Study Guide

Mary Poppins Quotes

  • Family

    GEORGE: I feel a surge of deep satisfaction, much as a king astride his noble steed…When I return from daily strife, to hearth and wife, how pleasant is the life I lead!... I run my home precisely on schedule. At 6:01, I march through my door. My slippers, sherry, and pipe are due at 6:02. Consistent is the life I lead! It's grand to be an Englishman in 1910! King Edward's on the throne, it's the age of men! I'm the lord of my castle, the sovereign, the liege! I treat my subjects, servants, children, wife with a firm but gentle hand, noblesse oblige. It's 6:03, and the heirs to my dominion are scrubbed and tubbed, and adequately fed. And so I'll pat them on the head, and send them off to bed. Ah, lordly is the life I lead!

    George acts like all is well in his world. He's a man in "the age of men" but, in reality, his assumptions are about to be shattered. Mary Poppins is going to demonstrate his own workaholic joylessness to him and make him chill, instead of being a rule-obsessed stiff.

    GEORGE: A British bank is run with precision. A British home requires nothing less! Tradition, discipline, and rules must be the tools! Without them: disorder, catastrophe! Anarchy! In short, you have a ghastly mess!

    George thinks you can run a home the same way you run a bank, with efficiency and discipline—but he's forgetting about love and the basics of being a dad.

    WINIFRED: We're clearly soldiers in petticoats, and dauntless crusaders for women's a-votes! Though we adore men individually, we agree that as a group they're rather stupid.

    Winifred is an ardent suffragette—trying to find some equality between the sexes. Even though this is a good thing, the movie depicts Winifred as being so caught up in her social activism that she doesn't pay enough attention to Michael and Jane.

    WINIFRED: I'll try to do better next time.

    GEORGE: Next time? My dear, you've engaged six nannies in the last four months. And they've all been unqualified disasters.

    George and Winifred are both so caught up in their own lives that they keep ditching their kids with nannies—and do a bad job of picking those nannies, besides. George thinks that he's the man to solve this, but it's actually the children's own ad which gets Mary P.'s attention.

    JANE: Oh Michael, the city! We'll see all the sights and father can point them out to us!

    MARY: Well, most things he can. Sometimes a person we love, through no fault of their own, can't see past the end of his nose.

    It's not that George doesn't love his kids. It's just that he's so wrapped up in his worldly problems at the bank that he can't see that life is passing him by.

    WINIFRED: But you're always saying that you wanted a cheerful and pleasant household.

    GEORGE: Winifred, I should like to make a slight differentiation between the word cheerful and just plain giddy irresponsibility.

    George thinks Mary is irresponsible—an anarchist. But that's not actually the case. Mary does have rules and order, and she makes the children clean up the nursery (albeit with magic) and things like that. But Mary injects fun into these things. She realizes that it's easier to follow the rules if you don't really feel like you're following the rules.

    BERT: You've got to grind, grind, grind at that grindstone... Though childhood slips like sand through a sieve... And all too soon they've up and grown, and then they've flown... And it's too late for you to give - just that spoonful of sugar to 'elp the medicine go down - medicine go dow-wown, medicine go down.

    Bert is holding up a mirror to Mr. Banks face (metaphorically) and saying, "Hey, this is what you're doing. And it's not so great." Banks is obsessed with his job, and acting like he's a strict disciplinarian—denying the softie that lies underneath. Bert's helping to show him the light, with some harsh truth-telling.

    DAWES JR.: In 1773, an official of this bank unwisely loaned a large sum of money to finance a shipment of tea to the American colonies. Do you know what happened?

    GEORGE: Yes, sir. Yes, I think I do. As the ship lay anchored in Boston Harbor, a party of the colonists dressed as red Indians boarded the vessel, behaved very rudely, and threw all the tea overboard. This made the tea unsuitable for drinking. Even for Americans.

    George is on the verge of getting fired—and at the same time, his inner, fun-loving side is starting to peek out. George always thought losing his job would be terrible, but instead, he finds himself making a joke about how Americans can't appreciate the correct way to make tea.

    DAWES SR.: From that time to this, sir, there has not been a run on this bank—until today. A run, sir, caused by the disgraceful conduct of your son. Do you deny it?

    GEORGE: I do not deny it, sir, and I shall gladly assume responsibility for my son.

    George "gladly" assumes responsibility for his son. He's not trying to excuse himself or anything—he's biting the bullet and accepting his family for who they are, finally (or he's getting close). And this makes him happy rather than miserable.

    JANE: Mary Poppins, don't you love us?

    MARY: And what would happen to me, may I ask, if I loved all the children I said goodbye to?

    Mary Poppins didn't really come to make the children get attached to her. She actually came to make Mr. Banks become a better dad and connect with his kids on a personal level. Now that her job's done, she has no reason to stick around—even if she really is emotionally attached.

    UMBRELLA: Look at them! You know, they think more of their father than they do of you!

    MARY: That's as it should be.

    Mary's basically saying, "mission accomplished" to her talking umbrella. She didn't really come to make the kids realize how cool it is to venture inside illustrations and fly by laughing—she came to make their father realize that he needed to connect with his kids the way Mary was connecting with him. She gave Mr. Banks emotional tools he didn't have before.

    UMBRELLA: Is that so? Well, I'll tell you one thing, Mary Poppins: you don't fool me a bit!

    MARY: Oh, really?

    UMBRELLA: Yes, really. I know exactly how you feel about these children, and if you think I'm going to keep my mouth shut any longer, I'll...

    MARY: That will be quite enough of that, thank you.

    Mary Poppins retains her classically British stiff upper lip. Sure, she actually loves Michael and Jane but, having restored the Banks family to harmony, she's got to keep on keepin' on, wherever the wind takes her.

  • Isolation

    BERT: Let's sit down. You know, begging your pardon, but the one my heart goes out to is your father. There he is, in that cold heartless bank day after day, hammed in by mounds of cold heartless money. I don't like to see any living thing caged up.

    Like Freddie Mercury said in "I Want to Break Free" Mr. Banks needs to…break free. But he doesn't know he's in a prison, because it's invisible—the prison of his career and his misguided values. Only when he's fired from the bank does he experience the thrill of freedom.

    JANE: Father in a cage?

    BERT: They makes cages of all sizes and shapes, you know. Bank-shaped, some of them, carpets and all.

    The cage is obviously a metaphor. Mr. Banks isn't in a literal cage, eating food pellets and scurrying around on a metal mesh floor.

    BERT: You've got to grind, grind, grind at that grindstone... Though childhood slips like sand through a sieve... And all too soon they've up and grown, and then they've flown... And it's too late for you to give - just that spoonful of sugar to 'elp the medicine go down - medicine go dow-wown, medicine go down.

    Bert warns George Banks against getting penned inside his own workaholic habits. He has to add that "spoonful of sugar" to life—i.e. show his natural fatherly warmth to his kids.

    GEORGE: Remember that the bank is a quiet and decorous place, and we must be on our best behavior.

    MICHAEL: But I thought it was your bank.

    GEORGE: Yes, well, I'm one of the junior officers, so in a sense it is. Sort of.

    George's jacked-up sense of purpose at the beginning of the movie gives way, at the end, to his sense that he's an insecure and minor official at the bank, worried about what kind of impression he's making on his superiors.

    GEORGE: A man has dreams of walking with giants. To carve his niche in the edifice of time. Before the mortar of his seal has a chance to congeal... The cup is dashed from his lips! The flame is snuffed a-borning...he's brought to wrack and ruin in his prime.

    George thinks he's being destroyed—but actually, he's escaping his cage and becoming a new man. He's being reborn as a cool dad who likes flying kites with his kids.

  • Happiness

    MARY: In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and - snap - the job's a game!

    This is the essence of Mary Poppins philosophy. Life is usually boring and full of chores. But if you add a little fun and turn jobs into games, then—you're cooking with gas. Your whole life is ecstatic.

    JANE: Mary Poppins taught us the most wonderful word!

    MICHAEL: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

    GEORGE: What on Earth are you talking about, supercal... super... or whatever the infernal thing is?

    JANE: It's something to say when you don't know what to say.

    GEORGE: Yes, well, I always know what to say.

    Nonsense—like saying "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!"—is an important part of life and being happy. If everything always had to be full of sense and purpose, life would be totally boring. But a little nonsense makes it all better.

    MARY: A thing of beauty is a joy forever.

    This is actually a quote from John Keats' "Endymion." Basically, Keats is saying that beautiful things are great. They make you happy. And they don't get old.

    MARY: Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, the medicine go down, the medicine go down. Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, in the most delightful way.

    A little kindness and enjoyment go a long way. You don't need to go overboard and make things too sweet—saccharine, in other words. Just a little bit makes everything more than tolerable: delightful, actually.

    MARY: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

    This word is supposed to make you feel happier just by saying it. It's charged with this magical power to cheer people up.

    MARY: Feed the birds, that's what she cries, while overhead her birds fill the skies. All around the cathedral the saints and apostles look down as she sells her wares. Although you can't see it, you know they are smiling each time someone shows that he cares. Though her words are simple and few, listen, listen, she's calling to you. Feed the birds, tuppence a bag. Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag. Though her words are simple and few, listen, listen she's calling to you. Feed the birds, tuppence a bag. Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag.

    The old lady in this song finds joy in the simple things. All she needs is a bag of seeds and some birds to eat those seeds.

    BERT: What did I tell ya? There's the whole world at your feet. And who gets to see it but the birds, the stars, and the chimney sweeps.

    Bert finds pleasure in being a chimney sweep, because he's got a great view—one which everyone else is too busy to get up on their roofs and see.

    GEORGE: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! Mary Poppins was right, it's extraordinary! It does make you feel better! Hee hee hee hee!

    DAWES SR.: What are you talking about, man? There's no such word!

    GEORGE: Oh yes! It is a word! A perfectly good word! Actually, do you know what there's no such thing as? It turns out, with due respect, when all is said and done, that there's no such thing as you!

    George learns to embrace a little nonsense in his life. He rejects the stodgy seriousness of the banks, and gets on the Mary Poppins bandwagon. He's all about whimsy and humor now.

  • Awe and Amazement

    MARY: As I expected. "Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way."

    Mary has magical measurement tape, which sums up people's personalities. It's one of the first magical objects she acquaints the kids with, and, predictable, it amazes and disturbs them—especially because the measuring tape reveals their own flaws.

    BERT: What did I tell ya? There's the whole world at your feet. And who gets to see it but the birds, the stars, and the chimney sweeps.

    Bert might be a simple cockney chimney sweep, but he's more capable of amazement and awe than someone like Mr. Banks is. He knows how to see what's right in front of him and be moved by it.

    MARY: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

    Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious isn't just a word to make you feel happier—although it is that. It's also a way you can express your own feelings of awe and amazement. It's what Mary Poppins says in order to express her feelings after she wins a race, for example.

    WINIFRED: As a matter of fact, since you hired Mary Poppins, the most extraordinary things seem to have come over the household.

    GEORGE: Is that so?

    WINIFRED: Take Ellen, for instance. She hasn't broken a dish all morning.

    GEORGE: Really? Well, that is extraordinary.

    Mary Poppins takes ordinary life and makes it extraordinary—even normal domestic life gets enchanted.

  • Wisdom and Knowledge

    MARY: Our first game is called "Well Begun is Half-Done."

    MICHAEL: I don't like the sound of that.

    MARY: Otherwise titled "Let's Tidy up the Nursery."

    MICHAEL: I told you she was tricky.

    Mary has wise little sayings like "Well begun is half done." She means that if you get things off to a fun or pleasant start, that's half the battle. It makes the rest of the process run so smoothly.

    MARY: First of all, I would like to make one thing quite clear.

    GEORGE: Yes?

    MARY: I never explain anything.

    Mary doesn't explain anything because that's not the way she teaches. She teaches by leading people into experiences, and having them see for themselves. Mr. Banks can't learn to loosen up just by Mary telling him, "Loosen up!" She has lead him into events, so he can figure out the lesson on his own.

    MARY: Practically perfect people never permit sentiment to muddle their thinking.

    Even though Mary makes people feel sentiment and whimsy, she tells her talking umbrella that that's not really her style. She keeps her emotions reined in and just does her job…or so she says.

    MARY: Never judge things by their appearance...even carpetbags. I'm sure I never do.

    Mary says this after taking giant objects out of her smaller carpetbag. It's good advice, at any rate, and the kids have more chances to learn it too—a chalk illustration turns out to be an entire animated world, for one thing.

    GEORGE: Kindly do not attempt to cloud the issue with facts.

    George doesn't want to face facts—mainly, the fact that Mary is making the house way happier. He wants to keep his own limited view of things…but that's not gonna happen.

    MARY: Enough is as good as a feast.

    Mary's saying that if you have "enough," your life will be more than tolerable. There's no need to wish you had more, because you should appreciate what you have as much as you can.

    DAWES SR.: If you invest your tuppence wisely in the bank, safe and sound, soon that tuppence, safely invested in the bank, will compound! And you'll achieve that sense of conquest, as your affluence expands! In the hands of the directors, who invest as propriety demands!

    Dawes boring advice doesn't work with Michael. It sounds sort of wise, but really, Michael wants to use his tuppence to buy seeds to feed the birds, not to "achieve that sense of conquest." The movie makes it clear that Michael's got the right idea.