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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

by James Thurber

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Student Question

How does Mrs. Mitty bring Walter out of his daydreams in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"?

Expert Answers

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Mrs. Mitty is a termagant. She brings Walter Mitty out of a couple of his daydreams by means of her scolding and nagging.

A man who is rather inept and obviously "hen-pecked" as the expression of Thurber's time goes, Walter Mitty, achieves fame, power, and recognition in his daydreams. But, the boundary between fantasy and reality is very porous and Mitty finds himself pulled from one to the other. 
In his first daydream, Mitty is a Navy Commander piloting a hydroplane through a terrible storm. One of the crew members encourages the others, "The Old Man'll get us through," and another echoes, "The Old Man ain't afraid of Hell!" Just then, Mitty, instead, becomes afraid of this place of Milton's descriptions. Mrs. Mitty shatters his daydream and scolds,"Not so fast! You're driving too fast!"

Mrs. Mitty continues by nagging Walter, "What are you driving so fast for?" Further, she tells her husband, "It's one of your days. I wish you'd let Dr. Renshaw look you over!"
Then, in the final daydream, as Mitty waits for his wife at a hotel and sits in a winged chair, he is again in battle as a Captain Mitty. This officer, who will soon fly a bomber into enemy territory, walks calmly to the door of a dugout as he hums a popular song and waves to the sergeant. Abruptly, Mitty is jarred from his reverie by his wife, who scolds,

"I've been looking all over this hotel for you...Why do you have to hide in this old chair? How did you expect me to find you?"

This time Mitty tries to assert himself against the authority of society that his wife represents. He tells his wife,

"I was thinking....Does it ever occur to you that I am sometimes thinking?"

But, his self-reliance is short-lived, for it mainly exists only in dreams.

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