Subject Material

The Pursuit of Happyness

Published: 28.09.2011, Updated: 04.03.2017
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What kind of things in life make you happy? What does "your kind of happiness" say about who you are and what kind of values you have?

Chris: "It was at that time that I thought about Thomas Jefferson writing that Declaration of Independence. Him saying that we have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And I thought about how he knew to put the 'pursuit' in there, like no one can actually have happiness. We can only pursue it...."

What do you think Thomas Jefferson meant?

The Pursuit of HappynessThe Pursuit of HappynessThe Pursuit of Happyness is a biographical drama based on the rags-to-riches story of Chris Gardner, an American stockbroker. We follow the story of a young family struggling to climb the social ladder and reach their dreams through hard work and sacrifice. We witness their determination and their frustration as they continually find themselves living hand-to-mouth.

This is a story about hope, dreams, challenging the odds, self-determination and humility. The film presents stark contrasts within American society: beggars and charity, class differences, multiculturalism and values. We see those who have accomplished their dreams and those who have no dreams at all.

The themes of the movie are closely related to the ideology and values of the founding fathers of the United States, for better and for worse.

After watching the film, work with the following tasks.

Working with the Film

  1. What is the genre of this film?
  2. Describe the setting (where does the story take place)?
  3. What are the themes that are presented in the movie?
  4. Explain what a Rubic’s Cube is and how it works? Why is the car ride when Chris solves the Rublic's Cube, a turning point in the story? How might the story have been different had this incident not taken place?

Characterisation

  1. Who is the protagonist in the film? How would you describe his personality? Think of the many roles he has at this point in his life: husband, father, friend, salesman, intern, tenant.
  2. Who is the antagonist (is there more than one)?
  3. What aspects of American society are present in the film? How are they presented?
  4. What relationships are presented in the film and how would you describe them?

Culture and Society

  1. Give examples from the film that depict multiculturalism. What contrasts do you notice?
  2. Why do you think that Chris is so upset about “happyness” being spelled incorrectly?
  3. What kind of information did Chris have on his CV and how is this received by the employers at the firm?

Discussion

Describe the day-care center that Christopher goes to. How is it different from the day-care that you went to? Think of rules and regulations concerning learning and safety and physical activity.

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