Matthew Evans

October 26, 2015


For E2, I chose to analyze Gabrielle Muccino’s 2006 film, The Pursuit of Happyness. This movie is about the life of Chris Gardner, a middle-aged salesman and single father, who’s life is tracked while he is trying to make a honest living for his son and himself in the cold world they live in. I was originally intrigued by the underlying messages in The Pursuit of Happyness about happiness and perseverance.

Director, Gabrielle Muccino, forces the viewer to question and self reflect. Muccino encourages the viewer to think — can one truly find happiness in this world or is society only searching for it when in fact, it can never actually be achieved. This is brought to the viewer’s attention when Chris Gardner contemplates, “I started thinking about Thomas Jefferson on the Declaration of Independence and the part about our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And I remember thinking how did he know to put the pursuit part in there? That maybe happiness is something that we can only pursue and maybe we can actually never have it. No matter what.” This was initially what drew me into wanting to write about this text. It was powerful because it made you think about the roots of ‘happiness’ through the life of a destitute salesman, Chris Gardner, and his struggles with trying to support his son, and find the true meaning of happiness. It’s intriguing because it uniquely tells the story through the thought process of Chris Gardner as he is facing his economic struggles in life. It puts the viewer into the shoes of Gardner, and really makes you sympathize with him, and at times plead with the director to allow him to find success. It made me question if I was truly happy with my life — am I satisfied with my life? Gardner was never selfish in his endeavors; he always worked to better him and his son’s lives. He never complained about his unfair life, he just took the bull by the horns, manned up and did everything he could to provide for his family. You get to see how his thought process evolves as his life deteriorates to the point of helplessness, and how he never gave up even his back was against the wall and all seemed hopeless. “The future was uncertain, absolutely, and there were many hurdles, twists, and turns to come, but as long as I kept moving forward, one foot in front of the other, the voices of fear and shame, the messages from those who wanted me to believe that I wasn’t good enough, would be stilled.” This quote truly inspire me that regardless of how hard life gets, never give up because things will get better as long as you never give up. Gardner made me think about the definition society has taught me of happiness. What is my answer for how to achieve happiness? Will we ever truly obtain contentment, or will we always intrinsically want more? This film gives a different spin on bliss and makes you question the true definition of happiness and if one can truly obtain it, or if we are simply on a quest to reach what we believe is ‘happiness’.

This movie made me think about what is really important in my life and helped me formulate the questions of, can one truly obtain “Happyness” or are we on a constant pursuit to find happiness? How does someone measure happiness, and how do you know if somebody is happy? And finally, what’s the author’s definition of happiness? It really helped me formulate a lot of unsolved questions that I want to analyze throughout my essay. It really got me thinking that there might not be one definitive meaning of happiness, and there’s not one thing that universally brings happiness to every person. Happiness is a subjective feeling that can only quantitatively be measured. And because humans are inherently greedy and selfish regardless of socioeconomic status, we instinctively will always constantly want more and will never truly be satisfied. How can a homeless man shed a smile when he essentially has nothing, while there are celebrities who get upset for getting a Maserati for their birthday, when they wanted a Lamborghini? Why are billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg and Donald Trump not satisfied with their current net worth, and are still trying to make more money, when they obviously have more than enough to live lavishly for the rest of their lives? Is it pride or greed? If they are still working, have they not even been able to find true happiness? As more thoughts start to formulate in my mind, I start to believe that maybe money is the root of all evil. Maybe personal experiences, and being with your loved ones brings happiness. It seems like in life things that bring us the most joy cannot be bought.

I also love the other message in the movie about perseverance and how one should always believe in themselves; even when they’re against all odds, anything in this world is obtainable. Gardener embodies this when he proclaims to his son, “Don’t ever let somebody tell you, you can’t do something. Not even me…You got a dream… You gotta protect it. People can’t do somethin’ themselves, they wanna tell you you can’t do it. If you want somethin’, go get it. Period.” The underlying messages in this film are interconnected throughout the film and came together in the end when he finally reaches a state of true satisfaction and bliss.