In "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" by James Thurber, what are the interactions Walter Mitty has with the other characters?

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Walter Mitty's interactions with other people are not emotionally restorative.  

Walter's interactions with people in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" are distant.  He does not experience any meaningful emotional connection.  The opening interaction with his wife shows this disconnect.  When she reprimands his driving, Walter sees her as "grossly unfamiliar, like a strange woman who had yelled at him in a crowd."  The interactions between Walter and his wife show how she does not validate his experience. She condescendingly speaks to him, suggesting he needs to see a doctor or get his temperature taken when he disagrees with her.  At the end of the story, she stops at a store and orders Walter to wait outside because she "won't be a minute." Thurber writes, "She was more than a minute."  This capstones interactions between husband and wife that lack a healthy emotional connection.

A lack of social connection reflects the same distance that Walter experiences with his wife.  For example, the police officer and the parking lot attendant bark at him in imperative sentences.  They speak to him with commands such as, "Pick it up" and "Back it up."  Such orders focus on a task as opposed to a human being.  These interactions show how others easily subdue Walter into submission.  When Walter comes out of one of his dreams saying "Puppy biscuits," he passes a woman on the street who ridicules him to the friend with whom she is walking: "A woman who was passing laughed. 'He said 'Puppy biscuit,' she said to her companion. 'That man said 'Puppy biscuit' to himself."  In his interactions with the outside world, Walter is the source of derision and is easily bullied.

The emotionally distant level of Walter's interactions justifies his retreat into daydreams.  In this world, respect and importance dominate his interactions. They show an authentication of voice, something not taking place in Walter's daily life.

Read the study guide:
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question