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  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn

Happy Endings

“Let's Go Fly a Kite”

The children come down to the second floor landing, near the place where they first encountered Mary Poppins. Their father shows them the mended kite, and come running down the stairs.  The kite has newspaper covering the previous breaks and they roughly form the shape of pi, the irrational number that is part of the formula for the circumference of a circle. Circles represent wholeness and the family has become whole through Mary Poppins's irrational play. 

The kite can be seen as a symbol of the Self; its ability to fly can symbolize the spirit, and if we remember Ben Franklin’s famous kite experiment where he discovered that lightning was an electric phenomenon using a kite, we can see the playful Uranian allusion to discovery, and illumination—literally and figuratively. In this vein, two different kinds of illumination are alluded to—enlightenment, due to the kite's lightness and ability to float on air, as well as the illumination that electricity brings, in the form of physical light. The "aha" moment of discovery is Uranian, it is sudden and spontaneous, seeming to come out of nowhere. It is often symbolized by an electric light bulb lighting up, and the phrase, "a flash of insight" shows this as well, another form of illumination.

Perhaps the “pi-ish” repair alludes to the fact that George has finally let the irrational into his life. Shulman (1997) relates that “perhaps in a press toward ego control we lose some valuable ‘irrational’ and spontaneous element needed for healing” (pp. 157-158). Shulman also notes that Chiron, the wounded healer “might represent a healing possibility of the irrational combined with the rational” and that Asclepius’s extended family included “hooded dwarves that seem to carry the meaning of irrational and fertilizing pedomorphy” (p. 158). The hooded dwarf at the center of Jung's Bollingen stone is Telesphoros, Ascelpius's assistant. You can see him in the running conversations and at the upper left hand corner of this dissertation inside the inner yellow circle. ∆RC[mp39]

The constable is on the phone the entire time, reporting what is transpiring. This is fitting, since Constable Jones was the one who brought the alienated children home with their broken kite in the first place. Thus, the story has come full circle in a sense.

George begins singing “With tuppence for paper and string, you can have your own set of wings.” This is significant in two respects. First of all it mentions tuppence, the little things in life and therefore purposely brings to mind the other use of tuppence in the movie—the “Feed the Birds” song. In this case, the tuppence, which previously caused chaos, is now all you need to have a bit of playful enlightenment and family love and unity. Little things indeed can be very important, just as Mary Poppins told the children before she sang “Feed the Birds.” It does not take much to bring happiness to others.

Also significant is the fact that George is actually singing and dancing, something that he never did before in the whole movie. Up to now, his songs have been “patter songs” where he mostly talked to the tune of music, but never truly sang. Also, George was previously aloof and did not move much or engage with the rest of the household, except in a perfunctory manner. He did engage with the patriarchy at the bank, but these interactions were formal and rigid. Here, George relates to the entire household and they sing and dance around the hallway. He pinches Ellen’s cheek and she and the cook giggle and join in the song and dance, too.

After the first round of the song, Winifred volunteers one of her sashes as a tale for the kite, and singing while holding hands with the mended kite, the family leaves for the park, skipping down the street. Bert is selling kites at the edge of the park and singing. Bert’s lyrics invite you to put yourself in the place of the kite and let your imagination soar. In the clear morning air, we can get distance and see things from a different point of view, which will be remembered is what also laughter enables us to do.

Speaking of laughter, the bankers are in the park too. They are flying kites and inform George that the elder Mr. Dawes died laughing. They congratulate George on the joke and give him a promotion. This scene in the park is another example of communitas, which occurs in liminality, when old categories are temporarily suspended and a sense of familiarity and freedom occurs.

Doty and Hynes (1993) relate that:

Victor Turner regards the trickster as temporarily breaking down and intermingling all categories so as to cause new combinations and anomalies (1967;106), . . . The “liminal phase” is the temporal moment and the spatial site at the middle of ritual performances.  Just there, suggests Turner, is to be found, communitas, the ideal social sharing of common values and regard for one another. “Communitas breaks in through the interstices of structure, in liminality, at the edges of structure, in marginality; from beneath structure, in inferiority” (1969: 128).  As the ritual participant moves though the liminality of communitas, the usual social restrictions are in abeyance, new metaphors are born, and the usual perceptions of the world are revisioned creatively.  The liminal trickster, the court jester, and the clown are related, according to Turner (125) in that they possess marginal status and bring into the social institution new possibilities for action and self- understanding. (p. 20)

Apropos of this marginal status, the only main character that is not present is Mary Poppins.  As previously discussed, Mary is like a curendera or shaman, and as such she has permanent liminal status, what Turner calls “sacred ‘outsiderhood’ . . . a status-less status, external to the secular social structure, which gives him the right to criticize all structure-bound personae in terms of a moral order binding on us all” (Hansen, 2001, p. 86).  Shulman (1997) notes that: 

The ‘outsider’ is a historical theme in many traditions where creative thinkers have taken time out for reflection.  Under this example we could place famous examples such as Moses, . . . Mandela . . . Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, . . . Joan of Arc or Carl Jung.  Each went to the margin of the known social world of their time and returned with healing words and energies to an order they had ‘seen through’ in a new way . . . . Eshu is thus a patron saint of outsiders, giving those who suffer periods of withdrawal from society a meaningful cultural myth to contain their condition.   (pp. 72-73)

As the sacred outsider, Mary has been able to successfully transform the system, and so her work here is through.  The wind has changed, there is a 180° difference, and indeed dramatic change has occurred at Number 17 Cherry Tree Lane.  Paulsen (1966) discusses the surrender of the ego that must happen before transformation can occur:

The ego is softened and brought to that condition by the machinations of Mercurius, as the Trickster, as the Fool . . . . In whatever form he takes, Mercurius pricks our ego’s self-centered isolation, and brings us into confrontation with the wider world in which our fellow men exist, a world in which relatedness is required of us.  And true relatedness requires sacrifice on the part of the ego.  Moreover this is a sacrifice which the Self must share. (p. 119)

Indeed, the ego, personified by George Banks, has surrendered; sacrificing his isolated way of being, he has come into relationship with others, through Mary’s tricky ways.

Mary Poppins Departs

The family is united at the park and we see Mary Poppins at the front door of the house, at the threshold, having a conversation with her parrot-headed umbrella, played appropriately enough by David Tomlinson, who plays George Banks:

Parrot: They think more of their father than they do of you.
Mary: That’s as it should be.
Parrot: Well, don’t you care?
Mary: Practically perfect people never permit sentiment to muddle their thinking.
Parrot: Is that so, well I’ll tell you one thing Mary Poppins, you don’t fool me a bit.
Mary: Oh really.
Parrot: Yes really. I know exactly how you feel about these children . . . .

The parrot head threatens to call Mary's bluff—that she does not care, for we know that she does care, deeply. Mary then closes his beak, because her work here has ended. She opens her umbrella, and with a nod and a smile sets out, rising on the West wind. Bert bids her goodbye and says “Don’t stay away too long,” as she rises over London.

The family has reunited, the household is in harmony. George has even received a promotion, and the bank, representing the larger community, too, has undergone a transformation and healing. Akiwowo’s (1999) description of asuwada appropriately shows what has occurred:

The concept asuwada refers to the ultimate structure formed from a process of being and becoming whole by a number of living dynamic entities impelled by longing and willingness to become greater than they are, to join together to form a single complex system/being with a new purpose and dynamism.  The process begins with an awareness by an entity of itself as an entity, and a recognition of the limits of its own being, followed by a longing and willingness to be whole.  The longing and will to be a part of a larger system find expression in the form of a sacrifice of an aspect of the entity’s uniqueness and exclusivity.  The act of sacrifice, which is voluntary impels an entity to submit to an interweaving, interlocking of self with other entities with similar goals and longings in the creation of a permanent interlocking relationship with other entities into one, new individual being.  (p. 132)

Sacrifices have occurred all around: George has lost his job, temporarily at least, and has suffered an ego death, the children have had to say goodbye to their beloved Mary Poppins, Mrs. Banks has given up a part of her cause, the elder Mr. Dawes has died, representing the old, rigid single-focus on money, Mary Poppins has given up the children, and Bert has had to say goodbye to his friend.  Mary can help us to create these environments and she can also be a great teacher of Ifogbontayese—the science or art of remaking the world. (Akiwowo, 1999).

Closing Credits

As the closing credits roll, we see Mary flying over London. It is twilight again and we hear Mary's theme song, “A Spoonful of Sugar, followed by “Lets Go Fly a Kite."  We also hear the chorus for “Lets Go Fly a Kite,” much as we heard the chorus for “Chim Chim Cher-ee” during the opening credits.  This perhaps alludes to the renewal of the family that has occurred as they endured the liminal rebirth process.  The last credit to show is for Mr. Dawes Senior.  He was apparently played by Navckid Keyd, but as we watch, the name scrambles around in a circle and unscrambles as Dick Van Dyke, and the middle A, which is upside down then turns right side up. 

It's bricolage to the very end!  The gerontomorphic Mr. Dawes and the pedomorphic Bert are indeed contained within the divine child in the person of the multi-talented Dick Van Dyke. 

While the familiar London icon we saw at the beginning was Big Ben, at the end, the camera comes to rest on St. Paul’s Cathedral, In the end, spirit and love have become the focus, instead of  time and order.  Chronos has given way to compassion and kairos.  The cathedral was the location of the trance—the sight of children’s inner adventure, reverie, or waking dream about the importance of love and kindness.  Fittingly, Walt Disney’s masterpiece leaves us with this image, the location of Walt’s favorite song, “Feed the Birds” and the movie’s heart.  To quote the master: “Yep, that’s what its all about.” And we will end here, too, on this most important note.


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