In James Thurber’s short story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” we encounter a man who constantly daydreams. Since the story is told in a thirdrperson narration. the readers have a distinct perspective and a better understanding of the character‘s personality and thought process. With access to the protagonists mind, the readers are able to understand and relate the significance of his dreams to his reality. Mitty‘s dreams of being a highly regarded individual are contrast to his real life.
The contradiction lays in the incompetence and lack of knowledge he truly possesses. As Dr, Mitty, he accomplishes ” a brilliant performance ” by writing a book on “streptothricocrs“ (819), a term which does not eXist. The readers can come to two conclusions. The first being Mitty is not a highly educated man. He invents a word that sounds intelligent and complex in order to realize his fantasy.
The second possibility involves Mitty imagining strpothricocis as some sort of new and rare disease In this case Mitty would not be satisfied with being a simple doctor, Wanting to lead the way.
he sees himself as a pioneer, as though he were the first physician who created breakthrough discoveries on this disease. This dream corresponds to the other extremity he faces in reality. Aside from not having much brainpower, his manual skills are as deplorable. He demonstrates this as “once he had tried to take his chains off” his tires “and got them wounded around the axels”. His awareness of his incapability’s in physical labour is shown through the dream of the crackrshot murderer where he claims: “I could have killed Gregory Fitzhurst at three hundred feet With my left-hand“, even though his right hand was in a sling.
Firing a weapon With precision requires a lot of skill.
Being able to accomplish this deadly task with his opposite hand indicates once again to the readers that Mitty desires to be someone who possesses great abilities. The relationship between Mitty’s personality and his age is similar to that of his dreams and reality, Both comparisons are at opposite ends of one another. Although we don‘t know the protagonist’s age, according to his Wife we know he is “not a young man any longer”(819). Nevertheless. his mind still functions as an infant’s. His childish behaviour incites others to push him around. His ”(racing) of the engine” as his Wife nags him demonstrates his lack of maturity. He sees her as a mother figure that scolds him and brings his pleasures to a halt. As Captain Mitty, it seems Walter enioys the thought of piloting his bomber. even during the war.
The readers can therefore understand he seeks excitement and entertainment but is instead forced to concede to dullness. His lack of maturity is further reinforced as he ponders upon a solution to the mechanics that “grin at (him)”. He suggests he will “wear his right arm in a sling” the next time his vehicle needs to be fixed. He would rather fabricate excuses than modify his behaviour in order to gain respect, This is why he Will never selfr improve, Mitty‘s marriage impnsons his life until his only escape becomes his dreams. He describes his wife ” seeming grossly unfamiliar, like a strange woman who had yelled at him in a crowd “. She treats Walter as a little boy. not as a loving husband. Her constant nagging reveals she uses him as an emotional punching bag. releasing her frustrations and pessimism upon his presence, During their car ride. she scolds him for drivtng to fast, She thinks he is havtng “one of (those) days”.
Through Mitty’s perspective. however. the readers are able to understand the reason behind the speeding. In his dream. Commander Mitty is saving the day aboard a Navy hydroplane by turning on the boosters. It is therefore his unconscious mind that directs his loot to press down on the accelerator. to his wife’s dismay. At the very end of the story. Mitty begins to rebel: ” Does it ever occur to you that I am sometimes thinking? “. As he finally demonstrates some flash of hope towards self-respect. it quickly fades as the readers are brought back into his mind. His execution by the firing squad reveals he has given up hope. He is no longer the hero as in his other dreams. but instead a helpless little boy. As he solemnly waits for his Wife outside the store. he realizes nothing Will change in his marriage and that he is at her mercy. If we were not transported into Walter Mitty‘s mind, he would certainly be perceived as a boring man. losing himself In his thoughts every now and then. His lack of integrity wtll force him to keep Iivmg the life he would rather modify. As readers. we realize he is obliged to plunge into new fantasies in order to keep despair. age and boredom at bay. That is why we can understand the complex world of Walter Mitty.