Joy in Sorrow: The Pursuit of Happiness


This is a copy of my term paper for Early American Lit. Please do not steal any ideas but feel free to extrapolate.

John Perry Barlow, in his essay entitled “The Pursuit of Emptiness,” put forth that Thomas Jefferson’s inclusion of the pursuit of happiness in a list of inalienable rights in the Declaration of Independence has turned into a counter-intuitive requirement of American life. In Barlow’s opinion, pursuing happiness is a primary way to ensure that one can never be truly happy. He states that when he is happy, it is not because he pursued happiness, but rather, that he allowed happiness to pursue him. In Barlow’s words, “Jefferson’s wistful aspiration has gradually transmuted into first an entitlement and eventually an obligation, even as its actual practice has become increasingly rare.” Barlow believes that this pursuit is unworthy of Jefferson and unnatural for humans, no matter how “American” the ideal may be.

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