Homeopathic Analysis of the Film ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

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The author analyzes the characters of this classic film, speculating on their remedy personalities.

Synopsis

This is director Frank Capra‘s classic bittersweet comedy/drama about George Bailey (James Stewart), the eternally-in-debt guiding force of a bank in the typical American small town of Bedford Falls. As the film opens, it’s Christmas Eve, 1946, and George, who has long considered himself a failure, faces financial ruin and arrest and is seriously contemplating suicide. High above Bedford Falls, two celestial voices discuss Bailey’s dilemma and decide to send down assistance in the form of eternally bumbling angel Clarence Oddbody (Henry Travers), who after 200 years has yet to earn his wings. But first, Clarence is given a crash course on George’s life, and the multitude of selfless acts he has performed: rescuing his younger brother from drowning, losing the hearing in his left ear in the process; enduring a beating rather than allow a grieving druggist (H.B. Warner) to deliver poison by mistake to an ailing child; foregoing college and a long-planned trip to Europe to keep the Bailey Building and Loan from letting its Depression-era customers down; and, most important, preventing town despot Potter (Lionel Barrymore) from taking over Bedford Mills and reducing its inhabitants to penury. Along the way, George has married his childhood sweetheart Mary (Donna Reed), who has stuck by him through thick and thin. But even the love of Mary and his children are insufficient when George, faced with an $8000 shortage in his books, becomes a likely candidate for prison thanks to the vengeful Potter. Bitterly, George declares that he wishes that he had never been born, and Clarence, hoping to teach George a lesson, shows him how different life would have been had he in fact never been born. After a nightmarish odyssey through a George Bailey-less Bedford Falls (now a glorified slum called Potterville), wherein none of his friends or family recognize him, George is made to realize how many lives he has touched, and helped, through his existence; and, just as Clarence had planned, George awakens to the fact that, despite all its deprivations, he has truly had a wonderful life.

Capra’s first production through his newly-formed Liberty Films, It’s a Wonderful Life lost money in its original run, when it was perceived as a fairly downbeat view of small-town life. Only after it lapsed into the public domain in 1973 and became a Christmastime TV perennial did it don the mantle of a holiday classic. – Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

HOMEOPATHIC ANALYSIS

When I first watched this movie, my initial thoughts were that Harry best represented the Phosphorus remedy state. When the angel came on George’s “dark night of the soul,” the theme was all about what would have happened to the people in George’s life if he never existed. I therefore thought this represented relationship, connection, and sympathy. Coupled with George’s tubercular miasm characteristics of being tall and thin, having a desire for travel and change represented by “getting out of this town,” seeing the world, and going away to college, phosphorus seemed a perfect choice.

The problem is phosphorus didn’t repertorize very highly at all. After the analysis below, I came down to Carcinosin and Aurum metallicum.

Sum of symptomsSum of symptomsIntensity is considered

1

1234

1

MIND – CHANGE – desire for – life; in

4

2

1234

1

MIND – TRAVELLING – desire for

43

3

1234

1

MIND – SYMPATHETIC

76

4

1234

1

MIND – INDUSTRIOUS

145

5

1234

1

MIND – ANXIETY – suicidal disposition, with

13

6

1234

1

MIND – COMMUNICATIVE

24

7

1234

1

MIND – FASTIDIOUS

61

8

1234

1

MIND – RESPONSIBILITY – early; taking responsibility too

1

9

1234

1

GENERALS – CONVALESCENCE; ailments during – infectious diseases; after – childhood; during

1

carc.

aur.

caust.

aur-m-n.

bar-c.

bell.

choc.

iod.

lach.

med.

9

5

5

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

1

2

2

2

1

1

1

1

1

1

2

1

1

3

3

1

2

2

1

1

1

1

1

4

1

3

1

1

2

1

1

2

2

1

5

1

2

1

1

6

1

1

1

2

7

2

1

2

2

1

1

1

8

1

9

1

SACRIFICE OF SELF TO MAINTAIN A SITUATION, SENSITIVITY TO SUFFERING OF OTHERS

My first choice is Carcinosin, because to me, the entire movie comes down to a sacrifice of self for others. George sacrificed his plans for travel and going to college because that was the only way his father’s bank could stay open. George’s father passed away and George had to agree to manage the bank, or else it would close. It wasn’t the business side of the bank that George was concerned with. It was how the people with loans, and indeed the entire town, would be affected if the evil Mr. Potter took over the last holdings of things he didn’t control. Years later, George planned suicide when Potter almost succeeded in another takeover attempt. He did this because he felt that that the family could use his life insurance proceeds to save themselves, the bank, and customers’ homes and businesses. This concept goes above and beyond the sense of duty that is so well known in Aurum metallicum. He was again willing to sacrifice himself, this time unto death, for the sake of others. “He never thinks about himself, that’s why he’s in trouble.” “He’s discouraged. At 10:45 tonight, he may give up his life.” The idea is that he will give up his life for the benefit of others. This is a different concept than feeling his life has to end because of a failure in performance or sense of guilt.

RESPONSIBILITY FROM A YOUNG AGE

After George’s scene with the angel, the movie shows 12 year-old George as he saves his little brother’s life when the boy falls through thin ice on a winter pond. George developed permanent sequelae from this situation when he develops a severe illness lasting several weeks and ending in permanent deafness in his left ear. This seems to have caused quite an impact on the vital force. Carcinosin is well known for severe childhood illnesses and ailments from those illnesses.

The next scene is of the same 12 year-old George single handedly running an old time pharmacy, drug store, and soda shop, taking on all the responsibility that the alcohol-addicted owner has forfeited. George saves another life when he refuses to deliver the prescription that the bitter and angry owner fills with poison instead of medicine. George was in a panic over what to do and tries to get help from his father, who is himself in severe duress because of Mr. Potter is attempting to take over the bank. George again has to handle tremendous responsibility on his own at a very young age. Here, he also has to deal with the issue of an adult’s moral failure and emotional crisis. George, even though under extreme stress, was able to rise to the occasion. George’s father says “George, you were born old.” This tells us that George is so capable and so responsible that he probably never had the carefree childhood that most children have.

MIASM

Even though my initial thoughts were of phosphorus and the tubercular miasm, I believe that the cancer miasm is represented here. If George were of the tubercular miasm, he would have continued his plans to leave the small town, go on a world tour, and then attend college. He would have been compelled by his nature to do so.

Aurum is represented by the syphilitic miasm which on first glance could seem to apply in this case. Cancer and syphilis both have degrees of desperation; however, the syphilitic miasm is much darker and more hopeless. George does not really want to commit suicide. He is only doing it because he thinks it will help his friends and family. If George were syphilitic, he might really want to kill himself and may even be thinking of killing Mr. Potter.

Instead, the cancer miasm is evident. George’s extreme sympathy and sense of responsibility to his friends and townspeople causes him to stay and try to control their precarious situations of being able to repay bank loans during the Great Depression. If they do not pay the loans in full, all will be completely lost when Potter takes over the bank and then the entire town. As the angel reveals, George and his bank are the last things standing between hope and the utter despair and downfall of all.

Picture and synopsis from )

This analysis was prepared using the following sources:

Morrison, Roger, Desktop Guide to Keynotes and Confirmatory Symptoms

Sankaran, Rajan, Soul of Remedies

Radar’s Synthesis Repertory and Encyclopedia Homeopathica

About the author

Julie Haza

Julie Haza

Julie Haza is a second year student at AMCH, who attends the class online from Texas. This paper was written as an assignment and will be a part of an ongoing project to study homeopathic remedies through movies.

8 Comments

  • One small modification. the druggist’s son went to war. Whether he was an alcoholic we don’t know. He could have had some knowledge his son was in trouble thus hitting the bottle because of this one issue. He filled the prescription after getting the telegram his son was gone. In his grief and shock he filled the wrong prescription. He was of sound mind at the end of the movie.

    will have to look at the movie more carefully to see more clearly what happened to Mr. Goward.

    Carc. seems right on the mark for George!

    Great article!!! How fun!!!! Any ideas on Clarence Hardbody?

  • Is this what passes for scholarship in academic homeopathy? No wonder it’s practitioners can’t understand why anecdotes are not data and fail to understand why well-designed double-blinded randomized control trial always show that homeopathy cannot work.

    • Dear Cory, one should not speak about things that one doesn’t understand much. This is not a scholarly article. This and examples like these are just used as a learning tool to understand the language of the patient. But those, who just go by the name of the disease will never understand how vital the expression of the patients words is!

    • I can’t believe you’ve got nothing better to do with your life than try to convince homeopaths that homeopathy doesn’t work? Talk about a waste of time! But, oh! Wait a minute, after rereading your well-designed paragraph, yes, I see it now! Homeopathy doesn’t work! I guess all those remedies I took down through the years that made me feel better must have been my imagination! The heralded placebo effect! Even the time I tested positive for strep one week, and negative the next after taking a remedy, that was probably a coincidece of some sort. Thank goodness for Cory showing us the way!

  • Your article was most insightful and timely for the holiday season. I liked how you showed your thought process of how you considered other remedies before choosing carcinosinum.
    Bravo!

  • It is a wonderful example of how to observe mental signs and symptoms. This way of observation can be applied with slight modificatins to animals. Yes, I know they don’t use words, but behaviour is clear.
    Greetings from Mexico!
    and a happy and prosperous 2011 to all

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