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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

by James Thurber
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How is Walter Mitty's real life different from his daydreams?

Walter Mitty's real life is different from his daydreams in that it is unhappy and mundane, while his daydreams are filled with courage, respect, and bravery.

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In real life, Walter Mitty is no one's hero. In fact, he submits to the will of his wife with barely an effort to protest her many directives. His wife holds the power in their relationship, dictating how fast he is allowed to drive, insisting that he purchase new overshoes, and questioning whether he has lost his driving gloves. She tells Walter that he is having "one of [his] days" when he seems tense and maintains that his unease demands the attention of a physician.

Walter Mitty simply accepts her demands, rarely protesting or asserting his own perspective. He worries that he will arrive at their designated meeting point too late, which will upset her. Walter Mitty even proves inept at the errands he has been asked to take charge of, wandering aimlessly for a while before deciding that his wife had asked him to get a "puppy biscuit." He worries what others on the street think of him and hurries through the crowd to avoid further embarrassment.

In his fantasies, Walter Mitty has quite the opposite persona. He is a skilled naval commander whom others trust. He is a renowned surgeon whom even "great specialists" trust to provide insight into difficult cases. He is a brave fighter pilot who boldly proclaims that "we only live once," before volunteering to fly solo "through hell" to reach an "ammunition dump."

In his dreams, Walter Mitty exemplifies courage, demands respect, and lives fearlessly. These traits are absent from his ordinary life.

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