The Most Important Character In “It’s A Wonderful Life” Isn’t Whom You Think It Is

Even though the holidays are over, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to have one more article about Christmas floating around the internet ether.

“It’s A Wonderful Life” is a Christmas tradition for my wife and me, as I am sure it is for many of you.

I think that, given its popularity, people often lose sight of what an excellent movie it is. It has some really first-rate performances, memorable characters, and a story with many more layers than is evident upon the first few viewings.

I have seen the movie so many times that I can practically recite it word-for-word. That familiarity has not dimmed its glow for me, however.

As my wife and I sat with some eggnog in front of a roaring fire on Christmas Eve and watched it, again, after the kids went to bed, I couldn’t help but notice something interesting…

The most important character in the story, besides George, isn’t whom you might think.

Is it Clarence, the angel sent to help George?

That’s the most obvious guess. But, no.

Is it Mary, George’s wife, who ultimately rallies the townspeople to donate money to save the Building and Loan (and George)?

Wrong again.

Is it Mr. Potter, one of the most entertaining villains of all time?


Read to on to find out whom it is!

Before we start, has anyone NOT seen “It’s A Wonderful Life”? Everyone’s seen it? Good! Let’s jump into the story right when Harry has returned to Bedford Falls with a new wife and a new job.

That evening, the Baileys throw a party for Harry and his wife. George is upset because Harry isn’t going to take over the Building and Loan, as they had previously discussed, which would allow George to leave Bedford Falls and pursue his dreams. For his part, Harry assured George that he was NOT going to take the new job, but it’s implied that George insists Harry accept it.

At this point, George has already had a couple near misses with potentially leaving Bedford Falls, mostly due to his father’s death. It’s well-established from the beginning of the movie when George is a little boy that he hates Bedford Falls and can’t wait to get out. He says, the night his father has a stroke, that if he doesn’t get out, he would “bust”.

After the wedding party, a demoralized George goes on a walk.

This is the major turning point of the story!

Eventually, George ends up at Mary’s house. But whom does he run into prior to arriving at Mary’s?

Violet Bick.

Violet and George had known each other since childhood. Upon seeing Violet, George lights up and suggests that he and Violet “make a night of it”. Violet enthusiastically accepts. At this point, George begins to tell her about all the things they should do. It is in this moment that George shows genuine appreciation and even love for Bedford Falls, talking about how beautiful the fields, mountains, and falls are. Up until this point, George had displayed nothing but contempt for Bedford Falls. Maybe George had resigned himself to staying put in Bedford Falls permanently and had decided to try looking at his town in a new, positive light.

After hearing George’s somewhat off-the-wall suggestions for how they would spend the evening, Violet turns him down and inadvertently embarrasses him. George then storms off to Mary’s house, they argue, kiss, eventually get married, and the rest is Bedford Falls history.

But what if Violet said YES to George? If Violet says yes, they she and George go on their little adventure. It’s possible that after having such a positive experience with Bedford Falls, George not only falls in love with his hometown, but with Violet, as well!

Violet is shown to be itching to get out of Bedford Falls, too, so it’s conceivable that she and George are a good personality fit. She is also one of the groups of friends from childhood, which includes Mary and Sam Wainwright, so they’re already fairly compatible.

Violet may have been George’s answer all along. If she says yes in that pivotal scene and she and George get together, George MAY have ultimately left Bedford Falls, as he was originally intending, or he might have stayed. But if he stayed, there is more of a chance that he would have actually appreciated Bedford Falls, instead of feeling trapped, because he had that positive experience with Violet on the night of his walk.

If Violet says yes to George’s offer to “make a night of it”, there would be no need for Clarence years later.

But what would happen to Mary if George never made it to her house that night? That’s easy. She would have married Sam. After all, Sam was calling her that very same night and if Violet said yes to George, then George wouldn’t have been at Mary’s house to disrupt their phone call by kissing Mary.

Mary was never all that enamored with Sam, but her indecisive nature is hinted at in the beginning when she is a kid and she can’t decide what kind of ice-cream to buy. It’s possible she would have changed her mind about Sam, since he seems like a pretty nice guy.

But would Sam have been as successful without George’s influence on that phone call? After all, George advises Sam to build his factory in a different location, which saves Sam a ton of money. I think Sam would have been just fine if George wasn’t on that call and here’s why…

Who is one of the main characters who IS NOT shown in Clarence’s alternate universe at the end of the film?


Without George’s influence, it’s reasonable to assume that Sam would have been just as successful. Sam never really needed George, so he would still be a wealthy businessman. Only now, he would be married to Mary and Mary would be well taken care of (and not the “old maid librarian”).

The most pivotal moment of George’s life is when, at the moment he is actually feeling positive about Bedford Falls, he bumps into Violet and asks her to go on a date. George’s entire life from that very moment hinges on Violet’s decision. She says “no” which drives George towards Mary, a settled life in Bedford Falls, an even more bitter and resentful rivalry with Mr. Potter, and ultimately, the contemplation of suicide for which Clarence needs to intervene.

So, that also begs the question… If Violet is the one who ultimately directs George to his encounter with an angel, does that mean that Violet is also an instrument of Heaven?

I think I’m going to need more eggnog!

Happy New Year, everyone!

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