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  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn

“The Life I Lead”

George Banks comes in the door singing about his wonderful, consistent, "oh so orderly" life, which runs on “precisely on schedule.” George feels like a king: “I am the lord of my castle, the sovereign, the liege."  1910 is as he sings, “the age of men,” and with a feeling of "noblesse oblige," George treats his entire household as his vassals.   George perfunctorily kisses his wife on the cheek—out of habit, not out of affection.  The most important thing to George is his stable, routine world—no wonder his wife is a suffragette!  George finishes the song without even noticing that the children are missing.  During the song, he has acted out patting them on the heads, because they are supposed to be there, and he does not register consciously for a while that they are not present, just as he does not realize that Katie Nanna has quit for quite some time, although he helped her leave. 

"The Life I Lead” is George’s theme song, his leitmotif, and whenever we hear the tune, it is in the context of order, structure, schedule, and routine.  Think of the planetary archetype Saturn as George’s patron archetype. George, as he sings, is unrelated to anyone, he does not move around but mostly stands in one place. "The Life I Lead" is a patter song, not really sung for the most part, but spoken.  This same tune will accompany George’s upcoming advertisement for the new nanny, and these Saturnian qualities are the kinds of characteristics that he admires.  George will sing or patter two more songs later on with this same theme, and I will point them out as we go along. “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” the chorus of which we have already heard during the opening credits, is another song that does multiple duty and acts as a theme song.  It is a leitmotif for liminality.  It is Bert’s signature song and can be associated with the planetary archetype Pluto. 

When he finally comes to realize that the children are missing, George reactively calls the police without listening to his wife when she attempts to tell him the facts. Cutting her off mid-sentence, he curtly remarks: “Madam, kindly do not cloud the issue with facts.”  Only when he is on the phone, does it dawn on him that Katie Nanna has left.  This scene shows the danger of routine and of being caught in one way of seeing things.

The children then arrive home with a broken kite, accompanied by Constable Jones, who tells Mr. Banks that while on his duties he noticed “that some valuables had gone missing.” George has no idea what the constable is talking about, because he does not associate the word valuable with his children.  George is very brusque with his wife, the children and the constable.  When the children begin to tell about the kite, George shuts them down, and they are sent off to the nursery with Ellen.  

George is aloof, he does not pay attention to other people or listen to his wife.  During “The Life I Lead” song, as he adheres almost blindly to his routine, Winifred is understandibly is exasperated and disappointed.  George implores her not to get too emotional when she goes to embrace the children upon their return.  George is emotionally cut off and unwilling even to engage in a socially appropriate way with the constable—repeatedly cutting him off when the constable attempts to bring a bit of compassion to the situation; George also resists the children’s attempt to involve him in their lives when they suggest that he might help them make a better kite.


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