James Thurber Questions and Answers

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How did James Thurber affect the modern era?

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Jonathan Beutlich, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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bookM.A. from Dordt University

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The answer to this question is subjective. It is up to individuals to figure out how Thurber affected modern times. Scientifically, we could use the observer effect to answer this question. By merely existing and observing any part of the world around him, Thurber affected the outcome of those events. His affect could be massive or it could be small, but Lorenz showed through his Butterfly Effect analogy that even minuscule changes can have massive effects down the road. Hypothetically speaking, Trump is president because of Thurber. Bradbury illustrated this concept in his short story "A Sound of Thunder." Thurber also affected modern times through his writings and his cartoons. "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" has been especially influential. Education systems all over the world have students read this story, and discussions about it and Mitty are always vibrant and analytical. The story has had enough of an impact for Hollywood to have made a cinematic version of it two different times. This has allowed his story and influence to be a part of mainstream popular culture.

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parkerlee eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I don't know that Thurber really exerced that much influence over the society he lived in; his works were rather a reflection of it. Remember that he was both a writer and a cartoonist and his illustrations went hand in hand with his writing. Thurber was very popular in his time; besides his published works, he also wrote under contract for various magazines. With his tongue-in-cheek humour, Thurber poked fun at modern society, particularly marriage and the changing roles of the sexes. His own domestic life wasn't that settled, and he addressed such issues with both wit and candor.  Other themes were consumerism and ecology. In all these ways Thurber's works are still very up-to-date even though they were written several decades ago.

Three "musts":   "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" ;"The Unicorn in the Garden"; "The Last Flower."

See the following references, too, for further information.

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