The Founders, in Mr. Rosen’s view, derived their understanding of “happiness,” and therefore of the purpose of political liberty, from the Stoics, in some cases directly, in others via their readings of Enlightenment philosophers such as Locke and Hume. “The Founders,” he writes, “believed that the pursuit of happiness regards freedom not as boundless liberty to do whatever feels good in the moment but as bounded liberty to make wise choices that will help us best develop our capacities and talents over the course of our lives.”

The book is structured loosely according to a list of virtues Franklin enumerated in his “Autobiography”: temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity and humility. Jefferson, inspired by Cicero’s “Tusculan Disputations,” compiled an almost identical list of virtues, only leaving off chastity, a virtue both Franklin and Jefferson found a challenge. Mr. Rosen also leaves off chastity—either, I assume, because chastity was not a Stoic virtue or because it’s not a modern one.

Any author in the 2020s willing to celebrate America’s Founders for their sagacious writing and honorable conduct deserves a measure of praise. Mr. Rosen rightly qualifies his commendations of those, particularly the Virginians, whose cultivation of virtue depended on a way of life enabled by slave labor; but he doesn’t allow that obvious failing—or indeed other, lesser failings—to eclipse the Founders’ achievements. The chapter on justice moves past the 18th century altogether and examines the nation’s latter-day Founders, Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

The book’s central thesis, however, is not persuasive. Mr. Rosen vastly overstates the role of Stoicism in the thought of the nation’s Founders. Adams, Jefferson, James Madison and the rest were educated men who read prodigiously and widely, and they internalized much of what they read in the classical authors. But their worldview, and in many cases their conscious conviction, was Christian, not pagan. When Mr. Rosen mentions Christianity at all, he treats it as a kind of neutral cultural background rather than the vast and ancient body of distinctive doctrines, traditions and attitudes it was and remains. Even those, like Adams, Franklin and Jefferson, who consciously disbelieved in orthodox Christianity thought about the world in Christian terms. They exalted mercy and equality and assumed a single, all-wise, loving deity. “It is a curious thing, do you know,” says a character in James Joyce’s “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” “how your mind is supersaturated with the religion in which you say you disbelieve.”

Consider the virtues enumerated by Franklin and Jefferson. Courage, one of the four so-called cardinal virtues named by both Plato and Aristotle, goes unmentioned by Franklin and Jefferson. Frugality and industry, when referred to by the Founders, were plainly Protestant, not pagan, in orientation. Humility, which makes both lists, was a virtue for the Jews and the Christians but not for the Greeks and the Romans.

To force Stoicism into his chapter on humility, Mr. Rosen implicitly redefines that virtue. Cicero describes Socrates as a “model of humility,” Mr. Rosen says, when the Roman orator observes that it’s “a fine thing to keep an unruffled temper, an unchanging mien, and the same cast of countenance in every condition of life.” This is a description of equanimity or self-control, not humility.

Mr. Rosen not infrequently reads Stoicism into passages that don’t contain it. He tells us that Adams, in a 1764 letter to his future wife, Abigail, “worried that in trading gossip, he had violated the Stoic injunction to work on controlling our own judgments about others, rather than others’ judgments of us.” But the letter, in which Adams acknowledges his own censoriousness, makes no allusion to Stoicism or any other classical idea or author. A likelier source for Adams’s worry, I would have thought, would be the line “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” but maybe Mr. Rosen would tell us that Jesus was invoking a Stoic injunction.

Stoicism, if my reading of recent books on politics is any indication, is enjoying something of a resurgence. I interpret this as a desire to settle on some set of metaphysical ideas that might fill the spiritual void left by secularism without offending liberal orthodoxies. It doesn’t work. Stoicism, for all its admirable moral earnestness, is an inward-looking philosophy; which is to say, a self-regarding one. In its modern iterations, it appeals to ambitious, well-heeled self-improvers without offering redemption or any reason to love. Note Mr. Rosen’s description of the Founders’ Stoic understanding of the pursuit of happiness: a doctrine that “will help us best develop our capacities and talents over the course of our lives.”

Not, I hasten to add, that ambitious, well-heeled self-improvers have no place in a virtuous republic. That description fits a good many of the nation’s Founders, and thank God for them. But Stoicism is a niche interest, attractive to the bookish and successful, and always will be.

At the book’s end Mr. Rosen makes the case for reviving the Stoic outlook. “As the silent generation of World War II gave way to the ‘me’ generation of baby boomers,” he writes, “the hedonism of the 1960s gave way to the narcissism of the 1970s and the materialism of the 1980s. ‘You do you’ became the new mantra, and everyone had an unalienable right to define their own bliss.” To counteract this atomistic egotism Mr. Rosen suggests a new regime of character education defined by Stoic discipline. The irony doesn’t occur to him: Invigorated self-focus is no great remedy for narcissism.

At a superficial level Mr. Rosen’s book reminds me of Allan Bloom’s 1987 bestseller, “The Closing of the American Mind,” a book that surveyed American aimlessness and decadence and similarly counseled a return to ancient Greek ideas. One difference is that Bloom offended the nation’s cultural arbiters. Mr. Rosen, with his philosophy for the upwardly mobile, offends no one.

Mr. Swaim is an editorial page writer for the Journal.

Illustration by John Dykes

Opinion The Founders’ antidote to demagoguery is a lesson for today

Jeffrey Rosen is president and chief executive of the National Constitution Center and author, most recently, of “ The Pursuit of Happiness: How Classical Writers on Virtue Inspired the Lives of the Founders and Defined America .”

the pursuit of happiness essay questions

If the Founding Fathers were alive today, they would tremble for the future of our republic.

Watching the rise of hyperpartisanship and populist demagogues in the United States and around the world would be their worst nightmare. And they would wonder: Can the citizens of today muster the personal and political virtue necessary to save our nation?

When they drafted the Constitution, the Founders’ greatest fear was that a populist demagogue would flatter the mob, subvert American democracy and establish authoritarian rule. “The only path to a subversion of the republican system of the Country is, by flattering the prejudices of the people, and exciting their jealousies and apprehensions, to throw affairs into confusion, and bring on civil commotion,” Alexander Hamilton wrote to George Washington in 1792 . “When a man unprincipled in private life[,] desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper … is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity … It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may ‘ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.’”

Thomas Jefferson agreed with Hamilton about very little, except for the danger of populist demagogues. After he read a draft of the Constitution, his main concern was that an unscrupulous candidate in the distant future might lose an election and refuse to leave office. “If once elected, and at a second or third election outvoted by one or two votes, he will pretend false votes, foul play, hold possession of the reins of government, be supported by the States voting for him,” Jefferson wrote to James Madison in 1787 .

In the Founders’ view, the only thing standing between America and an authoritarian demagogue was the virtuous self-control of citizens who would find the wisdom to choose virtuous leaders. “I go on this great republican principle, that the people will have virtue and intelligence to select men of virtue and wisdom,” Madison said at the Constitutional Convention . “Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks — no form of government can render us secure.”

When the Founders talked about the need for virtuous citizens and leaders, they were referring to the four classical virtues: prudence, temperance, fortitude and justice. (By contrast, the three theological virtues are faith, hope and charity.) Following the classical and Enlightenment moral philosophers, the Founders believed that personal self-government was necessary for political self-government. In their view, the key to a healthy republic begins with how we address our own flaws and commit to becoming better citizens over time.

In the Federalist Papers, Madison and Hamilton made clear that the Constitution was designed to foster deliberation so that citizens could avoid retreating into the angry mobs and partisan factions that demagogues can inflame. Ancient Athens had fallen because the demagogue Cleon had seduced the Athenian assembly into continuing the war with the Peloponnesian League; the Roman Republic had fallen because the people were corrupted by Caesar, who offered them luxury in exchange for liberty. Only by governing their selfish emotions as individuals could citizens avoid degenerating into selfish factions that threaten the common good.

The Founders believed that virtuous self-mastery was necessary for both personal and political happiness. Today, we think of happiness as the pursuit of pleasure. But classical and Enlightenment thinkers defined happiness as the pursuit of virtue — as being good rather than feeling good. Just as individuals can use their powers of reason to achieve psychological happiness, so can groups of citizens use theirs to achieve political happiness.

Washington made the connection between public and private virtue and happiness repeatedly in his career. “Virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government,” he warned in his Farewell Address . In his Circular to the States in 1783, he said that four things were necessary for the people’s political and social happiness: an “indissoluble Union,” a “sacred regard to public Justice,” a “proper Peace Establishment,” and the cultivation of private virtue, which he defined as “the prevalence of that pacific and friendly disposition among the people of the United States, which will induce them to forget their local prejudices and policies” and “to sacrifice their individual advantages to the interest of the community.”

At the end of their lives, the Founders disagreed about whether the American people would find the virtuous self-mastery to elect presidents who would sustain the republic. Jefferson, always more optimistic about American democracy, was more confident that the public mind could be calmed and perfected by education. “No government can continue good but under the control of the people,” Jefferson wrote to John Adams in 1819 . “Their minds were to be informed, by education, what is right & what wrong, to be encouraged in habits of virtue.” Adams doubted that virtue could be taught on a wide scale. “Have you ever found in history one single example of a nation thoroughly Corrupted — that was afterwards restored to Virtue?” he replied to Jefferson .

Madison, as always, took the middle ground regarding the possibility of educating citizens in the habits of virtuous self-restraint. He put particular faith in a class of enlightened journalists and public officials, whom he called the literati. They could serve as moral educators, using new forms of media such as the broadside newspaper to calm and elevate the public mind. As Madison put it in a crucial passage in his “Notes for the National Gazette Essays ”: “The class of literati is not less necessary than any other. They are the cultivators of the human mind — the manufacturers of useful knowledge — the agents of the commerce of ideas — the censors of public manners — the teachers of the arts of life and the means of happiness.”

Today, of course, the idea that new media might be deployed by an enlightened class of literati to refine public opinion seems quaint. In the age of social media, with its “enrage to engage” model, the opposite occurs. The passions, hyperpartisanship and split-second decision-making that Madison and Hamilton feared from large groups meeting face to face have proved to be even more dangerous from exponentially larger groups that meet online.

It remains to be seen whether Americans today can find the virtuous self-restraint to put the public interest before the angry partisanship the Founders most feared. What’s clear, however, is that nothing less than the future of the Republic is at stake. As Madison wrote in Federalist 57 : “The aim of every political Constitution is or ought to be first to obtain for rulers, men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue the common good of the society; and in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous, whilst they continue to hold their public trust.”

About guest opinion submissions

The Washington Post accepts opinion articles on any topic. We welcome submissions on local, national and international issues. We publish work that varies in length and format, including multimedia. Submit a guest opinion or read our guide to writing an opinion article .

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The Pursuit of Happyness

43 pages • 1 hour read

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

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Chapters 1-3

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Chapter 11-Epilogue

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Important Quotes

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Discussion Questions

How does Gardner use the five senses to bring his joys, sorrows and inspirations to life in his book?

Explore how the ambitions and desires of the female characters in Gardner’s life are thwarted. In what ways does the text imply that it is more difficult for women to break the poverty cycle?

How do the conflicting desires for control and exploration play out in Gardner’s life story?

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The Pursuit of Happyness, Essay Example

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To be happy and to have a high standard of living is an American dream, which is based on individual freedom and connected with the concept of “self-made man”. This paper describes Chris Gardner’s story (2006) which is riddled with despair, challenges, cruelty, violence, but is advanced and foremost of love, faith and hope. It proposes up reminders that until now the American dream subsist and gives the opportunity to everyone to find it in themselves and to achieve the highest point in their life performance. This story is a saga of various singers, actors, performers, which are used as the examples of happy and fortunate people. It is a saga of a man who destroyed his family’s cycle of people abandoning their kids. Never giving up and falling into despondency and despair, Chris Gardner did an amazement change from being a part of city’s indigent and poor to being a strong and powerful person. The Pursuit of Happyness (Gardner, 2006) is a true American success and welfare story of a person who overcame difficulties and obstacles.

The Pursuit of Happiness

The Pursuit of Happyness (Gardner, 2006) is an encouraging and inspiring autobiography of a person, who overcame all types of misfortune and adversity to become a powerful person in a world of finance.

The Pursuit of Happyness (Gardner, 2006) is an autobiographical honest and humility story which describes Chris Gardner’s long, excruciating, ultimately rewarding travel from poor region Milwaukee to the top of success in a Wall Street. It is faithful and rags-to-riches story of a homeless father who brings up his son on mean and cruel streets of San Francisco and becomes a famous businessmen and moneymaker (Gardner, 2006).

Chris Gardner is a poor and indigent minority who is described as honest-minded, fair and comprehensive person. He is trying to show that it is impossible to buy happiness, but money and prosperity can help in this.

This story shows the contrast between San Francisco’s rich and poor, and the capitalistic rage of Dean Witter office where Chris Gardner’s internship was. It is a description of a person who at no time succumbed to self compassion. He did not surrender to bitter stuff either. He censured nobody for his plight, just pushed ahead and found decisions to each situation and problem he faced (Gardner, 2006).

For better understanding Chris Gardner’s psychology and why he denies giving up notwithstanding of having obstacles and impediments in his path at every turn it is important to answer the following questions:

  • How does Chris Gardner’s childhood influenced his path to success?
  • What were Chris Gardner’s main principles and goals?

Investigation of these questions will show the inner world of the main hero, interesting patterns of his behavior and the things which influenced his strong desire and thirst to become the number one in the world of finance.

Chris Gardner was born and grown up in the Milwaukee inner-city ghetto. He was a dutiful, quiet and good child who got into the mishap from time to time, but stayed on a stable, upward track (Gardner, 2006). It is a pity that the childhood accounts are all described not from a kid’s foreshortening and perspective, but with the grown-up and adult Gardner’s comprehension inserted regularly.How does Chris Gardner’s childhood influenced his path to success?

Gardner was poor, indigent and fatherless. His worship and adored mother Bettye Jean was strong on church and children and was not all the time near. When she was incarcerated, Chris stayed with relatives (Gardner, 2006).

Chris Gardner’s childhood was wracked with cruelty, brutal treatment and abuse of Freddie Triplett, his stepfather, who plainly and routinely verbally and physically mistreated child and whole family. Violent, spiteful and hateful he denied accepting Gardner as a stepchild and contradicted him at every turn.

Freddie Triplett considers being one of most unpleasant and meanest stepfather. His rages made Gardner constantly blue and afraid (Gardner, 2006).

An expert on psychopathy Dr. Robert D. Hare (1999) explains such antisocial or even criminal behavior of Gardner’s stepfather as a “continuations of behavior patterns that first showed themselves in childhood” (p. 97). He underlines that it is impossible to know why people such as Freddie Triplett become psychopaths and cruel with their family and society, but present evidence takes away from the ordinarily held concept that “the behavior of parents bears sole or even primary responsibility for the disorder” (p. 178). That means that in his childhood Freddie Triplett’s parents were cruel and violent with him. When he became an adult he tried to revenge for such bad treatment and violently abused Gardner and his family.

John W. Livesley (2003) a psychiatrist, whose investigation and research has been orientated at the grading, classification and etiology of individual disorder supposes that antisocial, dangerous and aggressive behavior in people such as Gardner’s stepfather runs in families. He underlines that “many difficult to alter because the environment remains the same” (p. 78). Livesley (2003) believes that the etiology of individual disorders within a wide framework where neither genetic spirited nor psychosocial factors may have considered for their development. Whereas admitting research demonstrating that a lot of patients experience childhood miseries, Livesley (2003) does not clarify and explain an individual disorder as through the sequel of such events. Instead, the author underlines the factors that keep up and support maladaptive features in the present.     Hare (1999) believes that though people can change, “many personality traits and behavioral patterns remain stable through-out life” (p. 97). That means that person’s personality and behavior are determined and fixed early in life, or that maturation, experience and development are not powerful coercion in define what kind of adults the person will become.

At the same time, Dr Stanton E. Samenow (2004), a clinical psychologist, supposes that such kind of people like Freddie Triplett cause offence not because of parents, neighbors, unemployment and television but because of their mind. Samenow (2004) strongly believed that different thinking is the cause of psychopaths violent behavior. On the other hand Samenow (2004) underlines that everything and everyone is responsible for the offence. The environment, economy, policy, poverty are responsible for committing a crime, brutal treatment and abuse.

People like Freddie Triplett “feel that their abilities will enable them to become anything they want to be” (Hare, 1999, p. 39). They want to be “physically and psychologically abusive to others with our society’s glorification of violence” (Wolman, 1999, p. 117). Hare (1999) believes that such people see nothing dishonest or wrong with their personality and find their behavior as “rational, rewarding, and satisfying; they never look back with regret or forward with concern” (p. 195).     Such people like Freddie Triplett do not “feel they have psychological or emotional problems, and they see no reason to change their behavior to societal standards with which they do not agree” (Hare, 1999, p. 195). That means, that Freddie Triplett was well satisfied with his own personality and with his “inner landscape, break as it may seem to outside observers” (p. 195). Samenow (2004) found that criminals, psychopaths and offenders will not change their personality until other options forsakes him / her. The author underlines that if a person wants to change a criminal or offender behavior, he / she should make alternative.

Hare (1999) emphasizes that people like Gardner’s stepfather does not authorize their actions to themselves. Once, Freddie Triplett because of groundless and irrational anger physically abused Chris. During cold winter, he threw him and his mother into the snow. He did it at the time Gardner was taking a bath and was thrown out naked.

The only way to curtail violence in such people is to change their way of thinking. Samenow (2004) found that such people think otherwise from a responsible person. The only appropriate offender’s issues are to continue their behavior, to change their personality or to suicide. Freddie chosen to continue his behavior and to abuse Chris, his family and weak people.

Wolman (1999) found some distinctive features between dangerous individuals, which are cruel and passive and the community which created them. According to his research, Chris Gardner’s stepfather belonged to the first type of such dangerous individuals. Freddie Triplett is an impassive, resourceful, amoral, impetuous and guileful individual. He is represented as no signs of remorse for his disgusting and terrible actions. Wolman (1999) underlines that such people are totally lacking sympathy for a human being. They are self-enamored individuals who have a tendency to consider that they are authorized to another people’s things, and that they merit to be loved.     The growth of sociopath behavior among children and adults, whether in a strained poor district or in a quiet suburban and country setting, is skillfully described by Dr Benjamin Wolman (1999) a famous national psychologist. He supposes that the growth of sociopath individuals is accountable for the moral and ethical collapse, whereas at the same time proposing the contrary hypothesis that the moral and ethical collapse is accountable for the growth in the population of sociopaths.

“Parental psychopathology” (Livesley, 2003, p. 57) growth and increasing the risk of developing individual problems is most extensive for unsociable antisocial feature. Livesley (2003) supposes that personal behavior like Freddie Triplett had toward Chris Gardner is due to regularities and consistencies in the environment. Samenow (2004) underlines that even though they are not able to change their past, they can change their future. When the person is responsible for himself / herself, it allows him / her to believe in changing its personality and life.

Of course Chris Gardner could escape or rescue his realities over any means accessible whether it was drugs or even mesmerism it would work. However, he didn’t. He was really afraid his stepfather. Even so, even during these bad and unfavorable times when everything was against him Gardner continued to struggle for everything better. He found some satisfaction and solace in reading various books in the library. He ran with different crowds being a young person and usually stayed out of difficulty and trouble (Gardner, 2006).

Emotional and physical maltreatment by Freddie Triplett towards Chris Gardner implicated “emotional abuse (verbal assaults and demeaning components) or emotional neglect (the failure of caregivers to meet the child’s needs for love, nurturance, and support)” (Livesley, 2003, p. 58). It means that pari passu with physical abuse and violent, emotional abuse has important, great and prevalent effects. Physical abuse increases the danger and risk of different individual problems, which include an antisocial personality disorder, Livesley (2003) emphasizes. Fortunately physical maltreatment by Triplett towards Gardner didn’t lead to the causes described by Livesley (2003).     Wolman (1999) emphasizes that parents and teachers sometimes may assist to the growth of sociopath and antisocial behavior. The way which parents bring up their children may be significant. The author underlines that parents which allow their children to do whatever they want and those which do not teach their kids the importance of morality will default to tell apart wrong from right. On the other hand, children of cruel and abusive parents, like Chris Gardner are generally very rough, aggressive, and unfriendly and used to hate and detest their parents. However, such children are not able to treat aggressively and rough against their own parents because they feel terror that they may retaliate. Instead such children conduct themselves rough and aggressively against weak people.

What Were Chris Gardner’s Main Principles and Goals?

Inspired by his uncle’s worldwide adventures and trips in the United States Navy, Gardner decided to hire shortly after graduating high school (Gardner, 2006). Thanks to the Navy Chris could leave his native city and start his life from the beginning.

At the age of twenty after the Navy Chris Gardner went to San Francisco where he got married and divorced. His wife was an educated and intelligent woman who was looking-for to sit for her dental boards. Right this time Gardner started a medical career, which led him to the market of medical equipment (Gardner, 2006).     The majority of Gardner’s time in the Navy was spent as a medical man at a military base. He assisted with the surgeon investigation and was honorable as well-informed and intelligent expert in teaching medical interns on surgical methods (Gardner, 2006).

Gardner, a smart and intelligent salesman invests all the family money and savings in bone-density scanners. This equipment was twice as costly as an x-ray equipment but with a little distinct image.

Unfortunately, the money, Gardner earned as a salesman was not enough for him, his girlfriend and their son (Gardner, 2006). Right that time, Gardner decided to change his profession and to earn more money. He was interested in selling, inspiration, business, motivation and social speaking. Gardner was good with numbers and great with people. He became an internship in Dean Witter company. Chris wanted to gain an entry level position, beat each candidate and obtain the position he wanted. Chris Gardner became an interned person just around the time he became homeless. During his internship Chris was paid a little stipend, but it was too small for living in hotels all the time. Right that time, his girlfriend left Gardner, and took their small son Christopher with her (Gardner, 2006).

Abandoned by own father and left to the depraved rage of a mean and cruel stepfather, Chris Gardner sworn that no matter what occurred in his own life, he would be committed and faithful father to his own kids. Induced and motivated by the promise Chris Gardner made to himself as a fatherless kid he took away his son.

Wolman (1999) emphasizes that parental refusal, like Gardner had in his childhood, could adversely affect their kid’s self-reliance and self-assurance. Such children will feel abandoned in case their parents are not sentimental, loving and attentive. That is why Chris Gardner was trying to give his small son more love, attention, protection and stable life (Gardner, 2006). Rather than give up his son, Gardner continued to follow his dream of being a successful and well-to-do businessman.     Livesley (2003) strongly believes that “family disorder, parental psychopathology, and various forms of parenting behavior” (p. 57) like Gardner had in his childhood can be considered as individual confusion. “Antisocial and psychopathic features” (Livesley, 2003, p. 57) in people like Freddie Triplett, are not able to prophesy antisocial features, traits and characteristics in his children.

“Poor parenting and unfavorable social and physical environments” (Hare, 1999, p. 178) may noticeably complicate potential problems and play an intense role in “molding the behavioral patterns” (Hare, 1999, p. 178). However, Samenow (2004) found that indigence, poverty, divorce and cruelty, the factors which Gardner had, were not the reasons of criminality.

Livesley (2003) determines two main types of parenting behavior, which are “neglectful (as opposed to loving and supportive) and overprotective (as opposed to encouraging independence and autonomy)” (p. 58). In his life Gardner used these two types of parenting behavior. The first type of parenting behavior belongs to the relations between Chris Gardner and his stepfather, the second is the relations between Gardner and Christopher.

Livesley (2003) pays great attention that the “higher-order patterns reflect the genetic architecture of personality” (p. 132) and consequently, represent essential and fundamental differences in individual structure. Each state of personality allure a particular pattern of emotions, means of thinking about “the self and others, interpersonal relationships, and coping strategies” (Livesley, 2003, p. 35).

It was difficult and complicated times for Gardner and his son. Because of lack of money they spent nearly a year traveling among hotels and shelters. Gardner had to carry out their clothes on his back all the time they were traveling (Gardner, 2006).

Sometimes Gardner with Christopher slept at the office and was afraid to be discovered by the night guards and cleaning crew. When Chris Gardner lived in shelters and hotels with his son, they used to play different games the main goal of which was to keep quiet, when people were searching them and knocking the door. Chris tried to make his best not to defeat (Gardner, 2006).

Chris Gardner is a personality with a response to the problems and tasks of everyday living. Personality disorder is represented as an inability to get adaptive solutions to life problems and tasks, and domains of sequel psychopathology proposed as coextensive (Livesley, 2003). Livesley (2003) found that the relation and connection between particulars and components of the personality system – “traits, self system, person system, and environment” (p. 76) generate a structure in which modification to one constituent tends to be dampened by its influence on other parts of the system.

Chris Gardner is a real personality. The relations with his stepfather influenced his personality, but it gave him a strong desire not to be like Freddie was. The main principles in his life were to be a human, to be a real father to his son and to be a useful part of the society. Thanks to these, Gardner became an individual with his own views on a human being and the importance to be a person, not a violent and cruel offender.

The story of Chris Gardner is not particularly fresh, but his voice is pleasant and likable, resulting in a virtue and quality African-American. He is the person who he is, and he is a successful and great moneymaker. Wolman (1999) believes that social harmony and true happiness are the main for each person. Chris Gardner succeeded contrary the establishment and became a successful businessman and moneymaker. After Gardner’s talents were estimated at company’s true worth, and he got the job he wanted, his American dream became real. Though all his achievements and progresses Chris Gardner was a prideful father. His own fatherless blues is disappeared now.

Chris Gardner’s Pursuit of Happyness (2006) is a painful, astonishing and amazing story, which describes remarkable frankness, comprehension and intelligent (Gardner, 2006). Best of all is that he is entirely unapologetic about following material benefits and success, and saying that these are pieces of his pursuit of happiness.

Hare, R. D. (1999). Without conscience . New York, NY: The Guilford Press. Gardner, C. (2006). The Pursuit of Happyness . New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Livesley, J. W. (2003). Practical management of personality disorder . New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Samenow, S. E. (2004). Inside the criminal mind . New York, NY: Crown Publishers.

Wolman, B. B. (1999). Antisocial behavior: personality disorders from hostility to homicide . Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.

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The Pursuit of Happiness - IELTS Reading Passage with Questions and Answers

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Updated on 11 December, 2023

upGrad Abroad Team

upGrad Abroad Team

Upgrad abroad editorial team.

upGrad Abroad Team

Introduction

The quest for happiness is a universal theme that resonates across cultures and epochs. As we explore "The Pursuit of Happiness," this IELTS reading passage will offer learners a chance to delve into the philosophical and practical aspects of this timeless pursuit. Accompanied by a series of questions and answers, this passage is an invaluable tool for those preparing for the IELTS reading test.

Table of Contents

Passage: the pursuit of happiness, questions and answers:, tips for ielts reading test:.

Happiness – a term that conjures up myriad images and emotions. Philosophers, poets, and scientists have long grappled with the definition of happiness and the means to achieve it. Is it a state of mind, a set of circumstances, or a fleeting emotion? The pursuit of happiness has been a central theme in human history, influencing art, literature, and public policy.

Studies in positive psychology show that happiness is not merely the absence of sadness but a positive state that involves a sense of well-being and contentment. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle described it as ‘eudaimonia’ – a state of flourishing based on virtue and excellence. In contrast, modern interpretations often link happiness to material success and personal achievements.

However, the pursuit of happiness often eludes many. Societal pressures, personal challenges, and the very complexity of human nature make this pursuit a labyrinthine endeavor. The disparity between the ideal and reality of happiness prompts an ongoing debate: Is the pursuit of happiness an inalienable right, as suggested by some political doctrines, or a never-ending quest fraught with existential angst?

Q1: According to the passage, happiness is not just the absence of sadness but also includes a sense of ________.

A) Achievement

B) Well-being

A1: B) Well-being.

The passage states that happiness involves a positive state beyond just the lack of sadness. It includes a sense of well-being and contentment, aligning with studies in positive psychology.

Q2: What did Aristotle refer to happiness as?

A) Eudaimonia

C) Pleasure

A2: A) Eudaimonia.

Aristotle described happiness as ‘eudaimonia,’ which he defined as a state of flourishing based on virtue and excellence.

Q3: True or False: Modern interpretations commonly associate happiness with material success.

The passage notes that modern interpretations often link happiness to material success and personal achievements, contrasting with Aristotle's concept of eudaimonia.

Q4: Fill in the blank: The pursuit of happiness is often seen as a _________ endeavor.

B) Labyrinthine

C) Unimportant

D) Straightforward

A4: B) Labyrinthine.

The passage describes the pursuit of happiness as a labyrinthine endeavor, indicating its complex and challenging nature.

T1:  Skim the Passage First: Before attempting the questions, quickly skim through the passage to get a general understanding of its content and tone.

T2: Focus on Keywords: Pay attention to specific keywords in both the questions and the passage, as they are often crucial for finding the correct answers.

T3: Practice Different Question Types: Familiarize yourself with various question formats like multiple choice, true/false, and fill in the blanks to improve your adaptability during the test.

T4: Time Management: Allocate your time wisely. Spend no more than a minute per question in the first read-through.

T5: Improve Vocabulary: A wide range of vocabulary can greatly assist in understanding complex passages and deciphering tricky questions.

T6: Read Extensively: Regularly read a variety of texts to improve your reading speed and comprehension skills.

T7: Stay Calm and Focused: Maintain a calm demeanor during the test to ensure optimal performance.

"The Pursuit of Happiness" is a thought-provoking topic that offers deep insights into human nature and societal norms. This IELTS reading passage, along with the questions and answers, is designed to challenge and enhance your reading skills, preparing you for the nuances of the IELTS test. By applying the tips provided and engaging with a variety of reading materials, you can refine your skills and approach the IELTS reading test with

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188 Happiness Essay Topic Ideas & Examples

😊 key points to use to write an outstanding happiness essay, 🏆 best happiness topic ideas & essay examples, 📌 most interesting happiness topics to write about, ⭐ simple & easy happiness essay titles, 👍 good research topics about happiness, 💡 interesting topics to write about happiness, ❓ research questions about happiness.

Writing a happiness essay may seem easy at first, but many students fail to achieve a high grade because their responses are too general. To avoid falling in this trap, read this post and take note of the key points to write about.

The Meaning of Happiness

The word “happiness” means various things to various people, and it would be a good idea to explore this topic in your paper. To get some perspectives, you could ask your friends or family members what happiness is to them. Alternatively, browse sample essays on happiness online. Once you’ve done your research, consider the following:

  • What does happiness mean to you?
  • Do you think that you are happy where you are now? Why or why not?
  • Is achieving happiness essential to do you, or do you think that one can be satisfied with life without being truly happy?

The Importance of Happiness

This is probably among the most important happiness essay titles because there is a lot to talk about here. You would likely be surprised to find out that not all people view happiness as a crucial goal in life. In fact, most people live their days without considering whether or not they are happy. These are a few questions that you could think about:

  • Why is happiness more important to some people than to others?
  • Should a person strive to be happy? Why or why not?
  • What is the influence of happiness on a person’s mind and body?

Sources of Happiness

The third point you could cover in your paper is the relationship between happiness and achievements. People often believe that they will be happy when they achieve certain things and their life.

Some examples are starting a profitable business, marrying their loved one, having kids, and traveling the world. If you want to examine the correlation between happiness and other factors, these questions should give you some ideas:

  • Is happiness influenced by life circumstances and events? If so, how?
  • Why do you think some people never become happy, even after achieving what they’ve always wanted?
  • What external factor plays a key role in your happiness? Why do you think that is?

Happiness and Money

The link between happiness and money is possibly one of the most popular happiness essay ideas and titles.

Many people think that wealth has a direct influence on happiness, but others disagree. You could explore this theme in your paper using the following questions to guide your thoughts:

  • In your opinion, can a person to buy happiness? If so, how?
  • Why do you think people often associate happiness with wealth? If money is the key to happiness, why are there so many wealthy people who are unhappy?
  • Do you believe that true happiness is possible without financial success? Why or why not?

Regardless of what you choose to write about, be sure to maintain a good essay structure throughout your paper. To assist you with this, create a detailed outline and stick to it while writing.

Start your paper with a happiness essay hook, a sentence to draw the reader’s attention to your work. Support your thoughts with relevant examples or research where applicable.

Finally, make sure to close off your paper with a happiness essay conclusion. If you want to learn more about essay structure, browse our website – we also have a good selection of essay topics and other useful materials!

  • Pursuit of Happiness by Women in Modern Day America Civil rights are what citizens in a democratic country are entitled to and they include rights such as the right to vote, right to equal treatment and opportunities, the right to life and the right […]
  • Happiness and Morality This paper will look at the meaning of happiness and morality, the relationship between morality and happiness and why many philosophers hold that in order to be happy, one has to be moral.
  • The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness The following essay is concerned with the book’ The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness’ by Joel Ben Izzy. Joel Ben’s story,’ The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness’ resonates in my life.
  • The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness – Folks and Fairy Tales “What seems like a blessing may be a curse. What seems like a curse may be a blessing”.
  • Which is Basic in Ethics: Happiness or Obligation Logically, the basic element in any pursuit is the end itself; consequently, the task here is to determine the element that stands out as the end as opposed to means to something else.
  • Emotions of anger and happiness The emotion of anger is usually considered to be negative and it can lead to various negative consequences. On the other hand, the emotion of happiness is positive and it has numerous benefits to our […]
  • Connection between Money and Happiness Critical analysis of money-happiness relationship shows that socioeconomic factors determine the happiness of an individual; therefore, it is quite unsatisfactory to attribute money as the only factor and determinant of happiness.
  • I Don’t Believe Money Can Buy Happiness This shows that as much as money is essential in acquisition and satisfaction of our needs, it does not guarantee our happiness by its own and other aspects of life have to be incorporated to […]
  • Consumerism and Happiness To the surprise of Luedicke and Giesler, “The more goods produced and consumed in the society the higher the growth rate of the economy”.
  • Does Money Buy Happiness? Billions of people in all parts of the world sacrifice their ambitions and subconscious tensions on the altar of profitability and higher incomes. Yet, the opportunity costs of pursuing more money can be extremely high.
  • Edwin Arlington Robinson: Money and Happiness in “Richard Cory” It is evident that money cannot guarantee happiness in one’s life due to the uncertainties that surround each one of us.
  • The idea of Happiness Although Weiner shows that trusting the leadership is a source of happiness by contrasting Bhutan with the people of Medova, one can still argue that so long as the leadership provides the required security, be […]
  • My Relationship with Time and Its Effect on Happiness Eventually, I think that it is necessary to use time correctly, to sleep well and to work in the most productive hours.
  • Social Media in Enhancing Social Relationships and Happiness Social media and technology assist to foster and maintain relationships where the people live in different geographical regions. There is a major concern that social media and technology poses a threat to the traditional fabric […]
  • How Aristotle views happiness Aristotle notes that “the attainment of the good for one man alone is, to be sure, a source of satisfaction; yet to secure it for a nation and for states is nobler and more divine”.
  • Well-Being as a Happiness Definitions Michael Marmot in his book The Status Syndrome: How Social Standing Affects Our Health and Longevity tries to justify happiness from a social perspective.
  • Happiness and Its Social Psychological Aspects The well being of an individual is very critical to performance and several meaning of life to that particular individual. Several researchers have studied aspects like obedience, intervention of bystander, behavior and altruism as being […]
  • Gender, Education Level and the Number of Children Influencing Perception on Happiness It is also found out that the increase in the number of children leads to lack of love in the family and later leads to decline in the degree of happiness.
  • Influence on Happiness of Gender, Education Level and the Number of Children According to Easterlin, the number of children a family has is inversely proportional to the level of happiness the family will enjoy; this shows that the higher the number of children, the less happy the […]
  • Aristotle’s Ideas on Civic Relationships: Happiness, the Virtues, Deliberation, Justice, and Friendship On building trust at work, employers are required to give minimum supervision to the employees in an effort to make the latter feel a sense of belonging and responsibility.
  • In the Pursuit of Liberty and Happiness: How the Life of Mohammad Yunus Continue to Impact the World By any standards, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States can be termed as two of the most fundamental and enduring documents in the Nation’s history due to the very fact […]
  • Happiness is not always fun These words show what the movie is all about, the fluctuations that accompany the pursuit and maintenance of happiness. This close connection of the movie to the viewer facilitates the general acceptance of the intellectual […]
  • Essence of Happiness of Indira’s Life According to Plato’s and Aristotle’s Views on Education She finds her inspiration in the languages and other subjects and, obviously, the girl knows that education is the best solution of solving a number of problems and difficulties that she may face during the […]
  • Happiness: Philosophical Description Serenity of mind to Gertrude is found by accepting things that are beyond her control and seeking the strength and courage to change things that can be changed like cloth the naked, feed the hungry, […]
  • Secular Worldview: Attaining Earthly Happiness It is a form of religious worldview in which man is the overall measure that is; man is the ultimate judge of truth and also evaluates the values which are to be followed.
  • Happiness Meaning and Theories This essay aims to analyze Happiness, what makes happiness special to people, the meaning of it and the essence of it. The second happiness is a general consensus about the goodness of your life at […]
  • Can Aristotle’s Theory of Happiness Be Achieved by Applying Friedman’s Ideas of Corporate Social Responsibilities? According to Aristotle, politics is the master of all arts since it is concerned with the end in itself. This is a central argument to the ideas of Aristotle and underscores his idea that politics […]
  • Importance of Training Mind to Find Happiness and Meaning of Life According to Buddhist thinking, mind training “…is training in stability in order to “reveal the mystery” of the ultimate nature of reality, our own and that of other phenomena”.
  • How Is the “Greatest Happiness Principle” Supposed to Be Useful in Determining What I Ought to Do? Therefore, the main idea of the greatest happiness principle is to make sure that more people are satisfied, however, the volume of the satisfaction is not discussed as well as the level of harm caused […]
  • The Psychology of Happiness The psychology of happiness is closely related to philosophy, as the science of happiness is based on three major theories, namely “the emotional state theory, the life satisfaction theory, and hedonism”. As far as happiness […]
  • Technology Fails to Deliver Happiness With the advancements in information technology and the massive use of the internet, communication has become quite effective as people can connect when they are in different countries around the world, at any time.
  • Mill’s Greatest Happiness Principles: A Practical Guide to the Theory of Life In the given question, Mill draws the line between the moral principles and the human mind. Hence, Mill questions the link between the moral and the ethical.
  • Generating Income for Charitable Organizations: New Venture Concept The Create Happiness Organization will be aimed at signing an agreement with the Red Cross and creating the premises for the Create Happiness and the Red Cross, as well as its equivalent in the […]
  • Psychological Research: Money Can Buy Happiness In the article, the author has given enough evidence to prove that money can be used to buy happiness. Based on the evidence presented in the article, it is obvious that proper utilization of money […]
  • Relationships of Social Class and Happiness In the United States, for instance, the gap between the rich and the poor has been on the rise and the government seems to be doing very little to curb the sad realities of the […]
  • The Definition of Happiness For example, Aristotle’s work raises questions such as, “What is the purpose of human life?”, “What is happiness?” and “Why do people do the things they do?” On the other hand, Plato’s text raises questions […]
  • Does Intelligence Predict Happiness? Overall, this concept can be described as the ability of a person to apply cognitive skills while using various types of information.
  • Psychology of Happiness in the World Psychology of happiness touches on various fields of social and cultural life and seeks to interfere with the lives of individuals for improving their talents and endowing their normal existence with greater meaning.
  • Money, Happiness and Relationship Between Them The research conducted in the different countries during which people were asked how satisfied they were with their lives clearly indicated the existence of a non-linear relationship between the amount of money and the size […]
  • Money and Happiness Connection – Philosophy Based on measures of happiness and household income, these economists have claimed that money, in this case, economic development, has a significant impact on happiness.
  • Pursuit of Happiness Film Analysis Thus, while the film centers on the theme of “pursuit of happiness,” this paper shows that the film distorts the concept of happiness to represent the orientation of earthly goods through which our reality revolves […]
  • Philosophy Issue: Truth vs. Happiness The only way the truth will be concealed and still lead to happiness is when the truth is substituted with a lie.
  • Philosophy Terms: Justice, Happiness, Power and Virtue Socrates argues that autocratic leadership is an important structure of ensuring that the rule of law is followed and that the common good of all societal members is enhanced.
  • Thomas Jefferson’s Goals: Life, Liberty and Happiness Prior to the writing of this phrase, the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness were not acknowledged by the political systems of the day.
  • Money and Happiness in Poor and Wealthy Societies Comprehending the motivations for pursuing money and happiness is the key to understanding this correlation. The Easterlin paradox summed this view by showing that income had a direct correlation with happiness.
  • Happiness: Personal View and Suggestions For an individual to increase his or her level of happiness, it is necessary to be aware of the things that make him or her happy.
  • “The Pursuit of Happiness” a Film by Gabriele Muccino I am planning to use these ideas and values in order to establish the best coaching relationships. I will always be ready to address the needs and challenges of my clients.
  • American Dream in “The Pursuit of Happiness” Film In America today, there is a general belief that every individual is unique, and should have equal access to the American dream of life “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.
  • Acts of Kindness and Happiness in Human Life The research at hand is aimed to prove that, to boost happiness through receiving positive emotions, a person should commit more actions that can be referred to as acts of kindness.
  • World Happiness Index and Its Six Factors This variable allows the researchers to evaluate the status of the economy since it is the estimation of the value of all products and services a company creates.
  • Happiness and Its Influence on Decision-Making The strength of this paper is that it explores not only the meaning of the word but also the results of its offered revision, including the reconsideration of the importance of the phenomenon of competition, […]
  • Happiness and Success as a Life Meaning I find meaning in my life when I help people that I encounter in my life. This means that life, when a person follows the Christian rules, is full of spirituality and thus meaning.
  • Bhutan’s Concept of Gross National Happiness The concept of GNH in Bhutan emphasizes the need for gauging the progress of this country from the perspective of its population’s degree of happiness.
  • David Leonhardt: May Be Money Does Buy Happiness After All The case study of Japanese citizens that support Easterlin paradox do not factor in the confounding psychological effects of the Second World War on the entire population and the country.
  • The Key to Happiness and Satisfaction with Life For example, in the documentary ‘Happiness,’ the hunters and gatherers of Namibia in Africa were found to be having a high happiness index.
  • Volunteering Effects on Happiness Taking that into consideration, it is necessary to pay an increased attention to the effect that volunteering and all the people connected to it produce on representatives of one of the social groups whose opportunities […]
  • The Meaning of Happiness On the other hand, another study found that the birth of a child is associated with the loss of spousal love, and the decrease in the total level of happiness is stated to be the […]
  • What Is Happiness Essay One would say that happiness is to be with a loved one, the second would say that happiness is the stability, and the third, on the contrary, would say that happiness is the unpredictability.
  • Happiness Without Money in Sociology and Psychology The tendency’s mechanics are simple – being in the possession of any substantial sum of money increases a person’s chance to secure a dominant status within the society, which in turn will result in strengthening […]
  • Concept of Happiness in the Workplace The task of every employee is to find a way to work in harmony with their personal values and build successful relationships with colleagues and managers.
  • Touchpoints in UAE Government’s Happiness Initiatives This paper aims at conducting a literature review on the concept of touchpoints with the objective of developing a sound argument regarding the extent to which they can effectively help the UAE to achieve remarkable […]
  • Emirati Happiness in National Agenda and Vision 2030 Using evidence from the existing literature, this report argues that the examination of touchpoints will help promote the objective of making the UAE the happiest nation across the world.
  • Touchpoints for Improved Happiness Index in the UAE The study is aimed at establishing the critical success factors in quality management of service delivery charter in the UAE government institutions. Research question: What is the impact of the UAE government’s touchpoints in improving […]
  • John Stuart Mill’s Happiness Philosophy Consequently, the outcome of a course of action that is on the course of being undertaken or is to be undertaken lies in the value of the outcome.
  • Life as a Human’s Struggle for Happiness He said he was eager to get his degree and live his life to the fullest. After a while, Ali understood that the answer to his question was life.
  • Happiness vs. Production in the Workplace I think that good leader has to clarify the possible levels of the job performance of their employees to understand what kind of work may be expected when goals can be achieved, and what rewards […]
  • Bhutanese Views on Happiness and Subjective Wellbeing The purpose of this task is to explore Bhutanese views on happiness as a form of positive psychology that depicts national progress.
  • The Architecture of Sustainable Happiness The feeling of happiness and the intention to change it were measured before and after the participants listened to the music.
  • Happiness: Health, Marriage, and Success In this paper, I will examine the issue of happiness by scrutinizing it through the lenses of health, marriage, and success the three components that previously appeared to me to be necessary for an individual […]
  • Hurricane Katrina Survivors’ Happiness Factors The paper is dedicated to the study of factors influencing the happiness of women, whose lives were affected by the Katrina Hurricane, one and four years after the hurricane.
  • Happiness in the United States If applied to the U.S.situation with citizen happiness, the methods of classification, cause and effect analysis, and comparison indicate the need for innovative and effective measures for the promotion of social support.
  • Personal Happiness and Perspectives on Emotions As a result, special attention should be paid to the differences that people may have while developing their viewpoints about happiness and other forms of emotions.
  • Psychology of Happiness and Effect on Human Health The main characteristics of the impact of feelings on human health are the rapid pulse and palpitations, the dilatation of pupils, and changes in the skin.
  • Happiness at the Workplace in the UAE The primary approach that should be taken by the governmental entities of the UAE to improve the happiness of their employees should be focused on creating an appropriate environment.
  • Workplace Happiness Definition Several sources were used in this research of workplace happiness that helps define the concept in question and develop an understanding of elements that contribute to it.
  • Aristotle and His Definition of Happiness The best taste a person can have in his life is happiness because of success. But in my point of view, happiness is the main feeling that comes from the success of any useful act […]
  • Psychology: Happiness from a Personal Viewpoint Because of my ability to see the good in people, I think I am more inclined to want to do things that will help them, and these times I have done this have appeared in […]
  • Cultivating Happiness for Different People Though one of her daughters was born with Down’s syndrome, the lady is really happy to have her and she does not regret a moment in her life.
  • Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness Positive psychology is a science of positive features of the life of a human being, including happiness, welfare, and prosperity. According to him, happiness is freedom from pain in the body and a disturbance in […]
  • How Much Emphasis Should One Place on Personal Happiness or Fulfillment? The aim of the paper is to explore the main tenets of utilitarianism and happiness, apply them to personal vision of happiness and compare it to Aristotle’s notion of happiness and ideal life.
  • Roots and Fruits of Happiness The instinct of a researcher is to find demographic patterns in the trend of the variable. A possible hypothesis for clarifying our understanding of the relationship between happiness and close relationships could be: “People feel […]
  • Women’s Quest to Attain Happiness in Literature Thus, our definition of the most important difference between the characters of Janie and Emma will sound as follows: whereas, Janie never ceased to be a woman in both: the physiological and psychological context of […]
  • Sigmund Freud’s Ideas of Happiness One of these means, and the only one that Freud seems to feel provides any sense of satisfaction as to why happiness cannot be obtained, is found in the realm of religion.
  • Innocence and Experience: How Social Opinions Shape Our Perception of Happiness Although there does not seem to be any similarity between the two poems, they both show the contrast between experience and innocence.”Advice to My Son” is the advice of an experienced father to a son […]
  • American Literature: Happiness Is Only Real When Shared This implies that he had started valuing the presence of other people in his life and the aversions that he had towards his parents started to wither after realizing that he had to share his […]
  • This I Believe: Happiness Is a Choice I know that I can choose to be happy. I was ashamed and worried that he would know I took it.
  • Goals of the Life: Personal Experience of Responsibility for Life and Happiness I have a lot of goals in my life and do all my best to realize them in my life. The best way to achieve your goal is to make a plan of steps to […]
  • Effects of Gambling on Happiness: Research in the Nursing Homes The objective of the study was to determine whether the elderly in the nursing homes would prefer the introduction of gambling as a happiness stimulant.
  • The Role of Employee Happiness in the Productivity Among Government Employees The national UAE Program of Happiness features a set of three initiatives: Happiness in policies, programmes and services of all government entities and work environments; Promotion of values of positivity and happiness as a lifestyle […]
  • Influence of Television on People’s Happiness The idea of mass culture influencing the development of society is closely connected with a concept of a need to be happy.
  • Changed Views of Happiness: Context and Aim of the Definition The truest happiness arrives through the task of a person’s highest function: the utilization of the coherent rule of mind. The first one is “The universal run of individuals and the crudest,” which identifies happiness […]
  • Happiness and Deviant Behaviour in “Happiness” Movie In this manner, he was able to connect to Joy Jordan who happened to be the sister of Trish, the wife of his psychiatrist.
  • Mental Health: Happiness and Social Interaction It is quite curious to observe the way parents are teaching their children to be kind and good to others and right after the lesson they express quite negative feelings to a family member who […]
  • How Can Humans Find Happiness? Generally, evaluating the facts, it can be said that Aristotle’s concept of happiness is authentic, and happiness for a number of people is truly in acquiring knowledge, but this is not always true as there […]
  • Money, Happiness and Satisfaction With Life Nonetheless, the previously mentioned examples should be used to remind us that money alone is not a guarantee of happiness, satisfaction with life, and good health.
  • Stay-Home Moms and Full-Time Working Mothers: Indicators of Happiness In some parts of the world, it’s considered well that a woman is working, but mostly in eastern countries, women are preferred to stay at home at look after their houses and children.
  • Happiness: The Best Way to Achieve and Prolong It If a person can combine work and rest, lives a healthy life, and has time for hobbies and family, they will be able to attain lasting happiness.
  • Self-Happiness and Its Impact on Romantic Relationships This boosts self-happiness and contributes to the general success of a romantic relationship. Self-happiness is vital in maintaining relationships and the overall connection between partners for relationship success.
  • Create Happiness Organization: Marketing Donor organizations, which are going to buy the Create Happiness Organization’s cards and card devices in order to use them for discounts and making bargains.
  • Can Money Buy You Happiness? First of all, given that happiness is related to the satisfaction of personal needs, there is also a need to consider the essential need of human life such as housing, medicine, and food.
  • Exegetical Paper on Aristotle: Meaning of Happiness It is in the balance, according to Aristotle, that the completeness of the human personality lies, and only through balance can a person find true self-satisfaction.
  • Happiness in Arts: Happiness Through Virtue This way, the premise of the Marble statue resembles that of the portrait of Antisthenes, namely, that happiness is the greatest good and it can be attained by nurturing goodness.
  • Is Happiness the Beginning or the End? Jamie Anderson’s “Is Happiness the Beginning or the End?” discusses the view on happiness in the American cultural consciousness and the perceived ideological conflict regarding the specificities of its nature.
  • Changing a Client’s Life From a Mess to Happiness In the beginning, I disclosed these details to make the woman’s physical portrait.”She averages one meal per day”: The woman has a great risk of problems with gastritis due to the lack of vitamins and […]
  • Aristotle’s View of Ethics and Happiness Aristotle guarantees that to find the human great, we should recognize the capacity of an individual. He set forth the thought that joy is a delight in magnificence and great.
  • Happiness Areas and Goals in Personal Life The point that most of the global population leads a life of acting contributes significantly to the loss of happiness. That is why one of my goals to achieve the second area of happiness involved […]
  • Painfulness and Happiness of Childbirth The second stage is associated with the child’s passage through the birth canal; it begins after the complete opening of the cervix and ends with the birth of a child.
  • Happiness: Common and Personal Criteria Since the emergence of the term happiness in the times of Plato and Aristotle, the topic of happiness, its philosophical meaning, and its application to the real world became a case of many discussions.
  • Panama: Economics and Happiness As a result, Panama is regarded a highly inflationary country; however, Panama can profit from the U.S.dollar’s resilience as the foundation of the world banking markets.
  • Study of the Happiness Index Parameters Thus, the chronological data allow us to evaluate not only the countries among themselves according to this criterion but also to provide the dynamics of the change in the happiness index within the country.
  • Thoughts on Stress Management and Happiness Although she has all her financial needs met overwhelmingly, her failure to proceed with her studies and get employment makes her feel unsatisfied.
  • Discussion: Can Money Buy Happiness? Reason Two: Second, people are psychologically predisposed to wanting more than they have, so the richer people are, the less feasible it is to satisfy their demands.
  • Ways to Ensure Happiness at Work For employers to gain a high amount of trust from their workers, they have to believe that their workers have the organization’s best interest and that their actions are driven to better their services.
  • Leadership for Happiness in Workplaces The relationship between the leaders and the workforce determines how the employees react and perceive the decisions made by the management.
  • Environmental Injustice Impeding Health and Happiness The authors note that there is a constant flow of the white population to the areas most protected from flooding and the displacement of the black population from there.
  • The Happy Planet Index of Long-Term Happiness The Happy Planet Index contributes to answering the issue, “Is it possible to live happy lives without harming the environment?” The relationship between happiness and ecological footprints can be clearly understood by interpreting the data […]
  • Aristotle’s Concept of Happiness Aristotle’s concept of happiness is an expression of virtue that is similar to the flow state, happiness is a combination of the baseline level where basic needs are fulfilled and a broader area managed by […]
  • Happiness: Cuddy’s vs. Dowthwaite’s Articles Comparison Although Cuddy and Dowthwaite have different perspectives on the matter, they both concur that it is natural for individuals not always to be happy.
  • Breaking the Stereotype: Why Urban Aboriginals Score Highly on Happiness Measures
  • Electing Happiness: Does Happiness Effect Voting and Do Elections Affect Happiness
  • Freedom, Justice, and the Pursuit of Happiness
  • Individual and Contextual Factors of Happiness and Life Satisfaction in a Low Middle Income Country
  • Technology and Its Effects on Satisfaction in Society
  • Neural and Genetic Correlates of the Social Sharing of Happiness
  • Emotional Intelligence as Mediator Between Need for Relatedness, Happiness, and Flourishing
  • Serotonin the Happiness Hormone and Effect on Neurotransmitters
  • Defining Happiness Through Metaphorical Expressions, a Person’s Behavior, and Its Relation to Success
  • Cultural Capital and Happiness: Why the Rich Are Happier
  • Relationship Between Spiritual Well-Being and Happiness
  • Finding Happiness in Homosexuality, Overcoming Rejection, Identity, and Desire
  • Measuring Happiness: From Fluctuating Satisfaction to Authentic, Durable Happiness
  • Income and Happiness: Earning and Spending as Sources of Discontent
  • Adaptation Amidst Prosperity and Adversity: Insights From Happiness Studies From Around the World
  • Modern Ritualism for Finding Peace & Happiness & Living With Meaning
  • Aristotle’s Eudaimonia: Are Pleasure and Happiness the Final Goals in Life
  • Beauty and Equality: The Key Elements to the Pursuit of Happiness
  • Collective Happiness: Labor Union Membership and Life Satisfaction
  • Law, Sustainability, and the Pursuit of Happiness
  • Against Positive Thinking: Uncertainty as to the Secret of Happiness
  • Age and the Pursuit of Happiness Among Immigrants
  • Happiness and Its Correlation With Marriage, Earnings, and Age
  • Poor and Distressed, but Happy: Situational and Cultural Moderators of the Relationship Between Wealth and Happiness
  • Job Satisfaction and Family Happiness: The Part-Time Work Problem
  • Migrants, Health, and Happiness: Evidence That Health Assessments Travel With Migrants and Predict Well-Being
  • Adult Happiness and Prior Traumatic Victimization in and Out of the Household
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IvyPanda. (2023, October 26). 188 Happiness Essay Topic Ideas & Examples. https://ivypanda.com/essays/topic/happiness-essay-examples/

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The Pursuit of Happyness Movie Guide with Questions, Activities and Essay

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This is a movie guide for The Pursuit of Happyness, an inspiring and educational movie about overcoming poverty, perseverance and finding true happiness. This rigorous 10+ page movie guide is much more than a worksheet of questions. It has everything you need to not only engage your students but to get them thinking critically about the central themes in this story. And best of all-it's NO PREP! We've done all the work for you so sit back and enjoy a great movie with your students!

This comprehensive guide includes:

-Comprehension and discussion questions

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-Essay on central themes

-Key vocabulary from the film

-Vocabulary crossword puzzle

-Answer key

-Teacher's guide

-Movie review activity

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the pursuit of happiness essay questions

Home — Essay Samples — Entertainment — In Pursuit of Happiness — Analysis of the Movie ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’

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Analysis of The Movie 'The Pursuit of Happyness'

  • Categories: In Pursuit of Happiness Will Smith

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Words: 642 |

Published: Apr 8, 2022

Words: 642 | Page: 1 | 4 min read

The essay analyzes the film "The Pursuit of Happyness," which is based on the true story of Chris Gardner's struggle to provide a better life for his young son. The essay delves into various aspects of the film, starting with the reference to the phrase "Pursuit of Happyness" from the Declaration of Independence, emphasizing the challenging nature of the pursuit of happiness.

The essay highlights the unique storytelling in the film, with Chris Gardner narrating his life journey, including riding the bus, raising his son, facing unemployment, and eventually finding happiness through a job as a stockbroker. It explores the sequence of challenges and dilemmas that Gardner encounters during the pursuit of happiness, such as losing his job, facing financial hardship, and entering an unpaid training program.

The performance of Will Smith in the lead role is praised, with his portrayal of Chris Gardner's struggles and determination earning particular acclaim. Jaden Smith's performance as Gardner's son is also highlighted, as the father-son duo effectively captures the relationship between their characters.

The essay discusses the cinematography, lighting, and sound design in the film, noting how they contribute to the viewer's emotional engagement. It also touches on the intentional misspelling of "happyness" in the film's title, emphasizing the theme of the pursuit of happiness as a central element in the story.

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the pursuit of happiness essay questions

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  1. 'The Pursuit of Happiness' Review: The Founders and the Stoics

    For a year, Mr. Rosen writes in "The Pursuit of Happiness," "I got up every morning before sunrise, read a selection from his list, and found myself taking notes on the reading in sonnet ...

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  3. The Pursuit of Happyness Summary and Study Guide

    Discussion Questions Summary and Study Guide Overview Chris Gardner's memoir, The Pursuit of Happyness, details his pursuit of the American Dream and desire to rise against the challenging circumstances of his birth and attain success.

  4. 'The Pursuit of Happiness' Review: The Founders and the Stoics

    For a year, Mr. Rosen writes in "The Pursuit of Happiness," "I got up every morning before sunrise, read a selection from his list, and found myself taking notes on the reading in sonnet ...

  5. The Pursuit of Happiness: Theme Essay

    This paper will present and respond to the arguments put forward by Frederic Lenoir in the chapter titled, "Can the Quest for Happiness Make Us Unhappy?" in his book Happiness: A Philosopher's Guide that seeks to answer the question of authentic happiness.

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    Today, we think of happiness as the pursuit of pleasure. But classical and Enlightenment thinkers defined happiness as the pursuit of virtue — as being good rather than feeling good. Just as ...

  7. The Pursuit of Happyness Essay Topics

    1. How does Gardner use the five senses to bring his joys, sorrows and inspirations to life in his book? 2. Explore how the ambitions and desires of the female characters in Gardner's life are thwarted. In what ways does the text imply that it is more difficult for women to break the poverty cycle? 3.

  8. The Pursuit of Happiness: Summary Essay

    The beginning scene gives a glimpse of the phrase 'Pursuit of Happiness' as noted by way of Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence that the Americans are entitled to the right of 'Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness Chris Gardner reflects upon the which means of the pursuit of happiness as cited in the Declaration of Independ...

  9. "The Pursuit Of Happiness" Film Reflection: [Essay ...

    To conclude, the movie In Pursuit of Happiness highlights the inequality that exists in the American society. Even though most Americans believe in their economic system, the manner in which the system works creates inequality and promotes the dominance of the white. The director used the example of Gardner to demonstrate the level of ...

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    Complete summary of Anne Roiphe's The Pursuit of Happiness. eNotes plot summaries cover all the significant action of The Pursuit of Happiness. ... Start an essay Ask a question The Pursuit of ...

  11. The Pursuit of Happyness, Essay Example

    What were Chris Gardner's main principles and goals? Investigation of these questions will show the inner world of the main hero, interesting patterns of his behavior and the things which influenced his strong desire and thirst to become the number one in the world of finance. Chris Gardner was born and grown up in the Milwaukee inner-city ghetto.

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    Questions and Answers: Q1: According to the passage, happiness is not just the absence of sadness but also includes a sense of ________. A) Achievement B) Well-being C) Wealth D) Power A1: B) Well-being. The passage states that happiness involves a positive state beyond just the lack of sadness.

  13. Analysis Of The Pursuit Of Happyness Through A ...

    The film "The Pursuit of Happyness", directed by Gabrielle Muccino, tells the true-life experiences of Chris Gardner who faces many hard obstacles. He... read full [Essay Sample] for free ... A Study of Family Issues in Pursuit of Happiness by Gabriele Muccino Essay. Pursuit of Happiness is about a family living check by check, just trying ...

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    Hook Examples for Happiness Essay. An Inspirational Quote: "The greatest happiness you can have is knowing that you do not necessarily require happiness." - William Saroyan; A Captivating Anecdote: Picture a man who left his high-paying job to travel the world, living out of a backpack. His pursuit of happiness led him to the most unexpected places, and his story will inspire you to seek ...

  16. The Pursuit of Happyness Movie Guide with Questions, Activities and Essay

    Description. This is a movie guide for The Pursuit of Happyness, an inspiring and educational movie about overcoming poverty, perseverance and finding true happiness. This rigorous 10+ page movie guide is much more than a worksheet of questions. It has everything you need to not only engage your students but to get them thinking critically ...

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  19. Review of the Movie 'The Pursuit of Happyness': [Essay Example], 764

    Published: Apr 8, 2022 In 'The Pursuit of Happyness' I believe Will Smith did an exceptional performance in his performing abilities. The movie exceeded the action and romantic films Will Smith is known for. He illustrated the position of Chris Gardner, trouble, struck down man dealing with the most upsetting time of his life.

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    The brief moment of self accomplishment deriving from the attainment of one's goal is just that; brief. That is why the pursuit is what brings the most pleasure and satisfaction. Ernest Hemingway once said, "It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.". Goals are part of everyone's life.

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  22. In "The Pursuit of Happyness", the intern is seen submitting ...

    21 MasterBeef117 • 6 yr. ago Yeah your explanation is better actually. I guess by this point Homer Stockbroker knew what he could do, but had to check as I guess he was one of the quickest to leave like the other guy who missed the question. (The look on the other guys face as well when he realized.)

  23. Life Challenges and Lessons in the Movie 'The Pursuit of Happyness

    Words: 925 | Pages: 2 | 5 min read Published: Apr 8, 2022 The Pursuit of Happyness is a biographical movie that is based on Chris Gardner 's life in his dark time. This story tells about when he is a homeless and a single parent. The film was published in December 15th 2006 under Columbia Pictures associating with Relativity Media.

  24. Questions on the Film, The Pursuit of Happyness

    1. What was Chris Gardner's American dream, and why did he choose this to be his dream? Chris Gardner's American dream in this movie is that he wants to be able to support his family financially. He chooses this to be his dream, when he sees how much the poverty affects his life with his family.

  25. The Pursuit Of Happiness Essay Questions

    44 Customer reviews How to Get the Best Essay Writing Service For expository writing, our writers investigate a given idea, evaluate its various evidence, set forth interesting arguments by expounding on the idea, and that too concisely and clearly. Our online essay writing service has the eligibility to write marvelous expository essays for you.

  26. Analysis of The Movie 'The Pursuit of Happyness'

    The essay delves into various aspects of the film, starting with the reference to the phrase "Pursuit of Happyness" from the Declaration of Independence, emphasizing the challenging nature of the pursuit of happiness. The essay highlights the unique storytelling in the film, with Chris Gardner narrating his life journey, including riding the ...