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In today’s first “ On the Square ” essay, Joe Carter sets up a startling and original juxtaposition between two disparate characters: Ayn Rand’s Howard Roark and Frank Capra’s George Bailey. While for Roark, all roads lead to self-satisfaction, George Bailey represents—on the surface, at least—an archetype of self-sacrifice and self-giving. But the comparison requires a more thorough analysis:

. . . Capra’s audience flatters themselves by believing the message of Wonderful Life is that their own lives are just as worthy, just as noble, and just as wonderful as George Bailey’s. In a way, they are as delusional as the Randian Rourke-worshippers. Despite the fact that they left their small-town communities for the city, put their parents in an assisted living facility and don’t know the names of their next door neighbors, they truly believe they are  just like Capra’s hero.

What makes George Bailey one of the most inspiring, emotionally complex characters in modern popular culture is that he continually chooses the needs of his family and community over his own self-interested ambitions and desires— and suffers immensely and repeatedly for his sacrifices.

And in our second ” On the Square ” item, George Weigel explains why Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s ascent to leadership among his brother bishops means “the tectonic plates within U.S. Catholicism’s ordained leadership have shifted.”



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