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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

by James Thurber
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What is the dominant idea that underlines the story's significance?

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The underlining idea of the story is how the subjective experience can be used to retreat from external reality.  The condition of failure that dominates Mitty in his real life is a state of being that can be overcome in his dreams.  It is here where Thurber's story features an idea that underscores it throughout.  Mitty is a character whose external reality is what drives his subjective construction.  In doing so, it becomes clear that dreams are an escape vehicle from the mundane nature of reality.  The modern setting is one shown to be a realm in which there is dissatisfaction in the world around us, and only can liberation be found in the realm of the subjective.  This is the underlying idea in the story.  It is one in which individuals do have the freedom to escape their being, but it is only a subjective one.  Walter Mitty will always be dominated by his wife, and be the source of derision of the auto mechanics.  Yet, in his dreams, he is a ladies' man and he is beyond strong.  In this, one sees that the dominant idea is one of escape, but also one of escape being limited to our own subjectivity in a world that fails to account for it.

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