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George Bailey, a passionate and ambitious young man who always dreamed of traveling the world, has been forced by circumstance to remain in control of the family business. One year on Christmas Eve, a financial disaster strikes George and his family, and in desperation he thinks seriously about ending his own life. An angel, Clarence, comes to stop him, and ultimately shows George the incredible impact his life has had on the lives of others.

The story spans most of George Bailey’s life, taking us from his childhood in 1919 to his adult years in the post-war 1940s. The film shows the impact of the Great Depression on the mindsets of investors. When the war begins, we see even more historical detail, witnessing the changes people had to make to their own lives, and the way ordinary civilians were able to greatly contribute to the war effort.

The film begins with a conversation between three angels; they are discussing how to save George Bailey. Through their eyes, we go back in time and witness every major event in George’s life, beginning with the day he saved his brother Harry from an icy lake and lost his hearing in one ear. It is obvious that George is a dreamer – he proclaims fantasies of seeing the world, of being “an explorer.” As he grows up, these dreams and plans stay with him. But with the death of his father and the threat of the family business being turned over to the cruel Mr. Potter, George makes the decision to sacrifice his dreams in order to save the Building and Loan. One Christmas Eve, his forgetful Uncle Billy misplaces eight-thousand dollars, putting George and the business in the pit of bankruptcy. Seeking help from Mr. Potter, George comes to the realization that he is “worth more dead than alive.” He stumbles out of town and ends up standing over an icy river, about to jump in. The angel Clarence jumps in instead, and George saves him. After a nonsensical conversation in which George starts to question his own sanity, Clarence grants George a wish: that he had never been born. Together, they go back to town and see how miserably different everything is. Every life George changed is now empty and wretched. As his panic grows, so does the chaos around him. Finally, George runs back to that spot by the river and cries out to Clarence, “I want to live again!” He runs home to his wife and children, and as they stand in the living room of their house, crowds of friends and family come pouring in. Told by George’s wife Mary that he was in trouble, they all gathered up money and brought it to him. In the end, George is “the richest man in town” – both in money and in heart.

My favorite scene is when George and Mary are walking together after Mary’s graduation party. George asks Mary what she wants from life, and then he looks up at the moon. “You want the moon, Mary?” he asks. “I’ll throw a lasso around it and bring it down to you.” I love this scene because it shows the playful, youthful nature that exists in George, when we mostly see his more mature side.

My favorite character is Clarence. He is pure-hearted and good, and the love he feels for other people is evident in every word he says. He takes George’s insults and sarcasm with grace, and he never gets angry.

It’s a Wonderful Life can help one’s understanding of history by providing a sentimental and relatable story, while still showing us a time unlike our own. The authenticity of the characters draws us into their lives, so we experience these historical events as they would.
I think this movie is very heart-warming and inspirational. It shows us how important each and every person is, and how far a little bit of kindness can go.



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