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  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn

Back At Home

Because they are soaking wet, Mary insists that the children take their medicine, which Michael opposes.  Michael takes it anyway because when Mary pours the medicine out of the bottle, it comes out in three different colors and flavors on their respective spoons.  When Jane sees this she actually shrieks.  Again, Mary upsets expectations, by doing something totally unexpected, unusual, and Uranian.

“Stay Awake”

The children have had such a good time that they want Mary to stay forever, but she tells them that she will stay until the wind changes.  The children are so excited and wound up by their outing that they cannot go to sleep, because “so many lovely things happened today.”   Mary enigmatically asks, “Did they?”  Her question causes the children to recount the day's activities to help Mary refresh her recollection. As Jane and Michael relate their adventures they are almost reliving the events, which makes the events more real and more vivid for them. This is known in Ericksonian terms as “revivification.”  As they tell her about the horse race and Mary flat out states, “a respectable person like me in a horse race . . .” in a tone of disbelief, and she even threatens to call the police.  Michael adamantly remarks, but I saw you do it,” and he even reiterates “It did happen, I saw it.” 

Mary then changes tactics and exhorts the children to “Stay Awake,” an Ericksonian lullaby if there ever was one. Since they want to stay awake, Mary joins them initially, telling them “suit yourselves,” and she begins to sing “Stay Awake.” As Mary tells them to “stay awake” she simultaneously gives embedded commands about what she wants them to do, using the negative “don’t” before each command, which the unconscious mind ignores. As she paces them consciously, she leads them unconsciously, and the confusion caused by the mixed messages merely adds to the trance state.  Although Mary is saying “stay awake,” the qualities of her voice and the song, a lullaby, is soothing and rhythmic.  Had Mary really wanted Jane and Michael to stay awake, she would have sung something more upbeat.  Mary maintains rapport with the children by engaging their conscious minds with the idea of staying awake, while unconsciously they are paying more attention to the tone, and embedded commands: the message is go to sleep.

Mary is saying things that are true, such as the pillow being soft and deep, and the moon drifting in the sky—things with which the children can agree. Then Mary leads them by telling them not to do what she wants them to do.  This is confusing to them, as it may be to you, but this is part of the point.  Their conscious minds are diverted and she suggests to the unconscious to go to sleep.  She subtly uses tone of voice shifts and other nonverbal cues to mark out her commands. Mary also has time on her side—it was a busy day, so eventually through the technique and her voice tone, they will go to sleep.

A Cheerful Breakfast

Although the next scene may be the next morning, this is unclear; it may also be some number of days later.  Admiral Boom decides to “set things up a bit,” and puts in a double charge of powder into the time gun.  The Banks house is particularly cheerful, which is a change from the usual, and makes George uneasy. Winifred remarks to George that ever since he “hired Mary Poppins, the most extraordinary thing seem to have come over the household,” it seems to be more happy and harmonious.  But George dislikes any change in his routine, even a positive one. The cook and Ellen are now getting along, instead of fighting and even singing, although their singing does sound rather grating. ∆RC[mp26]

When the children bring flowers to their mother, singing " Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," they attempt to tell their father about this wonderful new word. George tries to unsuccessfully to pronounce it a couple of times, and then frustratedly remarks, “whatever that infernal thing is.”  They tell him “It’s a word to say when you don’t know what to say,” and grumbling, George says “yes, well I always know what to say.”  George dislikes all of “this unseemly hullabaloo.”

George is cross, although he denies it and replies: “I am in a perfectly equitable mood.” To him, the house is not “cheerful and pleasant” but has crossed over into “just plain giddy irresponsibility.”   Meanwhile, these irresponsibly cheerful people take their posts for the time gun, while George does nothing.  After things have settled down and stopped moving, including the piano which comes to rest in front of him, George hits a few of the keys.  George then remarks:

I expect a certain decorum and don’t propose standing idly by while that woman Mary Poppins undermines the discipline in this household.  There’s something odd and I mean extremely odd about the behavior in this household since that woman arrived and I want you to know that I’ve noticed it. 

George then tells Winifred that she needs to get the piano tuned: “When I sit down to an instrument I expect to have it in tune.”  Winifred then delivers one of the absolute truths of the whole movie: “But George you don’t play.”  Although George replies, “Madam that is entirely beside the point” as he storms out of the house, Winifred has hit the nail on the head.  It is precisely the point—George doesn’t play!  He is stuck in a routine, a slave to order and schedule.  ∆RC[mp27]


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