The Secret Life of Walter Mitty Questions and Answers
by James Thurber

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty book cover
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What are Mitty's dreams, and what is happening in real life while he is dreaming?

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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” opens on Mitty’s first dream, in which he is the Commander of a Navy hydroplane. He imagines that they are approaching a storm and that he commands them to go forward despite the risk. His crew trusts him:

“The Old Man’ll get us through,” they said to one another. “The Old Man ain’t afraid of Hell!” …

The trust that his crew shows in him is promptly spoiled as his wife, sitting beside him, exclaims that he has been driving too quickly. While he was daydreaming about piloting the hydroplane, he was actually in command of the car as he drove his wife to Waterbury, and in his excitement pressed his foot against the accelerator slightly harder than he had likely intended.

The second daydream occurs after he has dropped his wife off and is driving around aimlessly. Upon passing the hospital, he imagines himself to be a famous surgeon. Having stepped into the hospital, a pretty nurse informs him of a difficult operation taking place on a rich and well-known banker. The surgeons, one of whom has been called in from London, implore him to take a look; after he fixes the “anesthetizer” with nothing more than a fountain pen and one of the doctors notes that “coreopsis” has set in, he is asked to step in himself. He comes back to reality to find that he has pulled into the “Exit Only” lane of the parking lot and nearly collided with another car.

In his third daydream, which takes place while he is walking around the streets of Waterbury, Mitty is on trial for murder. To his attorney’s dismay, he proudly declares that:

“With any known make of gun,” he said evenly, “I could have killed Gregory Fitzhurst at three hundred feet with my left hand.”

As chaos rises in the courtroom, a “lovely, dark-haired girl” throws herself into his arms. In defense of her, he strikes the District Attorney and calls him a “miserable cur!” At this point, Mitty snaps out of the dream himself at the realization that he needs to buy puppy biscuits.

The fourth daydream occurs when Mitty is waiting for his wife in the hotel. Having picked up a newspaper and settled in a chair, Mitty imagines himself as a Captain who plans to fly “forty kilometers through hell” by himself. His men watch in awe as he downs brandy and prepares to fly an enormously dangerous route in a plane that require two pilots. This time, he is interrupted by his wife, who strikes him on the shoulder and berates him.

Mitty is waiting outside the drugstore when the fifth daydream occurs. He stares out into the rain before imagining himself walking confidently in front of a firing squad: “erect and motionless, proud and disdainful, Walter Mitty the Undefeated, inscrutable to the last.”

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