What is the exposition in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Exposition is the information in a story that catches the reader up with what the characters know, or it can even give information that the characters don't know. It is everything the reader needs to understand about the world in which the fiction exists in order to comprehend it clearly....

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Exposition is the information in a story that catches the reader up with what the characters know, or it can even give information that the characters don't know. It is everything the reader needs to understand about the world in which the fiction exists in order to comprehend it clearly. In "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," the exposition occurs primarily through bursts of dialogue, leaving little work to narration.

Walter Mitty is a man who spends a great deal of time in a world of fiction, imagining grandiose adventures for himself, which contrast with his comparatively dull life with his domineering wife. Because of this, the scene changes often, with Mitty escaping into his fantasy world whenever he can. During these scene changes, the reader is bombarded by bursts of expository dialogue that set a scene, such as Mitty's wife panicking at his fast driving or detective colleagues greeting Mitty in one of his fantasies.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The exposition of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" is just a description of how the story is told.  The story alternates between Walter Mitty's rich fantasy life and his humdrum everyday life.  One example of this can be found in the first two pages--Mitty is driving a ship through a storm, his crew loves him and has total faith in him.  Meanwhile, in real life, he is taking his wife to a hair appointment and she is questioning why he is driving so fast.  Where the Walter Mitty in the fantasy is getting his men through a hurricane, the real Walter Mitty is being nagged by his wife to wear his gloves.  In the next scene, world-famous surgeon Walter Mitty is saving someone's life with a fountain pen, while in reality his distracted driving is annoying a parking lot attendant.  This switching between fantasy and reality makes one really feel as though Mitty's life is boring and creates a sympathy for him, as he imagines more exciting things.  

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Exposition is simply the mode of writing to provide information. It is the text of the story that explains the plot. In "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," the story opens with a description of a military flight in a storm. The episode is revealed to be a daydream that Walter enjoys while driving his wife to town. The reader quickly figures out that Walter is fantasizing about leading a more exciting life because of the narrative device of interspersing descriptions of the fantasies with the mundane reality of Walter's life.

 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team