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The Pursuit of Happyness Christopher Gardner Book Analysis

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Christopher Gardner’s memoirs were published in his book titled “The Pursuit of
Happyness” in 2006. The book was made into a movie of the same name also in 2006.
Mr. Gardner overcame a multitude of difficulties on his way to success. (Ricardi 2011).
An absent father and an abusive stepfather made home life difficult. After his mother
was imprisoned for welfare fraud and he, along with his siblings, were placed in foster
care. A second return to foster care when he was eight years old he developed a
relationship with his three maternal uncles. One, Henry took a strong interest in
Christopher and inspired him. Henry drowned when Christopher was nine years old.
His mother instilled a sense of self reliance in Christopher. (Ricardi 2011). He grew up
feeling that he could accomplish anything. He rejected alcohol, abuse and illiteracy as
issues that held people back. He joined the navy, was befriended by cardiac surgeon
Robert Ellis and assisted him in research projects. His goal was to become a physician.
He married a mathematics educator in 1977. After abandoning his plans in the medical
field, he began an affair with a dental student Jackie that resulted in pregnancy. After
living with the mother of his child, he worked as a lab assistant and then a medical sales
representative. During a sales call he noticed a man in a red Ferrari and asked him how
he succeeded. This led to a training program as a stockbroker at Dean Witter Reynolds.
A plethora of difficulties defined his life including a violent confrontation with the mother
of his child, jail for numerous unpaid parking tickets, his son taken to the east coast,
loss of his apartment, homelessness and finally the return of the mother of his child to
leave the child with Christopher. A period of homelessness and poverty followed with
concerns for his childs welfare and well-being. During all of this he persisted. In 1982
he passed his series 7 exam and moved to full time employment and took a position at
Bear Stearns.
He reunited with Jackie and had a daughter in 1985. He started his own brokerage firm
in 1987; Gardner Rich and Company in Chicago, Illinois.
Today Christopher Gardner is involved in many philanthropic activities. He is a
motivational speaker, has invested and helped fund programs through faith-based
organizations for low income housing, clothing, job assistance, educational school
programs and support for children at risk.
Suffice it say that Mr. Gardner experienced a wide variety of negative pressures as well
as some significant opportunities on his journey to ultimate success. While Mr. Gardner
is certainly a unique figure, his path, and the theories that seek to define his journey,
can provide a valuable opportunity to study the prevailing wisdom and the reasons
behind the exceptions to the rules.

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Ecological Theory concerns the child development and the social relationships that
affect them. According to ecological theory, daily interactions and daily activities have
an impact on youth. (McHale 2009). Family, peer groups, school and social connections
help form identity. Gardner’s experiences in early childhood could be predictive of
delinquent behavior. Lack of a strong moral male influence, abusive stepfather,
incarceration of his mother, foster care and abuse and violence in the home are all
generally thought to negatively influence children’s behavior. On the other side, even
though his mother had a bad marriage and was absent for much of his childhood, she
instilled in him a sense that he could accomplish anything he wanted to. He succeeded
in school and had some influential mentors throughout his younger life. A strong self -
reliance ethic is the key factor in Gardner’s ability to reject the negative incidences in his
life and push forward. In his interviews he says that his mother was the most influential
person in his life or instilling a work ethic and self-reliance. This strength allowed him to
see through the difficult times and focus on a better future. His rejection of alcoholism,
abuse and child abuse are attributed to witnessing these issues firsthand and relying
upon inner strength. A mentor and unwavering focus are the hallmarks of many
successful people.
Gardner’s association with the navy introduced him the strict discipline and honor that is
required in the military. This focused him on positive environments and socializations.
His friendship with the cardiac surgeon Robert Ellis and the introduction to research and
the medical field further reinforced the positive side of ecological theory. (McHale 2009).
Gardner’s intelligence and acceptance of school and learning as a positive force moved
him in a direction to succeed rather than using his negative experiences as an excuse
to succumb to negative behavior.
Poor parenting, or absent parenting, physical spanking or other violent behavior,
infrequent parent-child interactions all are thought to be predictors of delinquency and
adolescent violence. (Moon 2010). Gardner experienced all of these and more, yet he
did not resort to violence and criminal activities. Academic failures, low academic
achievement and a failure to commit to the educational process are also strong
predictors of a turn to delinquency among youth. Gardner was successful in the
academic arena and embraced learning and embraced teacher-student relationships.
The take away here is that while ecological theory can be predictive for some children,
mentors, a single strong unifying concept such as self-reliance, and sheer will can
overcome all the negative influences present in the environment.
Differential Association Theory looks at interactions with others and the affect it has on
values. Its tenet is that an individual will choose a criminal path or a conformity path in
the same manner, through interactions with individuals embracing either path. (Gifford-
Smith 2005). Deviant behavior is likely to result if contact with deviants is paramount.
Conforming behavior is likely to result if contact with conformists is paramount. Early
intervention to prevent deviant behavior is effective. The avoidance of socialization with
deviant peers in early childhood mitigates future offending behavior. Gardner would

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Christopher Gardner’s memoirs were published in his book titled “The Pursuit of Happyness” in 2006. The book was made into a movie of the same name also in 2006. Mr. Gardner overcame a multitude of difficulties on his way to success. (Ricardi 2011). An absent father and an abusive stepfather made home life difficult. After his mother was imprisoned for welfare fraud and he, along with his siblings, were placed in foster care. A second return to foster care when he was eight years old he developed a relationship with his three maternal uncles. One, Henry took a strong interest in Christopher and inspired him. Henry drowned when Christopher was nine years old. His mother instilled a sense of self reliance in Christopher. (Ricardi 2011). He grew up feeling that he could accomplish anything. He rejected alcohol, abuse and illiteracy as issues that held people back. He joined the navy, was befriended by cardiac surgeon Robert Ellis and assisted him in research projects. His goal was to become a physician. He married a mathematics educator in 1977. After abandoning his plans in the medical field, he began an affair with a dental student Jackie that resulted in pregnancy. After living with the mother of his child, he worked as a lab assistant and then a medical sales representative. During a sales call he noticed a man in a red Ferrari and asked him how he succeeded. This led to a training program as a stockbroker at Dean Witter Reynolds. A plethora of difficulties defined his ...
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