An identification of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty . Theme: Manliness, real and perceived, as well as the lack thereof.
Symbolism is an amazing thing in any writing, and one of my favorite things when it comes to writing. From the immensity of symbolism in the Bible, to the metaphors that define and clarify emotion, symbolism is a way to get the point across when words are not enough. They force the mind to grasp what is being said; bring forth imagination to garner the truths that the writer is trying to produce. For example, the short story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” by James Thurber (Clugston, 2010) is wrought with symbolism of what it is to be a man, both by society and by the man himself.
The Commander, ice and plane: Authority, overcoming obstacles and power Gloves, overshoes: Protection
The Doctor: Importance, respect, and intelligence
Chains, sling: An attempt at control, inability, impotence
The criminal, gun: Stepping outside of the law, personal control The military captain: Once again, authority, control
The firing squad, cigarette: Facing opposition with bravery, rebellion
Throughout the lines of this story, we see the theme of the emasculation of Walter Mitty, perceived by himself, as well as shown in his capabilities, and his inability to complete tasks that he was expected to, not only by his wife, but as a man.
Mitty uses his imagination to seek out being a man within his mind, taking on various attitudes and abilities that he does not have by transforming into “powerful” men, pinnacles of machismo that he doesn’t possess.
Clugston, R. W. (2010). Journey into literature. San Diego, California: Bridgepoint Education, Inc
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