When I first started this blog I hoped that it would give rise to interesting discussion. For the most part, though, it’s just been me yapping. That is why I’m so happy to post the following response to my post on It’s a Wonderful Life, from my good friend DeDe… reprinted with her permission:
I’d like to put in a defense of the ending of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
I’d argue that it is a happy ending, but it’s not a fairy-tale ending. George has had to learn to put away childish things.
George has been haunted his entire life by his failure to achieve his “dreams.” But who’s to say that his dreams, actualized, would have satisfied him? It’s easier for George to live in his head than to live in the real world.
In fact, while fixating on his dreams, George sees everything in his life—the family business, his marriage, his children, the town—as an albatross around his neck. In a way, he’s a loner who wants nothing of attachments—so much so that he failed to appreciate what he actually had: an adoring wife, a beautiful family, good friends, and a life well lived.
So does the film advocate subordinating the needs of the individual to those of the community? I suppose an argument can be made for that. But I think that the film argues that there is no such opposition: the individual supports the community, and the community supports the individual. In the words of the recently promoted Clarence: “No man is a failure who has friends.”
And for what it’s worth, I do see George traveling the world eventually—perhaps with the entire family in tow, perhaps with Mary only, post-retirement. But he will be happy.