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Common Read 2016- 2017 The Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner: Discussion Guides

Compiled by Maria Zarycky, Librarian, Instructional Media Center

Forsyth County Public Library

Book Discussion Questions

Gardner’s mother, Bettye Jean Triplett, obviously had a profound influence on him. He often credits his success to the “spiritual genetics” he inherited from her. What did she teach him? Who else had an influence on Gardner growing up? What did he learn from them?

It’s doubtful that Gardner and his son would have survived life on the streets were it not for the charity of others. Who were these people and how did they help?

Gardner resolved at a young age that, if he were to grow up and have a son of his own, he would be a strong presence in his child’s life. Many years later, in 2002, he was awarded the Father of the Year Award from the National Fatherhood Initiative. What are his strengths as a father as exhibited in the book?

The 2006 film adaptation of The Pursuit of Happyness, starring Will Smith and his son Jaden Smith as Chris Gardner and his son, covers only  a small portion of the book towards the end, specifically Gardner’s struggle to become a stock broker and find employment at Dean Witter. Why do you think the filmmakers decided to focus on this section of the book and leave out the rest?

While looking for a place to take care of his son during his work hours, Gardner saw a sign on the wall of a daycare facility with the word “Happyness”. Why do you suppose he chose the phrase “The Pursuit of Happyness”, misspelling and all, to be the title of his autobiography?

What is Gardner’s definition of happiness?
Historian James Truslow Adams popularized the phrase “American Dream” in his 1931 book Epic of America. He defined it as “the dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement…a dream of being able to grow to fullest development as man and woman, unhampered by the barriers which had slowly been erected in the older civilizations.” Is Chris Gardner proof that the American Dream can come true? Do you believe it’s possible for everyone?

From: Forsyth County Public Library  Winston-Salem, NC


Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner - Book Club Discussion Questions

By Bess Newman

Chris Gardner’s life story is impressive. Despite having never gone to college, and after a period of being homeless, he became a wildly successful stockbroker and wrote his memoir, Pursuit of Happyness. Use these book club discussion questions on The Pursuit of Happyness to delve into Gardner's memoir with your book club.

Spoiler Warning: These book club discussion questions reveal important details about Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner. Finish the book before reading on.

  1. Why do you think Gardner chose "Pursuit of Happyness" as the title?
  2. What was your favorite of Gardener's childhood stories? Did anything remind you of your own childhood?
  3. What role did Reverend Cecil Williams play in Gardner’s life?
  4. What do you think you would have done if you were in Gardner’s shoes when Jackie showed up at his door and left his son?
  5. Do you think there are any parallels between the time Gardner spent in jail and the time his mother spent in jail?
  6. How would you rate the book on a scale of one to five?