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It’s a Wonderful Life

SOC 3042

Kristina Safonina
It’s a Wonderful Life is often regarded as a traditional Christmas movie, but the meaning

behind the film is much deeper. The film dives into the society that George is forced to live in

and most importantly, the role everyone plays in George’s life. What is the society that George is

living in? How exactly does it affect his life? Even moreso, how is George’s society affecting his

choices? These questions are key in understand the importance of belonging. This film is an

excellent representation of how an individual’s life is shaped by what their society deems is

appropriate. The shared values that a society has may not always be suitable for every person.

Lastly, I will be evaluating whether or not this film is a warm and happy Christmas movie, or if

it’s a tragedy. Is it really a wonderful life?

The film starts off with George’s family praying for him...and surprisingly, the angels

above hear their pleas. They decide to help out, but first they go back in time and see George’s

childhood. After a mishap over a frozen pond, George saves his little brother, but takes a

sacrifice himself. He loses hearing in one of his ears as a result. This marks the beginning of the

unfortunate events for George. We then see him working in the pharmacy and how two little

girls are just taken away by his charm. George once again saves a life when he realizes the

pharmacist accidentally added poison into the pills. With that, we see the angry pharmacist beat

poor George. This was a slightly difficult scene to watch, and once again, George takes the hit

(literally this time) for doing the right thing.

Later we see George all grown up and getting ready to travel the world. He is even gifted

a nice suitcase to take with him. We see the two girls who were swooning over him as children,

one of them will be his future wife, Mary. Mary speaks with George about his travels and

George tells her about his dreams of even owning a harem. You see the evident disappointment
in Mary’s face when he says that. They end up going to a school dance together and have an

even more wonderful evening after. You can see they are quite fond of each other until George

receives a message that his father is passing away. This marks the beginning of the turn of events

for George’s future. George makes the first great sacrifice by agreeing to take over his father’s

business. He also gives his younger brother the opportunity to go to college, along with the funds

for it. His brother instead marries and goes into his father-in-law’s business. This crushes George

as he had given up his dream of going to college and flouring. He gives up his dream and helped

open a door for his brother and it backfired for George. He meets again with Mary and she

attempts to recreate their first date night...this turns out to be a great failure as George could care

less about her attempts. She tries to make him jealous by putting him on the phone with his rival

Sam Wainwright...her mother is awkwardly spying on the entire event. George then makes the

point to Mary that he will never get married...crushing her hopes once again. This is perhaps one

of the most unromantic moments in all of Hollywood which surprisingly turns into a happy

wedding seconds later. This marks the beginning of a “regular” life for George. Something he

never wanted.

Even George’s honeymoon was ruined as the bank was being threatened to close. He and

Mary made the sacrifice of giving their honeymoon money to the townspeople. Later on we see

George and Mary living in the old abandoned house they fixed up, along with four children.

George complains about the draft along with a piece on the stairs that is constantly breaking. The

real tragedy occurs when $8,000 is misplaced and George’s bank faces a grim future. He comes

home and is annoyed by everything from his house to his children. He even asks why “we have

so many children”. The local police are now after George and this is when George faces his
darkest hour. He drinks to excess, crashes his car into an old tree and finds himself

contemplating suicide. He thinks about throwing himself into an icy river until his guardian

angel jumps in instead. George once again saves a life and we begin to witness the beginning of

a new and slightly tense relationship. George is broken down, bleeding, drunk, and depressed.

He wishes he was never born, and his wish is granted.

George is thrown into a life where he never existed and only then does he see how much

his existence really matters. It starts off simple where his lip is no longer bleeding and his car is

no longer crashed into a tree.Then he sees that no one in the town knows who he is, he is even

kicked out of his beloved bar, he own mother has no idea who he is. George is later brought to

the tombstone of his younger brother, who died because George wasn’t there to save him from

drowning in icy waters. The old pharmacists is a beaten down drunk who ended up killing a boy,

all because George wasn’t there to stop him from selling poisoned medicine. The town that

George lives in is now filled with clubs, more bars, and more deviance. Mary is an old maid that

never married and is stuck working in the library. This shouldn’t have happened to Mary though.

As a character she was strong and desired by many, so I doubt this would have been her real fate.

This is a complete nightmare and George is sorry he’s ever wished to never be born and

of course his second wish is granted. Everything goes back to normal and George now embraces

the things he has once hated. He loves the song his daughter is playing over and over. He loves

the draft in his house, and he even loves the pieces of his house that are not even in tact. He loves

everything, he finally loves his life again. The entire town comes together to donate the money

that was lost and everything is well again. He realizes it really is a wonderful life and he is

grateful for what he has. Everything is warm and fuzzy, his guardian angel even is awarded his
wings. It’s a real “Christmas miracle” and everyone receives a wonderful “Hollywood ending”.

This is perhaps why the film is considered a happy Christmas family classic.

This movie is regarded as a warm Christmas movie, but I would argue that it is actually

quite tragic. This is a prime example of how a society shapes people into who they should be

rather than who they want to be. George has always been different from everybody else, he has

always dreamed to do great things and escape the town he lives in. He was thrusted into a life he

never wanted. Even Mary kept pressuring him into a relationship he didn’t even seem to want.

He went into a business he never wanted and lived in a house he never liked, how is he supposed

to be happy this way? It’s no surprise that he was stressed with where he was. The tragedy of

losing money wouldn’t have lead to him contemplating suicide had he have lived a happy and

fulfilled life. George was branded into his actions, he has always had a strong sense of

responsibility, but this was also his downfall. George has always made sacrifices in order to help

others, everything from saving a life at the pharmacy which leads to him being beaten, to

sacrificing his college in order for his brother to flourish. I wonder if George would even want to

mary Mary had he had another option.

Socialization can be both constructive and destructive. It can also be enhancing or

limiting. This is particularly what has happened to George. The society that he lived in was

destructive to his character and who he truly strived to be. He was forced to become a family guy

who took over his father’s business. We have learned from lectures that people who do not

conform to social norms are prone to deviance and suicide, this is exactly what happened to

George. He hit a breaking point. Had he lived the life he actually wanted this would most likely

never have happened. Society plays such an instrumental role in a person’s happiness and
especially the choices that they make. Those who want to differ from the norms can be

demonized and criticized. They can be pressured into making decisions they never wanted. They

sacrifice the lives they’ve always wanted for a life that is tradition. Of course people won’t be

happy when they look at how their lives have turned out.

Why couldn’t Mary have just let George be and not pressured her desires of marriage on

him? Yes, George could have said no to all of these choices, but sometimes people are simply

too nice to say no. They try to make other people happy instead of themselves. Those few people

can make the ultimate sacrifice, their entire life dreams. George really was a product of his

society, but luckily all was well in the end. Realistically, what are the chances that it wouldn’t

end so well? Not everyone has the chance to have a do over thanks to their guardian angel. A

person like George was simply not meant for the society that was born into. That is why this

movie is so tragic if you look a little deeper into it. Once the good feeling wears off, there is a

chance that he might one day come back to that bridge.

It’s a Wonderful Life was a spectacular old movie. It can suit anyone as people will view

the film from different perspectives. If you watch the movie while keeping in mind what

socialization does to a human, it will be evident how tragic this film truly is. We are all products

of our society, it is nearly impossible for us not to be. Some people do well and do not have any

issues. Others like George are dreaming of a different life, but life throws every type of curve

ball there is to throw. Most are too nice to say no and keep moving forward in the direction they

want. There is always a moral order, the society is expected to behave a certain way, and most

people will do just that. They all live under a set of similar beliefs and values, even if that’s not

something every person wants. People like George make sacrifices for the sake of their family.
It’s the most admirable trait there is, but unfortunately it is tragic and destructive towards the

individual.

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