Study Guide

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Happiness

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Everyone wants to be happy. In fact, maybe that's the only thing that anybody wants. But happiness can be hard to come by, especially when you're trying really hard to be happy instead of just enjoying what you have. This is what seems to be happening to Joel in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: he's discontent with who he is and the funk he's stuck in. He can't make eye contact with a woman he doesn't know, and apparently his relationship with Naomi is a little rocky.

So when Joel meets Clem, he thinks she's going to be the one to pull him out of his rut and make him feel alive. The problem is that he doesn't listen to her when she tells him that's exactly what she isn't going to do; she's just another person looking for happiness, too, like Patrick and Mary and all the other characters in the movie. Unfortunately, Joel finds out that when true happiness finally comes, it can be fleeting.

Questions About Happiness

  1. What makes Joel so happy as he lies on the ice with Clem, and what exactly makes it go away? Is he still just relishing in the honeymoon phase of their relationship, or do you think they ever really had a deeper kind of love for each other?
  2. At the beginning of the film, we think of Joel as a sad person, but this is only after he's had the procedure. Would a Clementine-less Joel necessarily be unhappy, or is his unhappiness just a product of his memory loss?
  3. Is having the procedure always a mistake? Will remembering the forgotten always make people happier?
  4. Do you think Mary made a mistake in sending patients their information?

Chew on This

Eternal Sunshine shows that it's wrong to make another person responsible for your happiness. Joy and fulfillment should come from within, not from some exterior source whose constancy is unreliable.

Being happy is all about surrounding yourself with happy people. Only when Clem and Joel grow apart do they become unhappy. Sharing happiness is a necessity.

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