In the short story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” we see the main character as a rejected misfit in society. He is often unaware of the world around him and reacts in what others would call a negative way to those situations he actually responds to. However, close examination of the text used by James Thurber to portray him prompts a need to deconstruct the character Walter Mitty. In doing so, we find that, far from being a misfit, he is actually the one member of society that is truly sound.
To determine that he is truly unique, we must first show that Mitty has elevated himself above the seemingly “normal” members of the society in the book. One great example is by refusing concede to do what others tell him, even in a dream. “Captain Mitty” knows that “somebody has to get the ammunition dump,” so he steps up to the challenge, paying no heed to the sergeant’s warnings. This may seem irrational, but he was willing to put his life on the line for his country. The other example is how society reacts to him, and not vice-versa. To see this, you must understand that the people in the story have the wrong ideals. They idolize hard work and neurotic behavior, which helps maintain order but stunts the ability to have an intimate relationship with one’s self. By rejecting Walter from themselves and ultimately their way of thinking, the people in the story forced him to adopt new values. Now, Mitty could take care of himself and meet his own psychological needs. This will be discussed in greater depth later, but the outcome is that civilization forced our character to become a better person than any of them could be.
The effect of his rise from the rest ...
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... he feels. Therefore, he is in a better mental condition than the so-called “normal” people of society who label him as a misfit.
There is clearly a great deal that Thurber uses to characterize Walter Mitty. However, it is important that we correctly interpret this text. When one looks past the primary, more common assessment of this short story, Mitty’s true character is revealed. And the irony is, he is saner than anyone else who ridicules him as insane. The society is just not open-minded enough to see their own stupidity.
Huitt, William G. “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.” November 2000. <http://chiron.valdosta.edu/whuitt/col/regsys/ maslow.html>
Samuel, Jessica and Ritter, Channing. “The Basics of Freudian Analysis.” February 2001. <http://home.insight.rr.com/ englishodyssey/Resources/Freudian%20Analysis.htm>
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