POTTER: Forty-five. Forty-five. Out of which, after supporting your mother and paying your bills, you're able to keep, say, 10, if you skimp. A child or two comes along, and you won't even be able to save the 10. Now, if this young man of 28 was a common, ordinary yokel, I'd say he was doing fine. But George Bailey is not a common, ordinary yokel. He's an intelligent, smart, ambitious young man—who hates his job, who hates the Building and Loan almost as much as I do. A young man who's been dying to get out on his own ever since he was born. A young man ... the smartest one of the crowd, mind you, a young man who has to sit by and watch his friends go places because he's trapped. Yes, sir, trapped into frittering his life away playing nursemaid to a lot of garlic-eaters. Do I paint a correct picture, or do I exaggerate?
Mr. Potter has insight into George Bailey's deepest anxieties, and he hits him where it hurts most. He feeds George's doubts about himself and his disappointment in being stuck in Bedford Falls. Coming from someone else, this might be a sympathetic, supportive comment. But, this is Henry Potter, who really doesn't care about George at all. He just wants to take over his business.