The Secret Life of Walter Mitty Essay
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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a short story that deals with the life of a Walter Mitty, a middle-aged, absent-minded man who spends much of his time daydreaming about a fantasy world in which he is at the center of various heroic escapades. During a trip to town with his wife, he dreams about a life filled with images of conquest—he pictures himself as being a Navy pilot commanding a hydroplane in the middle of a storm, a brilliant surgeon about to perform an emergency operation, an adept killer being questioned in court, and a brave soldier on a mission to bomb an ammunition dump.
It is an interesting story, which can be interpreted in many different ways. Thematically, it touches on various aspects of social, psychological, as well as existential issues that afflict the common man and that many can relate with. One of the main and prevalent themes in the story is about escapism. Mitty is a timid and henpecked husband who appears to live a mundane and colorless life.
He represents the average American middle-class man whose real experiences are dull and conventional.
Through his depiction of Mitty, the author suggests that the life of an average, middle-class man offers little opportunity for an exciting existence. Because of this, Mitty tries to escape life through his imagination. This way, he is able to get away from the defeats of his life as well as the conflicts posed by his wife and society in general. The story shows how that for some people, fantasy is a welcome alternative to reality. In his mind, Mitty takes on the characteristics he would like to embody. Not only is he brave and heroic, he can hold quick and witty dialogues in his fantasies.
In contrast to real life, he is meek and mild-mannered—in scenes wherein he parks his car and shops for puppy biscuit, it is seen that his real nature is the reverse of that of the characters he imagines himself to be. Another theme deals with failure and the feeling of helplessness in one’s life. Throughout the story, Mitty is shown passively taking orders from his overpowering wife. He wanders into his alternate reality even as his wife gives out orders. It can be speculated that Mrs. Mitty is one of the sources of his frustrations.
While in his daydreams he is controlled and “masculine”, in real life, he lets himself be dominated and ordered around by his wife. His fantasies represent his inner character which he is too afraid to actualize in real life. The fact that Mitty does not complain is a sign that he feels powerless and that he is already resigned to his fate. Therefore, the only way he is able to survive his lackluster life is through his fantasies. Mitty also appears to have issues with self-fulfillment. One can deduce that he is not successful and thus re-creates himself as an accomplished man (i.
e. being a celebrated doctor or a dazzling naval commander). Not only does his life lack excitement, it seems that his very existence is deplorable—his wife constantly nags him, park attendants and cops talk down to him, women on the street laugh at his actions. Mitty’s last fantasy can be interpreted a number of ways, one is that it evokes the feelings of helplessness Mitty feels about his real-life situation. He imagines himself facing a firing squad an this shows that he feels tired living his life and that he’d rather not live it.