Function of the Fantasies
Walter Mitty has a miserable life. He is clumsy and cowardly. He is also always pushed around by his bossy wife, yelled at by a police, and laughed at by people who take the chains off his tires. He has a pretty hard life. This is why he is always fantasizing about being a respected, well-known person. It gives him a chance to escape from the harsh reality. Some of his fantasies are being a commander, saving the day as a doctor, and not needing a handkerchief to cover his eyes when he is getting executed. In Walter Mitty’s Secret Life, he is brave, strong, manly, respected, and heroic.
In the plane fantasy, Walter Mitty is the commander. They’re going through a storm and Lieutenant Berg says they can’t make it, that the storm is too strong. But Commander Mitty, the strong, the brave, pushes on. “ ‘Throw on the power lights! Rev her up to 8,500! We’re going through!’ The pounding of the cylinders increased: ta-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa.” This shows how Mitty keeps going, is very sure of himself, and knows he can make it through, even though he is flying through a terrible storm. He started giving orders and, “ The crew, bending to their various tasks, looked at each other and grinned. ‘The Old Man’ll get us through,’ they said to one another. ‘The Old Man ain’t afraid of Hell!’” This shows that the crew also trusts Mitty and knows Mitty will get them out unharmed. Mitty has this fantasy, because he wishes that he was in charge and was giving the orders, instead of taking orders from his wife.
In the doctor fantasy, Walter Mitty is driving by a hospital and he imagines that a nurse is talking to him about an operation that is happening in a room next to him. She is telling him that Dr. Renshaw and Dr. Benbow are operating on millionaire banker Wellington McMillan, with the help of specialist doctors Remington from New York and Pritchard-Mitford from London. Then, “A door opened down a long, cool corridor and Dr. Renshaw came out. He looked distraught and haggard. ‘Hello, Mitty,’ he said. ‘We’re having the devil’s own time with McMillan….. ‘Obstreosis of the ductal tract. Tertiary. Wish you’d take a look at him.’” Here, Dr. Renshaw is stressed and is saying that the operation isn’t working. When he asks Mitty to come help, it shows that he trusts Mitty and knows that Mitty could help. Mitty steps into the operation room and hears, “‘ Didn’t know you were in the states, Mitty,’ grumbled Remington. ‘Coals to Newcastle, bringing Mitford and me up here for a tertiary.’” ‘Coals to Newcastle’ is an expression which means “something that is brought to somewhere where it is already plentiful.” Dr. Remington meant, why bring Dr. Pritchard-Mitford and me from so far away to do this operation when Mitty, who’s already here, could’ve done it all by himself. He thought it was pointless to come and also thinks Mitty is very smart and capable. Then, a complicated machine, connected to the operating table began breaking down. “‘The new anesthetizer is giving way!’ shouted an interne. ‘There is no one in the East who knows how to fix it!’ ‘Quiet, man!’ said Mitty in a low, cool voice. He sprang to the machine… ‘Give me a fountain pen!’ he snapped…He pulled a faulty piston out of the machine and inserted the pen in its place.” This shows that even though the machine that a man’s life depended on was breaking down Mitty remained cool and collected. He is also able to fix it simply with a pen. “‘Coreopsis has set in,’ said Renshaw nervously. ‘If you would take over, Mitty?’” Dr. Renshaw is scared that he won’t be able to successfully complete the operation, so he asks Mitty to continue because he knows Mitty will be able to do it. Mitty has this fantasy because he wishes that he was smart enough to fix a machine, and was well-known by famous specialist doctors. Again, in this second fantasy, Mitty is the hero and saved a millionaire’s life.
In the execution fantasy, Mitty is facing a firing squad. “‘To hell with the handkerchief,’ said Walter Mitty scornfully.” Normally, his eyes would be covered with a handkerchief so he wouldn’t see the firing squad shoot him, but in this fantasy, he isn’t cowardly and is brave to not need the handkerchief. Before they shoot, “ …he faced the firing squad; erect and motionless, proud and disdainful, Walter Mitty the Undefeated, inscrutable to the last.” Mitty has this fantasy because in it he is brave and courageous, undefeated and disdainful, which is what he wishes he was. Mitty is seconds from being killed, but he is still standing proud.
Mitty spends a lot of his life fantasizing about being manly, strong, brave, heroic, and respected. In real life, he is none of those things. He’s the exact opposite: cowardly, clumsy, and definitely not respected. He hates his life so much he wants to die. If he could learn to stand up to his wife and not get pushed around so much, he would be much happier. Then, instead of fantasizing about a wonderful life he doesn’t have, he would be living the wonderful life that he does.
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Walter Mitty has a miserable life. He is clumsy and cowardly. He is also always pushed around by his bossy wife, yelled at by a police, and laughed at by […]