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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

by James Thurber
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What does Walter become in his second daydream?

In his second daydream, Walter becomes a surgeon, one who can also fix machinery. He is calm, cool, and collected. He is well respected, an expert in his field, and can think outside the box. He does not take orders from others but, rather, gives them.

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In his second daydream of the story, Walter Mitty becomes a surgeon. There are two other doctors and two specialists already working on the patient, Wellington McMillan, a millionaire banker and friend of the president. Despite their expertise, one of the doctors asks Mitty to “take a look” at the patient.

Mitty, in this dream, has evidently written a book on a condition called streptothricosis, a decidedly “brilliant” book at that. Suddenly, a machine that seems to keep the patient anesthetized begins to fail, and one intern laments that “there is no one in the East who knows how to fix it!” Dr. Mitty calmly approaches the malfunctioning machine and fixes it by replacing a faulty piston with a fountain pen; he claims the fix will only hold for ten minutes and advises the team to hurry up with the operation. However, after a change has been detected in the patient’s condition, they ask Dr. Mitty to “take over” with the surgery, which he does. One doctor is a known drunk, and the two specialists’ faces are “grave [and] uncertain.”

Ultimately, then, Mitty has become a well-respected, preeminent physician, an expert in his field. He is someone who is inventive, who possesses innate ingenuity as well as erudition. He is calm and capable, even under immense pressure. He is absolutely reliable and absolutely above reproach. He is the kind of man who issues directions rather than the kind of man who takes them.

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