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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

by James Thurber

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What condition does Walter Mitty suffer from in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"?

Quick answer:

Walter Mitty suffers from terrible boredom and a feeling that no one, including his own wife, respects him. In order to cope with this, he fantasizes about exciting scenarios in which he is highly esteemed.

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Walter Mitty suffers from feelings of inadequacy and even boredom. His wife makes him feel unimportant and disrespected, and he feels dismissed by other men in society, like those who work at the parking lot or for the service garage. Mrs. Mitty tells him how to drive, what to wear, where to go, and what to do, giving him no real options and treating him as though he is ill when he contradicts or questions her directions. She expects him to wait on her, and she does not allow him any sense of free will, and so he imagines scenarios in which he is the expert, where he is in charge, where he is in control.

Mitty imagines being a witness in a trial in which he examines a gun “expertly”; he speaks “calmly,” creating excitement from onlookers in the courtroom. With a jolt, he returns to his real life when he recalls that his wife has instructed him to buy a box of puppy biscuits. They are to meet one another at a hotel, and he knows that he must be the first to arrive, because she doesn't like to be the one arriving first and having to wait for him. Mitty spends his life waiting on his wife, running errands for her, and doing her bidding. He suffers from boredom, and so he imagines exciting adventures in a “bomber” or in an operating room or in a courtroom to alleviate his sense of ennui and his feeling that life and everyone in it dismisses him.

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