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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

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Isabella Varvaro

Understanding Lit

Final Essay

April 14th, 2011

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Imagination is something that is lost in most people after the age of five years old. After this age, people no longer think that they are princesses or Nascar drivers on a day to day bases. If people continue to hold the ability to imagine, once they are no longer children, they need to put it down on paper. These people must become writers, directors, artists, or advertisers. If their occupation does not reflect their creative imaginations, and they still continue to dream up these fantasies, they can easily be called crazy. Walter Mitty did not hold one of these jobs though nor was he crazy. Walter Mitty was a man dissatisfied with the life he lead. He probably never went to war or earned a purple heart. He probably never met his soulmate, or even had children of his own to be proud of. Walter Mitty wished he could have done amazing things with what he was given, however, his life passed him by. To make up for his dull life in an exciting world, he imagined. He imagined danger and drama, being the good guy and being the bad. Walter Mitty embellished his boring day to day activities to recreate the life he wished he lived.

In Walter Mitty's first fantasy he is driving into town with his wife. He imagines that he is driving a Navy hydroplane and that he throws into gear to make it through a storm. He imagines his commander in "...his full-dress uniform, with the heavily braided white cap pulled down rakishly over one cold gray eye" (Thurber 720). Mitty creates his a hazardous situation and is taking on a challenge to get his crew through the storm. He wants to try something where he risks his life to accomplish something or show bravery. The detailed images that he sees are probably notions that he read about, saw in a news paper, or magazines, or that he possibly watched in war movies. In his day dream he increases the cylinders of the plane though in actuality he is increasing the speed of his car. Walter masked his simple task of driving with this fake scene. He craved to do something more than drive his wife into town. His wife interrupts his dream by shouting at him, that she does not like how fast he is driving. Before this, she was completely tuned out of his mind. She was not part of his fantasy and her presence in the seat besides him was non-existent. She said to him "You now I don't like to go more than forty. You were up to fifty-five" (Thurber 721). Walter's wife expected him to adhere to what she said. Here there is an immediate sense that Mrs. Mitty has an over baring power over her husband. Not only is Walter's life dull but he also displays a lack of power and personal choice in his life. This is another reason that he gets lost in his fantasies. In them, Walter can exercise the control he lacks in his real life. Walter uses his fantasies as an outlet but also as an escape. Walter is not crazy but bored and oppressed.

Mrs. Mitty suggests that Walter should see a his doctor, telling him that he is having "...one of {his} days" (Thurber 721). She continues to give him orders to buy over-shoes while she is getting her hair done. This is something that Walter does not want to do. His hesitation is probably not about whether he needs the over shoes or not, but about his inclination to defy her. His wive's last order before she goes into her salon is for her husband to put on his gloves. At first, Walter naturally abides, though as she turns away he decides to pull them off. Her control is apparent again when Walter rebels as a child would rebel from his mother's orders. As he drives past the hospital looking for a parking spot he drifts into his next fantasy. Walter is a British doctor. A very important man is extremely ill and the hospital and other doctors are relying on Walter to cure him. Everyone in this fantasy is looking to Walter to save the day, for Walter to take this responsibility to save someone else's life. In the day dream Walter knows how operate complex machinery and the name of the sicknesses, which is evidently made up. Walter diagnoses "Obstreosis" and "Streptothricosis" as diseases, which are actually not real. Mitty shows here a lack of knowledge that he desired. He probably did not go to college or did not hold any type of degree. This is something else that he felt his life was missing. The task that Walter Mitty is being held responsible for in his real life is reflected in his day dream. To buy over-shoes is a simple mindless job that he is being asked to do. Saving the VIP's life in his day dream requires immense apprehension and thought. Walter's fantasy wraps up, again, by being yelled at.

A parking attendant is telling him that he is putting his car in the exist only lane. Walter was doing a bad job parking the car and a younger man from the garage has to help him. Walter here was put down because he was, in a way, being shown up by

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