The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty Essay

, Research Paper

?The Secret Life of Walter Mitty?

James Thurber was born December 8, 1894 in Columbus Ohio. He is known for his novels but it is the short story in which he excels. In the short story ?The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, it is possible to see that Thurber?s life has a profound impact on the story?s theme.

The short story ?The Secret Life of Walter Mitty? was written by James Thurber. After reading this short story, one can conclude that this short story had some connection with the life of James Thurber.

The short story ?The Secret Life of Walter Mitty? begins with Walter Mitty landing a plane that was bound for imminent disaster. The words ?slow down Mr. Mitty you?re driving to fast,? woke him up from his daydream. These words were coming from his wife who was being dropped off at the hairdresser. Mr. Mitty dropped his wife at the hairdresser. She barks out orders for him to buy overshoes and instructs him to wear his gloves.

Throughout the rest of this story, Mr. Mitty goes through other daydreams in which he is invincible and undefeatable. As Mr. Mitty arrives to pick up his wife, she comes in the car and is very inquisitive about what he has been doing. Mr. Mitty asked

his wife, ?Does it ever occur to you that I am thinking?? Mrs. Mitty followed this statement up by saying that he needed to see a doctor soon.

When they reach the drugstore on the corner, Mrs. Mitty gets out and tells her away. With a faint fleeting smile praying about his lips, he daydreams again, this time he faces the firing squad; erect and motionless, proud and disdainful, Walter Mitty, the undefeated, inscrutable to the last.

James Thurber was born December 8, 1894 in Columbus Ohio. His father was Charles Leander and his mother was Mary Agnes Thurber. ?Thurber?s father had dreams of becoming an actor or a lawyer. He is said to be the basis of the typical small man in Thurber?s short story. Thurber?s mother was strong-minded, and was also a practical joker? (Pegasos 1).

James?s brother William accidentally shot James in the eye, causing him to be partially blinded. ?Since Thurber could not play the sports and childhood games the other children did, he developed a rich fantasy life? (Pegasos 1). Although Thurber was an excellent student, he dropped out of Ohio State University in 1914. He re-entered Ohio State in 1915 (Baughman 385).

James Thurber married Althea Adams in 1922. ?Between 1927 and 1935, Thurber became one of the best known writers at the ?New Yorker? (Baughman 387). ?Thurber became known as a humorist while working at the ?New Yorker?? (Locher 608). ?He was originally a managing editor, but after six months, he managed to work himself down the ladder to staff writer? (608).

?After a difficult thirteen-year marriage, James and Althea Thurber filed for divorce.? (Baughman 387). ?Thurber then married Helen Wismer, who he later declared his ?seeing eye-wife?? (387). ?By 1950 Thurber?s vision deteriorated to total blindness? (387). ?Thurber died of Pneumonia on November 2, 1961 in New York? (Pegasos 1).

? ?The Secret Life of Walter Mitty? was a success as soon as it was published in 1931? (Maddocks 432). It is safe to call Walter Mitty a ?chronic daydreamer?. The story begins and ends with him daydreaming. ?Walter Mitty?s daydreams originate from some part of his environment. He then transforms the details imaginatively? (432). ?All of Walter Mitty?s daydreams are interrupted by his wife?s nagging or others addressing him? (433). Throughout the story, Mrs. Mitty nags her husband and bosses him around. ?Mrs. Mitty probably does not realize how much her nagging and bossing around affects her husband. This might be because of how obliging and willing Mr. Mitty is? (433).

In his short story, Thurber?s humor is sensitive to the fears and follies of man (Pegasos 1). ?Thurber?s story is humorous, yet it shows that the Walter Mittys of the world will remain ?little men?. They will continue to express their own limited views of themselves and others (Maddocks 434). James Thurber?s Walter Mitty character is now a part of medical vocabulary in Great Britain. ?The story ?The Secret Life of Walter Mitty? was taken up by psychologists. ?Walter Mitty Syndrome? was put in a British medical journal as a clinical condition, which manifested itself in compulsive fantasizing. The title character is a meek, mild mannered, henpecked husband who escapes his everyday existence to heroic fantasies (Pegasos 2).

?The Secret Life of Walter Mitty? has some connection with the life of James Thurber. As stated earlier in the paper, Thurber’s father is said to be the basis of the

typical small man in Thurber?s short story. In Thurber?s short story there is also a nagging, and bossy wife. It is possible for one to conclude that this irritating and troublesome character was based on Thurber?s ex-wife, Althea Adams. The couple went through thirteen years of difficult marriage. The fact that this short story was written shortly after their divorce makes this conclusion more likely. This short story might be an illustration on how James Thurber feels about unhealthy marriages and disputes within marriages. Some of Thurber?s other short stories contain a small subtle man, and a domineering wife. ?The Secret Life of Walter Mitty? was James Thurber?s way of expressing these views, while adding an element of humor to entertain his audience. James Thurber?s short story also showed that in a life of underachievement a person can resort to daydreaming and imaginary fantasies to compensate for one?s own limitations.

In addition to contributions to humor, literary skills, and reflection on marital conflicts James Thurber made a contribution to society. His contribution to society may well be a concept for psychology and medical science to decipher. Finally, James Thurber?s short story is one account of the conjugal conflicts that go on in many households. After reading James Thurber?s short story, ?The Secret Life of Walter Mitty?, one can indeed conclude that this humorous short story, which dealt with marital disputes, had some connection with the life of James Thurber.


Baughman, Judith. ?Thurber? DLB. Ed. Karen Rood. Volume 4. Detroit, Michigan:

Gale Research Inc. 1992.

Locher, Frances. Ed. ?James Thurber?. Contemporary Artists. Volumes 73-76. Detroit Michigan: Gale Publishing Company. 1985.

Maddocks, Melvin. ?James Thurber?. Short Story Criticism. Detroit, Michigan: Gale

Research Company. 1990.

Thurber, James. ?The Secret Life of Walter Mitty?. McDougal, Littell: Literature.

Evanston, Illinois: McDougal, Littell and Company. 1989.

Pegasos- Literature Related Resources:


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