"the Secret Life of Walter Mitty" by James Thurber
563 Words3 Pages
"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" is a story about a man who prefers to live in his fantasies rather than dealing with real life. The story begins when a military officer shouts an order for his crew to proceed with a flight in spite of the dangerous conditions. The unyielding commander speaks with confidence and courage, and his crew expresses their faith in him by saying, "The Old Man'll get us through, the Old Man ain't afraid of Hell!" (NA, 1499). Suddenly, Mitty is brought back to reality by a sharp reproach from his wife for driving too fast.
Thurber uses various literary elements to incorporate humor into the story. One way in which the author creates humor around Walter Mitty is by emphasizing the contrast between his real character and the one who he imagines himself to be in his fantasies. In his imagination, he is sharp, attractive, and heroic. Others are in awe of his fearlessness and have faith in his intellect when circumstances seem hopeless. However, in reality Mitty is as laughable to others as the Fantasy Mitty is admirable. He is incompetent and forgetful and succumbs to the demands of his dominating wife, whose presence is necessary since Mitty seems unable to bear his own responsibilities. While he is in his inner world, he is able to command others with a voice that is "like thin ice breaking" (NA, 1498). On the other hand, in the rare instances where he speaks in real life, he seems unconfident and confused, answering others with, "Hmm?" (NA, 1498) or "Gee. Yeh" (NA, 1500).
The story jumps back and forth from his dreams to real life. The timing of the transitions between a fantasy and reality accentuates the differences between his two characters. In his fantasies, he is given ju...
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...ation that Walter's limited knowledge does not hinder him from developing his fantasies. Even though he can imagine himself as a successful surgeon, his inadequate understanding of medical affairs is obvious to the reader and causes the situation to seem absurd and incredibly humorous. This is because Mitty freely adds details to the scene by inventing medical conditions such as "streptothricosis" (NA, 1499) and using a taxonomic genus of plants in reference to a medical condition. Mitty often resorts to describing objects simply as being "huge" and "complicated" (NA, 1499) in an attempt to make his imaginary role appear more heroic, but which actually seem childish. As a result, the reader finds Walter's otherwise uneventful day entertaining and comical.
Bausch, Richard and Cassill, R.V. The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction. Sixth Edition. 2000.