Study Guide

It's a Wonderful Life Dissatisfaction

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You can't always get what you want. And in It's a Wonderful Life, George Bailey is painfully learning that lesson. In his desperate moments, he doesn't think he's got anything he wants.

Most young people are idealistic; we're supposed to be. We all have high hopes and pie-in-the-sky plans for our lives, but not all will turn out. That's why we all have midlife crises like George. George's dissatisfaction stems from the difference between his big ambitions and his actual life. He doesn't think he's accomplished anything by running the Building and Loan. He feels like he's missed out by failing to fulfill his youthful dreams of traveling the world and becoming a great architect. Fortunately, a guardian angel is at hand to put his life into a greater perspective.

To put meaning back in his life, George has to learn to be satisfied with the life he's living rather than obsessing about the one he could have lived. It doesn't take wealth to be happy; the best things in life are free. We're surprised that song wasn't on the soundtrack.

Questions About Dissatisfaction

  1. Do you think most people feel dissatisfied if they don't end up becoming LeBron James or Genghis Khan (or another famous overachiever)? Is George Bailey unusual in feeling like he didn't achieve his potential?
  2. Do you think Mr. Potter ever feels dissatisfied? If so, what would he feel dissatisfied about?
  3. What's the key to satisfaction in life according to It's a Wonderful Life? Do you agree?

Chew on This

George wouldn't have had his crisis if he'd had more modest expectations of life.

It was natural for a small-town kid like George to be discontented with his life in Bedford Falls and want more out of life.

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