In James Thurber’s 1939s short story, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” the main
character Walter Mitty, uses his imagination as a need to escape and express the emotions of
anger along with self-pit that he feels daily. By means of daydreaming, he is able to escape the
trivial details of everyday life and achieve freedom from his reality. Through the literary
essentials of character, tone, and symbolism, James Thurber is able to illustrate how Walter
Mitty escapes his everyday life by fantasizing.
The title of this fascinating story, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” confirms to the
reader that they will be involved in Walter Mitty’s “secret life” which surely is his imagination.
During the course of the story, Walter Mitty experiences five daydreams where he renovates
himself as somebody else, a grander, more improved self. In these daydreams, Walter Mitty is
often a brave and heroic figure, while in reality he is only a regular, insignificant man living an
The story was very compelling to me because it caught my attention right from the start
with its tone of intensity and danger in the opening paragraph when he demands that the air craft
he is piloting as a Navy Commander head straight through a major storm. As the paragraph
comes to an end one of the personnel on the plane reaffirms another that Mitty would be able to
get them through it, that the old man was afraid of nothing (Clugston, 2010). However, in
everyday life the main character avoids conflict and danger.
Then during the very next paragraph we realize that it was nothing more than Mitty
getting lost inside his own imagination as he is actually driving his wife into town. The
realization sets in when his wife yells at him for going several miles over the speed limit. The
short story is also somewhat humorous in that the author puts Mitty in situations that are
outrageous and outlandish, and puts a understanding through Mitty that is usually as incorrect as
you can get, such as giving the banker a disease that is prevalent in livestock, or a weapon with a
caliber that in real life would be over four feet wide (Clugston, 2010).
“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” effectively utilizes third person narrative point of view,
because it provides an insight into each character’s thoughts within the text. This type of
narration allows the author to describe the actions occurring around the main characters and
how the protagonist, Walter Mitty, daydreams to escape from his unhappy, boring life far from
his nagging, domineering wife. Walter is portrayed as a relatively quiet man, a weak man, who
lives a dull life being bossed around by his wife, so for him, these escapes from reality to fantasy
enrich Walter’s life and create the life he wishes he had (Prinsky, 2004). Mrs. Mitty is portrayed
as being assertive and bossy, and seems to take pleasure telling Walter what to do. Examples of
these are right in the first few paragraphs of the story when she tells him to slow down and to put
his gloves on. Mrs. Mitty treats Walter more like a child than her husband.
Character traits throughout the story are one of the elements that helps reveal the theme.
Walter Mitty is described as a meek and mild-mannered, hen-pecked husband who learns to
escape reality through his daydreams. Most of Walter Mitty’s sluggish behavior is probably
caused by his wife’s overpowering and demanding attitude. She is a nag and an extremely
overbearing woman, who is perhaps the ultimate cause of Walter’s secret life. My belief is that
Mrs. Mitty is definitely the dominant one in the relationship, and as orders are given by her,
Walter begins to wander into his fantasy world. Living with Mrs. Mitty clearly poses problems
and frustrations but Walter never seems to complain, he appears to...