The world at the start of the film, thus, is the modern world; impersonal, materialistic, and competitive, dismissive of tradition and traditional values in favor of an endless pursuit of an uncertain goal.
Into this world steps jolly old Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn, who won a well-deserved Oscar for the role), who is the complete opposite. He deals with people on a wholly personal level, speaking to them with real interest and concern, whether they’re adults or children. He makes a point of doing things properly, with due care and respect regardless of whether it’ll make a profit or even whether anyone else will notice (as seen in his introductory scene, correcting the placement of the reindeer in a store Christmas display). When he takes over as the store Santa, he begins directing shoppers to other stores when they can’t find what they want in Macy’s, or even when he thinks the Macy’s version isn’t quite good enough.
And in the course of doing this, he demonstrates a strong sense of his own authority. Being Santa Claus is not so much his job as his role, his duty (since he believes that he actually is Santa Claus). Accordingly, he thinks nothing of dismissing instructions he disagrees with, or doing the job the way he thinks it should be done without asking permission, simply saying that “as long as I’m here” Macy’s will put making the children happy above making profits.
Kringle explains his goal as trying to find a way to raise the ‘Christmas spirit’ of personal care, empathy, and so on against the commercial spirit. “Christmas is more than just a day,” he says. “It’s a frame of mind.”
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