The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Held at Gunpoint

July 9, 2019 by Essay Writer

In James Thurber’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” the contrast between Mitty represented as a brave hero in his daydreams and Mitty as a cowardly mouse in real life suggests that his daydreams cause him to lose touch with reality, to the point where he is no longer in control of his life or his daydreams. In his “daydreams,” he often imagines that he is more powerful and skilled than he is in reality, and his reality is so influenced by his wife that his imagination takes over and creates an alternate reality where he feels more important and needed. This alternate reality is what allows him to cope even with the stresses his wife puts on him every day.

In one of his daydreams, where he is on trial for an accused murder, “Walter Mitty raised his hand briefly and the bickering attorneys were stilled. ‘With any known make of a gun ,’ he said evenly, ‘I could have killed Gregory Fitzhurst at three hundred feet with my left hand.’ Pandemonium broke loose in the courtroom. A dark-haired girl was in Walter Mitty’s arms” (3). Mitty, in his daydreams, he acts as a overconfident, highly-skilled man. He is the hero and main focal point of these adventures. He acts as though he could have shot Gregory from a great distance with any kind of gun, obviously making his case worse, but raises his esteem despite this clear risk. He goes as far as to incriminate himself just to make himself viewed as a heroic being, when in reality he is a coward. At the end of the daydream, a girl runs desperately into Mitty’s arms, showing how he is always well-respected and attractive in his dreams. Mitty, in his dreams, always shows confidence and arrogance. Yet Mitty’s truly passive personality allows for his wife, Mrs. Mitty, to constrain and urge him to do things. In fact, she controls his life with no conflict or confrontation.

After Mr. Mitty is urged by his wife to use his gloves while driving, “He put them on, but after she had turned and gone into the building and he had driven onto a red light, he took them off again. ‘Pick it up, brother!’ snapped a cop as the light changed, and Mitty hastily pulled on his gloves and lurched ahead” (1). After Mitty’s wife forces Mitty to wear his gloves, he puts them on at first, but then takes them off again after reaching the red light. Once the light turns green, a cop then yells at Mitty to speed up, but Mitty instinctively pulls on his gloves in response to the cop, even though the cop never asked him to. He does this most likely because he has no control of his own life, and his wife’s authority causes him to do what she wants instinctively. He acts as though he is a weak rabbit in comparison to his wife, who clearly has more power over his life. Indeed, his submissiveness to his wife makes him weak and constantly on-edge.

Mitty, at the end of the story, becomes so overwhelmed and incapable of controlling his own life that even in his daydreams, the only place where he is capable of control, he feels defeated. After Mitty is forced to wait for his wife by the wall of a drugstore, “He took one last drag on his cigarette and snapped it away. Then, with that faint, fleeting smile playing about his lips, he faced the firing squad; erect and motionless, proud and disdainful, Walter Mitty the Undefeated, inscrutable to the last” (4). In this new daydream, Mitty turns toward a firing squad, losing expression and standing motionless – helpless. Mrs. Mitty is represented as the firing squad, cornering Mitty and restricting him to do whatever she chooses; Mitty falls helpless to his wife’s authority as he shrinks from facing her. In the end, Mitty is “fired at” by Mrs. Mitty when he tries to confront her, and this is what kills him in the end. He submits completely and allows his wife complete control over his life.

Overall, Mitty lives a cowardly life in which he does not want to face his issues head on, but instead drifts off into a fantasy where he strays farther from the tension of marriage and tries to push it back into his mind instead of overcoming it. This ultimately leads to his demise when, even in his last daydream, he is defeated.

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