I need information on The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

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winston-smith | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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First and foremost this response refers to the James Thurber short story and not the 1947 film starring Danny Kaye or the 2013 movie starring Ben Stiller. “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” by James Thurber is the story of a married man, Walter Mitty who throughout the story drifts from an imagined life, the secret life, and the real world. In all of Mitty’s fantasies he is brave, confident and respected this is in stark contrast to his real life where he is cowardly, unsure and disregarded.

When the reader first sees Mitty he is imagining that he is the captain of a ship crashing through the frozen waters, though the reader does not know that this event is all in Mitty’s head. In reality Mitty is driving his wife to a hair appointment. He later imagines himself as a surgeon saving a millionaire’s life with a fountain pen; an assassin on trial for murder, a fighter pilot on a courageous suicide mission; and lastly a man bravely facing a firing squad. Each of these fantasies contradict Mitty’s true nature.

So why does Mitty imagine all these scenarios and fates? The answer is in his nature, he is trapped with the stereotypical nagging wife. Throughout the story she belittles him and nags at him. When Mitty is the Sea captain, he is brought out of the fantasy by his wife complaining how fast he was going. The only time Mitty does stand up for himself by questioning his wife, "Does it ever occur to you that I am sometimes thinking?" she ignores the meaning behind his question and responds with, "I'm going to take your temperature when I get you home,". She doesn’t even dignify his challenge with a legitimate response she chalks his standing up for himself as him being ill. In the end Mitty is left waiting for his wife to return and he imagines himself at a firing squad awaiting his execution. It is humorous and sad that Mitty considers the return of his wife to be a sort of sanctioned murder.

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