In "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty", why does Walter Mitty act the way he does?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The author of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," James Thruber, was both a writer and a cartoonist.  In this story, Thurber combines his talents in the character of Walter Mitty, who is cartoonish to those who observe him, yet, at the same time there is a pathos to Mitty's mismanged--albeit imaginative--attempts to cope with his domineering wife and with the modern, mundane life that he lives.

Trapped in an insipid marriage, a life of buying "puppy biscuits"  and Kleenex and toothpast and bicarbonate of soda and of putting on gloves and chains on tires in the snow, Mitty seeks escape to adventure.  Angrily, he asks his wife who interrupts one of his daydreams, "Did it ever occur to you that I am sometimes thinking?"

Mitty gets no respect from his wife, however, as she is firmly entrenched in the mundane affairs of daily life:  "I'm going to take your temperature when I get you home," she tells him. Because this woman is so trivial in all her thoughts, she cannot understand the creative imagination and desires of a man like Walter Mitty.  And, so, Mitty "the Undefeated, inscrutable to the last" remains misunderstood as he retreats into his daydreams.

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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

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