Book Report on the Secret Life of Walter Mitty
?Introduction James Thurber is one of America’s best known humorists, and “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is his best known story. The story was first published in 1939 in the New Yorker magazine to great acclaim. It was reprinted in Thurber’s 1942 collection, My World-And Welcome To It and in Reader’s Digest in 1943. The story’s main character is a middle-aged, middle-class man who escapes from the routine drudgery of his suburban life into fantasies of heroic conquest. Upon the story’s publication, Walter Mitty became an archetypal American figure.
Today, people still describe a certain kind of neurotic, daydreaming man as a “Walter Mitty type.
” In 1947, Hollywood released a movie of the same title, starring Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo. Although his humorous stories, sketches, and illustrations were well-known during his lifetime, Thurber has received little scholarly attention. Some critics dismissed his work as little more than formulaic and whimsical. More recently, critics have become attentive to Thurber’s literary prowess, such as his use of wordplay and attention to narrative form. They have also discussed the darker themes of his work which lurk underneath the hilarity.
Others, referring to his tendency to portray domineering women, like Mrs. Mitty, and unhappy, ineffectual men, like Walter, fault his treatment of women and views of marriage. Author Biography James Thurber was a prolific writer and artist who published over twenty books of stories, biographies, drawings, sketches, essays, poetry, fables and cartoons. During the 1920s and 1930s, Thurber wrote for the popular and influential literary magazine, The New Yorker. His work for the magazine established his reputation as a comic with a sophisticated sensibility who largely wrote about upper middleclass intellectuals.
Much of his work focused on the milieu of East Coast society. Thurber was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1894, and some of his writing, such as his “mock” memoirs, My Life and Hard Times, treat his experiences as a boy growing up in Ohio. After attending Ohio State University, he worked as a newspaper reporter in Ohio, France, and New York before joining the staff of the The New Yorker in 1927. As…
.. Plot Summary As “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” begins, a military officer orders an airplane crew to proceed with a flight through a dangerous storm.
The crew members are scared but are buoyed by their commander’s confidence, and they express their faith in him. Suddenly, the setting switches to an ordinary highway, where Walter Mitty and his wife are driving into a city to run errands. The scene on the airplane is revealed to be one of Mitty’s many fantasies.
Mitty’s wife observes that he seems tense, and when he drops her off in front of a hair styling salon, she reminds him to go buy overshoes and advises him to put on his gloves. He drives away toward a parking lot and loses himself in another fantasy.
In this daydream he is a brilliant doctor, called…
.. Chapter Summaries ; Analysis The story begins with a shouting Commander who is in an obviously dangerous situation. The Commander is ordering his Lieutenant to prepare to power up their Navy hydroplane, although it is against the Lieutenant’s best judgment because of an impending hurricane. The crew looks on, confident that their Commander, whom they have nicknamed the Old Man, will see them through safely, as it is implied he has done in the past. Summary Analysis The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” introduces Mr.
Walter Mitty as the title character.
He is an average, everyday sort of man, with one large exception: his incredibly rich fantasy life. This theme of escaping from a feeble actuality while retreating into a fulfilling dream world is the major issue that the story rides upon. Nearly everything in Walter’s life is bringing him down. He is getting older, not the young man he used to be, and is feeling the effects of that.
His wife reminds him of this constantly, insisting that he needs to get overshoes because of his age, and also telling him to take the car to the garage every time he needs to remove the chains, because he is too old to do it any longer.
Mrs. Mitty is a major player in…
.. Characters Mrs. Mitty Mrs. Mitty is Walter’s dominating wife. She nags him to buy galoshes, to put on his gloves, and to drive more slowly.
When she asks Walter why he did not put on his overshoes before leaving the store, he responds with irritation: “I was thinking,. . . does it ever occur to you that I am sometimes thinking? ” But while Mrs. Mitty may appear overly controlling and condescending, Walter is incompetent and refuses to shoulder adult responsibility. Mrs.
Mitty is Walter’s link to reality; she prevents accidents and helps Walter avoid losing his grasp of everyday life.
Walter Mitty Walter Mitty is a daydreamer who imagines himself the…..
Themes Walter Mitty is an ordinary character who fills his mind with fantasies in which he plays the hero, saves lives, navigates enemy territory, and proves his masculinity. Success and Failure The theme of success and failure is examined through Mitty’s inability to live a fulfilling external life, which causes him to retreat to an internal life full of images of conquest. Walter Mitty is neither exciting nor successful in his everyday life.
In fact, the world Mitty lives in seems hellish to him. His wife’s nagging voice awakens him from one dream. Like his wife, parking lot attendants and policemen admonish him, and women at the grocery store laugh at him.
A bumbling, ineffectual man scorned by others, he feels humiliated by the knowing grins of garage mechanics who know he cannot take the chains Style Narration In “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” Thurber tells the story of Walter Mitty, a man who lives In a dream world to escape from the routines and humiliations he suffers in everyday life.
The action takes place over the course of a single day, during which Walter Mitty and his wife go on their weekly shopping trip. Walter slips into his daydreams, only to be awakened when he has made an error in judgment, such as speeding or driving on the wrong side of the road. Thurber has carefully constructed the story’s narrative to connect Mitty’s “secret life” with his external life. In the first dream sequence, Walter is a naval commander who sails his hydroplane at full speed to avoid a hurricane.
The dream abruptly ends when his wife admonishes him for….. Historical Context
War Fantasies “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” was first published in 1939, the year World War II began.
German troops invaded Poland, the Germans and the Soviets signed a Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact, and Germany and Italy formed the Pact of Steel Alliance. While the Axis powers were consolidating, Britain and France declared war on Germany. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared U. S. neutrality in the war, but the United States entered the war in 1941 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
Roosevelt, at the suggestion of Albert Einstein, ordered a U. S. ffort to build an atomic bomb. In Spain, the forces of fascist Francisco Franco captured Madrid, ending the Spanish Civil War. While Walter Mitty, a middle-aged man, dreams of being a captain in the First World War, the dream is triggered by his reading..
… Critical Overview “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is Thurber’s best-known short story. Walter Mitty has become a well-known character in American fiction.
The tenth edition of the Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary defines a “Walter Mitty” as “a commonplace unadventurous person who seeks escape from reality through daydreaming. Walter Mitty, the average, ineffectual American is a recurring character-type in Thurber’s fiction. Critics refer to this type of character as the “Thurber male. ” However, critics are divided on how to interpret this Thurberian character. On the one hand, Richard C. Tobias’s The Art of James Thurber views Thurber as a cerebral comic writer, whose protagonists defeat humdrum reality with their imaginations.
On the other hand, Walter Blair and Hamlin Hill discuss Thurber’s bleak comic sensibility in their book, America’s Humor.
Characters like Mitty, Blair argues, let their neurotic fears….
. Criticism Critical Essay #1 Trudy Ring is a reporter, editor, and frequent writer on literary subjects. In the following essay, Ring provides an introduction to “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, comments on the universal appeal of the main character, and examines the themes presented in Thurber’s story. Walter Mitty is one of literature’s great dreamers. He spends much of his time escaping into fantasies in which he is brilliant and heroic, and his life is dramatic and adventurous.
The enduring popularity of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is undoubted ly due in great part to readers’ ability to identify With Mitty; after all, most of us find our lives at times mundane and unsatisfying, and use daydreams to enter a more interesting world. Mitty is, of course, an extreme case when It comes to daydreaming. In the….
. Critical Essay #2 In the following essay, Lindner suggests that the character of Walter Mitty in Thurber’s short story is an example of the underground American hero, one who embodies the conflict between the individual and society.
James Thurber has long been recognized as one of America’s leading modern humorists. His stories, sketches, and cartoons are engaging, often leading to chuckles of wry reminiscence. But when he created “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, ‘” Thurber wrought better than he knew, for he had touched upon one of the major themes in American literature-the conflict between individual and society.
Mitty’s forerunners are readily observable in native folklore and fiction. On one side Mitty is a descendant of Rip Van Winkle and Tom Sawyer. On the other side he dream-wishes qualities customarily exhibited by the legendary frontier hero.
… Critical Essay #3 In the following essay, Sundell discusses various conflicts in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. ” Any unit of literature which attempts to deal with the appreciation of the short story, either for pleasure or for the recognition of the principles involved in creative writing, would do well to include in its table of contents Thurber’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
” Long recognized for its entertainment value, Thurber’s most popular short story is rarely subjected to the careful scrutiny so deserving of a perfect architectural design.
As is the case with so much literary criticism, my own notes on “The Secret Life” are not so much a result of private musings as the fruit of a dialogue involving students and myself engaged in observing, through sample pieces, the structural elements of this genre. I read….
. The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” by James Thurber is a story of a man who wishes for more then he has in life. By looking inside himself and using his imagination he is able to escape from every day life.
His real life is mundane and repetitive, but by using his imagination he can experience things that few people ever get the chance to. People in the modern world do not have classic opportunities to be heroic; they often turn to living vicariously through characters in cinema.
Walter Mitty’s life is dreary and monotonous. Because of this, he will leave little to know imprint on the world. With no readily available opportunity to be exciting he must use his imagination to live a life completely opposite to the one he knows. In real life Mitty is a man who allows himself to be controlled by his wife.
The simplest demand such as “Remember to get those overshoes while I’m getting my hair done” causes Walter to jump to attention and spend most of his day worrying about things he forgot.
Mitty knows that if he does not do what his wife tells him, she will say something along the lines of “‘Where’s the what’s-its name? ‘ … ‘Don’t tell me you forgot the what’s-its-name? ‘” and that is the last thing he wants. If his life is going to be dull there is no need for it to also be unpleasant. Walter also knows that “she doesn’t like to get to the hotel first; she would want him to be their waiting for her as usual”.
The “as usual” part indicates that not only is his life unexciting it is also mind-numbingly repetitive. To get through a melancholy day Wilson lets ordinary events spark heroic images and dialogue in his imaginative mind.
To make his existence more interesting and adventurous, Walter Mitty uses his imagination to picture himself in situations that he would never have the opportunity to experience in his run-of-the-mill life. In real life, Walter Mitty can be doing something as normal as driving a car, but in his mind he is always…