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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

by James Thurber

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Who is Wellington McMillan in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"?

Quick answer:

Wellington McMillan, the millionaire banker, is the VIP on whom Walter Mitty is called to operate in one of his many fantasies. McMillan is also a “close personal friend of Roosevelt,” evidently the then-current president of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

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Wellington McMillan, the millionaire banker, is the patient on whom Walter Mitty imagines himself to be operating in one of his fantasies. Evidently, Mr. McMillan is not only a prominent figure in the world of finance, but he is also a very close friend of Roosevelt, presumably, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as the story was first published in 1939, right in the middle of FDR’s presidency. So, Mr. McMillan is a very important person, making the task of successfully performing his surgery all the more daunting and urgent. This is why, the reader can assume, there are two doctors, two specialists, as well as Dr. Walter Mitty present for the operation.

In his fantasy, Mitty is asked to take a look at the patient, whose case is complex. And just as he enters the room, the anesthetic machine begins to malfunction. Despite an intern’s lament that there is no one “in the East” who can fix the machine, Mitty engineers an inventive but short-term fix with a fountain pen. Not only this, but he is asked to step in when the operation is further complicated by the patient’s decline. One doctor may be intoxicated, or at least feeling the effects of it, and the two specialists are “grave [and] uncertain” in the face of these developments. Mitty, of course, is certain and assured, despite the patient’s VIP status, the patient’s deteriorating condition, and the machine’s malfunctioning.

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