It’s A Wonderful Life: A hero Journey

We went to see The Last Jedi Friday afternoon; as I was watching yet another scene of the star ships bombing the resistance I got to wondering: is The Last Jedi a hero journey? I decided there are elements but not in its entirety. Then It’s a Wonderful Life just popped in my head. WHAT? That story is definitely a hero story.

To review:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.[The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton University Press 1949 p 29].

Here is a graphic from a great Wikipedia page on the topic

320px Heroesjourney svg

Often, but not always the hero journeys across water to start the adventure. i think in our culture that is because the oceans and seas were the barriers to the known world; so to come from across the sea is to come a long distance.

The threshold guardian is Clarence – his guardian angel. To save George from committing suicide Clarence jumps into the river knowing George will save him. Clarence then takes him through a journey to an unknown world – one where George never existed; one where Potter has taken control of the town. He has challenges such as fighting the man in the bar and upsetting Mary on the street. 

Through the journey, he sees that his life does matter and he is returned to the real world where all his friends and towns people have gathered more than enough to save the Bailey savings and loan company.

As you’ve read, the hero journey is one of my amateur passions. It amazes and astounds me that this archetypal story is so prevalent in the world – though I’m really only familiar with those of our western culture. I don’t think Dickens – A Christmas Carol – or the screenwriters for It’s A Wonderful Life went into their writing thinking “I’m going to write a hero journey story”. Instead, it is such a part of who we are as humans that it manifests itself in so many ways.

The great news is that It’s A Wonderful Life is on TV tonight (Christmas Eve) on NBC. Watch – if you have a chance – and let me know what you think.

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