Points of Light Holiday Edition: It’s A Wonderful Life

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Welcome back to the blog.  In order to combat the post-Christmas blues, I’ve saved my final holiday entry for today.  And I’ve saved the best for last.  So prepare to take closer look at a Frank Capra bomb that became a holiday classic- It’s a Wonderful Life.

 

The Story

 

Prayers on Earth cause God and Joseph to summon Clarence, an angel in training, to venture down and help George Bailey, a man considering suicide.  Through flashbacks, Clarence sees George grow from child to man, a life in which George often gave up his dreams of travel and architecture to help others in his hometown.  Despite giving people a way to build and own homes rather then beg from the wealthy Mr. Potter, George is regretful of his missed chances, which overtake him when money from his business is misplaced and he faces jail.  Despondent, George attempts to kill himself for insurance money, only to be stopped by Clarence.  Acting on George’s statements, Clarence then reshapes the world so that George was never born, resulting in a world where the town is ruled by Potter and George’s friends and family are bitter, unhappy, or ever even came into existence.  Horrified, George begs for his life back, which Clarence gives him.  George returns to accept the consequences, but the townspeople he has helped over the years come to give him the needed money, repaying him for all his years of kindness.

What Writers Can Learn: Lengthy Narrative, Consequence

 

While it took many years of holiday TV airings to become a holiday staple, it is not hard to see the Christmas nature of this film, which promotes selflessness and the kindness of friends and family.  But other then its morality, this film gives writers examples of excellent tools.  First, the piece is perfect as a long narrative of George Bailey’s life.  We are shown George from the time he is twelve, and then almost all of his early adult life.  Even without his teenage years, we are given a clear of the man’s life, and the core of his character.  Even as a child, he displays a strong selflessness, losing part of his hearing to save his brother, and taking over his family business to save it from Potter.  With each age, we see George become a better man and we became more and more enamored with him and hope for his success.

However, the narrative also reveals the consequences of George’s actions.  Each of his good deeds is marred by sacrifice.  We see him give up college education, his dream of architecture, then his chances to see the world, his honeymoon, all to keep his family business going, and protect the townspeople.  And while his nobility is admirable, he displays all too human regret and frustration at the loss of those dreams.  We see touches of it throughout it the film, but it is nowhere more apparent then the difficult scene where George returns home after the money is lost.  He is clearly angry and saddened, snapping at his family, complaining about his life, and then finally destroying his models of things he would never build.  We see just how human George really is and despite all the good he has done, he has sacrificed a great deal.  Some have even brought this into the final scenes, where the townsfolk are brining George the needed money.  While it can be seen as the repayment of kindness and how good deeds are rewarded, it can also been seen as another blow to George, since he now has more then enough funds to keep working in a job he never truly wanted.  But regardless of how it seen, this is a perfect view of the consequences of one’s actions and how they affect his life.

Further Viewing

While not a holiday film, Jimmy Stewart (George) had a similar role in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, where he plays a junior senator attempting to stand up to the inhuman bureaucracy of government (a film of great use in these difficult political times).  And with that, our holiday journey is finished for another year.  I look forward to seeing you all in the New Year, as I put forth the second volume of Lightrider.  Happy Season to you all.

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Posted on December 26, 2014, in Inspiration, Writing, Writing Tips and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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