How should we take Mr.Mitty's character?Tone of this story is kind of humor, right? But we can feel some kind of pathos, too. Then how should we take this character? Seriously? Or just as a funny...

How should we take Mr.Mitty's character?

Tone of this story is kind of humor, right? But we can feel some kind of pathos, too.

Then how should we take this character? Seriously? Or just as a funny person? What was the purpose of Thurber?What attitude are we take toward him?

Asked on by jennyjekim

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lynnebh's profile pic

lynnebh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

I think you have answered your own question! The dual nature of this short story is what makes it interesting. It IS humorous, but it is also pathetic - yes! Is it not like life? Life is humorous, life is full of pathos. We can have both of these feelings for Walter Mitty.

In real life, Walter Mitty is a pathetic, weak, ineffectual man. His daily life is boring and uneventful. His wife is a bossy shrew. He has not accomplished much in his life. Why is this? Is Thurber saying that modern man has been reduced to such a role? If so, it is pathetic.

On the other hand, we have the fantasy Mitty. In his fantasy life, Mitty is a hero. He does not have a nagging wife, he has exciting adventures, he saves lives. These fantasies are humorous, but they are also pathetic because they are not real and contrast greatly with the truth. So we can smile at his escapes into fantasy while feeling sad in our hearts. Is Thurber saying that modern life has become so hum-drum that the only means of achieving happiness is through fantasy? If so, this is also pathetic.

In my view, the story is more pathos than humor. From my point of view, there does not seem to be any hope that Walter Mitty is going to escape the paralysis that traps him in his life. So, while his flights of fantasy may be humorous, they are tragic because his only means of happiness is not real. There IS no happiness in his real life. If he were someone you knew, wouldn't you be advising him to "Get off your duff and go out and help someone! Volunteer! Go to Haiti! Work with abused children. Stop dreaming about it!"

What do YOU think? Read about the story here on enotes.

missy575's profile pic

missy575 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

You have to watch the movie The Informant to find a similar character moving in real life... well it's not real, but it's a character who takes Mitty to an extreme.

Here's how I take the guy, yes funny, yes pathetic, but longing for purpose. Look at each of the roles he takes on as characters (except for the end in front of the firing squad). Each character is a highly successful and meaningful version of a person.

He wants to do something extrordinary, but is bound in his mind. I think the entire purpose of this piece is to encourage we readers to stop lolligaging and follow through with that for which we each long. Some of us want to be excellent doctors, lawyers, or military strategists. Every day there are opportunities to work toward that. Therefore take the character for who he is and don't be a Walter Mitty, don't be a dreamer, be a doer.

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