The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Topics: The New Yorker, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, James Thurber Pages: 5 (971 words) Published: December 8, 2014


The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Marcus Wilson
English 125
Alex Vuilleumier
12/18/2013

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 third-person narration, the readers have a distinct perspective and a better understanding of the character's personality and thought process. With access to the protagonist's 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 "streptothricocis" (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 streptococci 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. One of the most popular and respected humorists of the twentieth century, James Thurber was often called the Mark Twain of his era. Among his admirers were Ernest Hemingway and T. S. Eliot. Along with E. B. White, Robert Benchley, and other writers under the tutelage of New Yorker editor Harold Ross, Thurber set the standard for sophisticated humor and prose style for a generation of American readers and writers. His stories, essays, and drawings combine the mundane and the absurd to create characters and situations at once strange and familiar that continue to fascinate and amuse his audience. Thurber was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1894, the second son of Charles and Mary Fisher Thurber. His parents, a not very successful father and strong-willed mother provide the apparent models for the "Little Man" and the domineering woman characters that populate much of his writing. As a youth, Thurber suffered a severe eye injury while playing a game of William Tell with his older brother. This accidental blinding in one eye is believed to have contributed to the gradual loss of sight-in the other eye, and Thurber was completely blind by 1951. A good student and writer for his high school newspaper and literary and humor magazines at Ohio State University, Thurber nonetheless struggled in college, taking a year off in 1914–15 and leaving without a degree in 1918. Excluded from military service by his blindness, Thurber worked as a code clerk for the U. S. State Department in Washington and then at the U. S. Embassy in Paris. Upon his return to Columbus in 1920, Thurber became a reporter for the Columbus Dispatch. In 1922, he married Althea Adams. His only child, Rosemary, was born in 1931. During the mid-1920s. Thurber began writing humorous fiction in his spare time. In 1925, he took a position as a rewrite man for the Paris edition of The Chicago Tribune. Returning to New York in 1926, he worked for the New York Evening Post and continued his freelance writing. The following year he met E. B. White, who landed him a job on the fledgling New Yorker magazine. Thurber left the New Yorker in 1933, but continued to be a regular contributor to the magazine until his death in 1961. Thurber and the New Yorker were perfectly suited to each other, and his "Talk of the Town" column soon made him a celebrity. He and White collaborated on Is Sex Necessary? In 1929. His short, humorous pieces from unusual perspectives provided the material for The Owl in the Attic (1931), The Seal in the Bedroom (1932), and My Life and Hard Times (1933). These works gave him a solid and enthusiastic audience, and he left the New Yorker in 1933. After half a dozen collections of...

References: Clugston, R. W. (2010). Journey into literature. San Diego, California: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
Thurber, J. (1939). The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Columbus, Ohio: The New Yorker
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