Rhetorical Analysis of Will Smith’s Speech from The Movie Pursuit of Happyness

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About this sample


Words: 1031 |

Pages: 2|

6 min read

Published: Aug 6, 2021

Words: 1031|Pages: 2|6 min read

Published: Aug 6, 2021

There is a short scene in which Will Smith plays basketball with his son and tells him that he will probably not be very good at basketball in the future so he should not spend too much time playing basketball after his son says he is going pro. His son is upset and stops playing. Smith realizes that he should teach him to protect his dream instead of discouraging him. Then, Smith gives a speech to his son that he should protect his dream no matter what other people say. Even though it is a short speech, it is a great lesson about life for people who are pursuing their dreams. In “The Pursuit of Happyness,” Will Smith delivers his speech successfully using persuasive appeals such as ethos and pathos, word choice, and repetition to convey the message effectively that people should protect their dreams no matter what, and background plays a very important role in making the speech more powerful. 

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When Smith talks to his son, he earns respect and credibility from him as a figure of authority. Smith is a father and is responsible for his son’s life. His son is not only Smith’s son in the movie but also his son in real life, which makes Smith earn more respect and credibility. As a father, Smith teaches his son lessons of life based on what he experienced. This is an appeal to ethos. His son never questions what Smith says. He just accepts it and goes on even though he was upset about what he heard because he respects his father and believes what he spoke as credible. Also, Smith says to his son, “Don’t ever let somebody tell you, you can’t do something. Not even me. All right?”. Even though Smith is a father and can tell his son that he can’t do something impossible, he wants his son not to let even his father tell him he can’t do something. He decides to trust his son and tells him to trust himself. 

When Smith tells his son that he will not be a good basketball player in the future, he is tapping into his son’s emotions, which cause his son to be upset and throw a basketball angrily. Also, when Smith realizes that he is wrong and feels sorry for his son, he tells his son to protect his dream with emotion such as guilt and sorrow. This is an appeal to pathos, and it shows the emotion of Smith and his son. This scene makes the audience more emotional because they know how hard Smith and his son live their lives in the movie. They go through a rough time financially, and their living conditions are terrible. They sleep in homeless shelters because they are evicted from their own house. Also, Smith’s wife does not respect Smith’s dream and thinks it is impossible when he tells her that he wants to become a stockbroker. This gives a sense of why Smith delivers the speech emotionally to his son that he should chase his dream even though other people tell him it is impossible. 

Smith uses an effective word choice to emphasize what he wants to say to his son. His speech does not contain any hard words. It contains basic words, which make the speech more effective because it is easier for the audience to understand him. Even though he uses only basic words, they are very powerful to convey the message that people should chase their dreams. He means each word he says. He also uses many reinforcing words to add emphasis, instead of saying “Don’t let someone tell you that you can’t do something,” he instead says, “Don’t ever let someone tell you that you can’t do something.” His use of reinforcing words shows how serious he is and makes the audience take his message seriously. Repetition is another rhetorical element used in Smith’s speech. Smith says, “Don’t ever let somebody tell you, you can’t do something. People can’t do something themselves; they want to tell you; you can’t do it.” He uses the words and phrases repeatedly to emphasize how important they are. He tries to convey the message that dreams should not be discouraged by anyone else. A dream is not something impossible. It is something that can be achieved by believing yourself. 

Background plays an important role in all the rhetorical elements to make the speech more powerful. Smith and his son are going through a tough financial situation in the movie. This is due to Smith losing his job, divorcing his wife, and being evicted. All these factors contribute to the powerful speech he delivers to his son. Although the background and where you come from are important, anyone can make it anywhere if they choose so. Background also plays a role in Smith telling his son that he would not be a great basketball player because Smith’s background was not one of success or wealth which his son was envisioning which caused him to believe that his son would not endure that path either. However, Smith eventually overcomes his difficulties financially at the end of the movie and this shows that he believed what he told his son and acted on it, which led him to success. 

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Smith’s speech was effective in using rhetorical elements such as persuasive appeals such as ethos and pathos, word choice, and repetition with the background, which made the speech more powerful. This speech is for those in life who are chasing their dreams. People will always tell others that they can’t do something. However, they should keep chasing their dreams no matter what other people say. Dreams are still worth being chased and fought for. Also, this speech is not just for people who are chasing their dreams but also for those who act as role models for individuals. This speech showed what can happen when role models say negative things to people who look up to them. Role models should be aware of what they are saying and who is listening because what they say can change someone’s life. They should encourage them instead of discouraging them. 

Works Cited

  • Muccino, Gabriele, director. The Pursuit of Happyness. Sony Pictures, 2006.
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Rhetorical Analysis Of Will Smith’s Speech From The Movie Pursuit Of Happyness. (2021, August 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 29, 2024, from
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