Study Guide

It's a Wonderful Life Family

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Check out that last scene of It's a Wonderful Life, and you know what it's all about. George has four adoring kids hanging on him and his perfect wife gazing lovingly into his eyes. Isn't your family just like that? No? Oh, that's right—your family lives in the real world.

George Bailey has been a model, dutiful son: taking over the family business, seeing that Harry goes off to college, and defending his father's memory when Potter trashes it. He recreates his own loving family in the family he creates with Mary. To be fair, the family isn't completely perfect. George finds his family of origin a little confining. His family with Mary deals with financial stress and George's self-doubt. They have an eccentric Uncle Billy who needs someone to keep an eye on him. Honestly, though, Shmoop wouldn't mind being adopted by the Baileys.

By contrast, Mr. Potter doesn't have any family (or friends, for that matter); he's alone, bitter, and completely without compassion. George's family grounds him and helps him find meaning in the life he's ended up with in Bedford Falls. Family is what George has leaned on, and it's what ultimately gets him through his crisis.

No family is perfect, but the Bailey clan seems pretty darn close.

Questions About Family

  1. The movie assumes Mary wouldn't be happy as a single librarian. Might she have been?
  2. Mr. Potter doesn't have a family. Would he be happier if he did have one, or would he be the same kind of guy?
  3. Does having children change George's personality at all?

Chew on This

George's father heavily influences his values and priorities.

George sees himself as more ambitious than the rest of his family.

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