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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

by James Thurber
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How does “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” end?

“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” ends with Walter daydreaming that he is facing a firing squad.

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At the end of James Thurber’s short story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” Walter’s wife leaves him alone to go into a drugstore. Walter waits outside for her and leans against the wall of the store. He lights a cigarette, and it begins to rain quite heavily. As he throws the cigarette away, he escapes one final time into a vivid daydream which is again much more dramatic and eventful than his real, mundane life.

In this final daydream, Walter Mitty faces a firing squad. He refuses to be blindfolded, saying "to hell with the handkerchief," and he stands very still while he waits to be hit. It is interesting to consider that Thurber does not focus so much on the events that are occurring in this daydream but rather on how Walter approaches the situation. He writes:

Then, with that faint, fleeting smile playing about his lips, he faced the firing squad; erect and motionless, proud and disdainful, Walter Mitty the Undefeated, inscrutable to the last.

In this final daydream, Walter Mitty faces his executioners with no resistance and no fear. He casually flicks his cigarette away in the face of this imaginary death. It is interesting to note that the story ends with a daydream, just as it began with one. This choice emphasizes how Walter’s daydreams overpower his thoughts and are the most significant aspect of his dull life.

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