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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

by James Thurber
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Can someone compare and contrast the setting in these two literary works, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" and "The Story of an Hour"?

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There are similarities and differences between these two stories. Both stories take much of their action within the imagination of their protagonists. Walter Mitty has invented a series of fantastical adventures for himself, with an alternate persona far more accomplished than he is in regular life. Meanwhile, after learning of her husband's supposed death, Louise Mallard imagines herself in a state of freedom, able to assert agency over her own life. In both cases, we have imagined life competing against reality, and in both cases we see reality intruding upon the imagination.

I would say the major difference between the two settings is that "The Story of an Hour" follows Louise Mallard at home, learning the news that her husband has died in an accident. "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," by contrast, follows its protagonist as he travels through an urban setting. In addition, you might also note the publication years: "Story of an Hour" was originally published in 1894, whereas "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" was published in 1939, and consider how these very different time periods might reflect in the settings of these two stories.

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In ‘The Story of an Hour’, Mrs. Mallard’s experiences take place within the physical confines of her home. In ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’, Mitty is on a visit to town with his wife, conducting a series of errands. There is a similarity, however, in that both of these characters escape into their own imaginations. Walter has several daydreams which take him into a hospital, a courtroom and various battle scenarios-

 “It takes two men to handle that bomber, and the Archies are pounding hell out of the air.”

Mrs Mallard imagines her future life, unencumbered by her husband and the bonds of marriage-

 ...she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely. And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome.

Both characters are oppressed by their setting and the circumstances around them. They are both confined to restrictive and unfulfilling marriages, and both create an ideal setting in their minds where they can be free.




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