secret life Essay

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber Copyright Notice 01998-2002; 02002 by Gale Cengage. Gale is a division of Cengage Learning. Gale and Gale Cengage are trademarks used herein under license. For complete copyright information on these eNotes please visit: http:// www. enotes. com/secret-life/copyright eNotes: Table of Contents 1 . The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Introduction 2. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: James Thurber Biography 3. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Summary 4. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Characters 5. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Themes 6.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Style . The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Historical Context 8. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Critical Overview 9. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Essays and Criticism The Universal Appeal of the Main Character Thurber’s Walter Mitty??”The Underground American Hero The Architecture of Walter Mitty’s Secret Life 10. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Compare and Contrast 1 1 . The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Topics for Further Study 12. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Media Adaptations 13. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: What Do I Read Next? 14.

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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Bibliography and Further Reading 15. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Pictures 16. Copyright The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Introduction James Thurber is one of America’s best known humorists, and “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is his best known story. The story was first published in 1939 in the New Yorker magazine to great acclaim. It was reprinted in Thurber’s 1942 collection, My World??”And Welcome To It and in Reader’s Digest in 1943. The story’s main character is a middle-aged, middle-class man who escapes from the routine drudgery of his suburban life into fantasies of heroic conquest.

Upon the story’s publication, Walter Mitty became an archetypal American fgure. Today, people still describe a certain kind of neurotic, daydreaming man as a “Walter Mitty type. ” In 1947, Hollywood released a movie of the same title, starring Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo. Although his humorous stories, sketches, and illustrations were well-known during received little scholarly attention. Some critics dismissed his work as little more than formulaic and whimsical. More recently, critics have become attentive to Thurber’s literary prowess, such as his use of wordplay and attention to narrative form.

They have also discussed the darker themes of his work which lurk underneath the hilarity. Others, referring to his tendency to portray domineering women, like Mrs. Mitty, and unhappy, ineffectual men, like Walter, fault his treatment of women and views of marriage. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: James Thurber Biography James Thurber was a prolific writer and artist who published over twenty books of stories, biographies, drawings, sketches, essays, poetry, fables and cartoons. During the 1920s and 1930s, Thurber wrote for the popular and influential literary magazine The New Yorker.

His work for the magazine established his reputation as a comic with a sophisticated sensibility who largely wrote about upper middle-class ntellectuals. Much of his work focused on the milieu of East Coast society. Thurber was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1894, and some of his writing, such as his “mock” memoirs, My Life and Hard Times, treat his experiences as a boy growing up in Ohio. After attending Ohio State University, he worked as a newspaper reporter in Ohio, France, and New York before Joining the staff of the The New Yorker in 1927.

As a writer and editor at The New Yorker, Thurber worked with the versatile writer E. B. White, who wrote the well-known children’s favorite Charlotte’s Web and other works. White’s literary skill influenced Thurber’s craft. Thurber wrote fifteen drafts of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” a story of five pages, before he submitted it for publication. Thurber gained recognition for his work from Williams College and Yale University, which awarded him honorary degrees, and his drawings were exhibited in international art shows. Regarded primarily as a humorist, Thurber’s reputation as a serious writer has suffered somewhat.

Critical attention has focused largely on the comic aspect of his writing and not on the deeper themes and social satire present in his work. Thurber married twice. His first marriage to Althea Adams lasted thirteen ears and produced a daughter. After they divorced, he married Helen Wismer. In the 1940s, Thurber began losing his vision. Eventually, he went completely blind. In his later years, depressed by his health and by the anticommunist movement of the 1950s, which he opposed, Thurber’s writing became more pessimistic. He died in 1961.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Summary As “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” begins, a military officer orders an airplane crew to proceed with a flight through a dangerous storm. The crewmembers are scared but are buoyed by their commander’s confidence, and they express their faith in him. Suddenly, the setting switches to an ordinary highway, where Walter Mitty and his one of Mitty’s many fantasies. Mitty’s wife observes that he seems tense, and when he drops her off in front of a hair styling salon, she reminds him to go buy overshoes and advises him to put on his gloves.

He drives away toward a parking lot and loses himself in another fantasy. In this daydream he is a brilliant doctor, called upon to perform an operation on a prominent banker. His thoughts are interrupted by the attendant at the parking lot, where Mitty is trying to enter through the exit lane. He has trouble backing out to get nto the proper lane, and the attendant has to take the wheel. Mitty walks away, resentful of the attendant’s skill and self-assurance. Next, Mitty finds a shoe store and buys overshoes.

He is trying to remember what else his wife wanted him to buy when he hears a newsboy shouting about a trial, which sends Mitty into another daydream. Mitty is on the witness stand in a courtroom. He identifies a gun as his own and reveals that he is a skillful marksman. His The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Introduction 2 testimony causes a disturbance in the courtroom. An attractive young woman falls nto his arms; the district attorney strikes her and Mitty punches him. This time Mitty brings himself out of his reverie by remembering what he was supposed to buy. Puppy biscuit,” he says aloud, leading a woman on the street to laugh and tell her friend, “That man said ‘Puppy biscuit’ to himself. ” Mitty then goes to a grocery store for the dog biscuits and makes his way to the hotel lobby where he has arranged to meet his wife. He sits in a chair and picks up a magazine that carries a story about airborne warfare. He begins to daydream again, seeing himself as a heroic bomber pilot about to go on a dangerous mission. He is brave and lighthearted as he prepares to risk his life. He returns to the real world when his wife claps him on the shoulder.

She is full of questions, and he explains to her that he was thinking. “Does it ever occur to you that I am sometimes thinking? ” he says. She replies that she plans to take his temperature when they get home. They leave the hotel and walk toward the parking lot. She darts into a drugstore for one last purchase, and Mitty remains on the street as it begins to rain. He lights a cigarette imagines himself smoking it in front of a firing squad. He tosses the igarette away and faces the guns courageously-??””Walter Mitty the Undefeated, inscrutable to the last. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Characters Mrs. Mitty Mrs. Mitty is Walter’s dominating wife. She nags him to buy galoshes, to put on his gloves, and to drive more slowly. When she asks Walter why he did not put on his overshoes before leaving the store, he responds with irritation: “l was thinking… does it ever occur to you that I am sometimes thinking? ” But while Mrs. Mitty may appear overly controlling and condescending, Walter is incompetent and refuses to shoulder adult responsibility. Mrs.

Mitty is Walter’s link to reality; she prevents accidents and Walter Mitty Walter Mitty is a daydreamer who imagines himself the hero of his fantasies as a naw pilot commander, doctor, sharpshooter, bomber pilot, and noble victim of a firing squad. Mitty is married to a woman who treats him more like a child than a husband. This is due to his immature tendency to escape into fantasies rather than live in the real world. He is constantly being upbraided by policemen, parking lot attendants, and his wife for his erratic, distracted behavior.

Thurber’s characterization of this neurotic man whose wife dominates him, who cannot fix his wn car, and who lives in dreams has become an archetypal fgure of the ineffectual, weak-willed, bumbling male in American culture. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Themes Walter Mitty is an ordinary character who fills his mind with fantasies in which he plays the hero, saves lives, navigates enemy territory, and proves his masculinity. Success and Failure The theme of success and failure is examined through Mitty’s inability to live a fulfilling external life, which causes him to retreat to an internal life full of images of conquest.

Walter Mitty is neither exciting nor successful in his everyday life. In fact, he world Mitty lives in seems hellish to him. His wife’s nagging voice awakens him from one dream. Like his wife, parking lot attendants and policemen admonish him, and women at the grocery store laugh at him. A bumbling, ineffectual man scorned by others, he feels humiliated by the knowing grins of garage mechanics who know he cannot take the chains off his car’s tires. To avoid their sneers, he imagines taking the car into the garage with his arm in a sling so “they’ll see I couldn’t possibly take the chains off myself. 3 The failures of his everyday life are countered by the extraordinary successes he lays out in his fantasy life. Mitty is always the stunning hero of his dreams: he flies a plane through horrendous weather and saves the crew; he saves a millionaire banker with his dexterity and common sense in surgery; he stuns a courtroom with tales of his snapshooting; and he fearlessly faces a firing squad. Although he always forgets what his wife wants him to pick up at the store and he waits for her in the wrong part of the hotel lobby, Walter is alert, courageous and at the center of attention in his dreams.

Thurber suggests that this ordinary man who hates the reality of middle- lass life and his own shortcomings prefers to live in his imagination. Gender Roles Walter’s failures in life and his successes in dreams are closely connected with gender roles. Everyday life for him consists of being ridiculed by women, such as the one who hears him mutter “puppy biscuit” on the street and his wife who nags him. Among women, Walter is subservient and the object of derision. Among men, Walter fails to meet traditional expectations of masculinity.

He is embarrassed by his mechanical ineptitude: when he tries to remove the chains from his tires, he ends up ho arrives is described as “young” and “grinning. ” The description implies that the man, younger and more virile, is laughing at Walter’s ignorance of cars and makes Walter feel emasculated, or less of a man. Walter resolves that the next time he takes the car to the shop to have the chains removed, he will cover his shame by wearing his right arm in a sling. Walter compensates for his failure to fulfill conventional expectations of masculinity in his daydreams.

All of his fantasies center around feats of traditionally masculine prowess, and many of them involve violence. He can hit a arget three hundred feet away with his left hand, fix sophisticated machinery with a common fountain pen, and walk bravely into battle in his fantasy worlds. Thurber’ s exploration of sex roles in modern America can be understood in various ways: Thurber might be suggesting that men have become weak and ineffectual and women overly aggressive, or he may be pointing to a lack of opportunities for men to perform meaningful, heroic action in modern, suburban, middle-class America.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Style Narration In “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” Thurber tells the story of Walter Mitty, a man who ives in a dream world to escape from the routines and humiliations he suffers in everyday life. The action takes place over the course of a single day, during which Walter Mitty and his wife go on their weekly shopping trip. Walter slips into his daydreams, only to be awakened when he has made an error in Judgment, such as speeding or driving on the wrong side of the road. Thurber has carefully constructed the story’s narrative to connect Mitty’s “secret life” with his external life.

In the first dream sequence, Walter is a naval commander who sails his hydroplane at full speed to avoid a hurricane. The dream abruptly ends hen his wife admonishes him for driving too quickly, implying that Walter’s dream led to his speeding. The second dream begins when his wife notes that he is tense, and asks him to see a doctor. Hearing the name of the doctor sends Walter Mitty into dreaming that he is a famous surgeon who assists in saving the life of a wealthy patient, a banker named Wellington MacMillan. Each of the dreams, then, begins with some detail from Walter’s everyday life.

Walter transforms insignificant comments, sounds or objects into major props in his heroic conquests. The same details from reality force him out of his dream world. Significantly, the story opens and closes in the middle of dream sequences, as if to emphasize their priority over reality for Walter. It is left to the reader to consider the importance of the last scene, in which Walter bravely faces a firing squad without a blindfold. Thurber’s narrative proficiency is such that he actually writes six stories within one.

None of the mini- narratives have decisive conclusions: each of the dream sequences, like the entire story, is an abbreviated short story with no clear beginning or end. 4 Linked to his use of narration, Thurber uses an unusual point of view in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. ” The story is told in the third-person, but the reader has access to Mitty’s thoughts. The dream sequences complicate this third-person limited point of view. During these sections of the story, readers are inside of Walter’s fantasy. His conscious thoughts are on display.

He wonders what he was supposed to buy at the store. Readers also have access to another level of Mitty’s consciousness during the dream sequences. Here, Walter’s thoughts are projected into narrative action. Thurber shifts from one level of awareness to another without confusing the reader. Wordplay Thurber has been praised for his use of extravagant wordplay and literary allusions. Noted primarily for his light sketches and humorous line drawings, Thurber did not receive a great deal of serious critical appraisal during his career.

However, later critics have commented on his bitter political and social commentary and the latent, darker themes in his work. Through his use of humor and wit, Thurber was able to explore the conflicts and neurotic tensions of modern life. Mitty’s misuse of words such as “coreopsis” and “obstreosis” in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is a typical example of how Thurber employed speech to great effect. Humorous distortions of medical terms, technological advancements, and items of warfare make Mitty’s portrayal accurate, lifelike, and believable.

During his courtroom daydream, Mitty is called upon to identify a gun known as a “Webley-Vickers 50. 80. ” This is another instance where Thurber twists words to enrich the depiction of Mitty’s character. Carl M. Lindner asserts that this distortion of a brand-name (probably Smith and Wesson ??”a well-known gun manufacturer) demonstrates Mitty’s “ignorance of the heroic experience” and amuses readers at the same time. Thurber used such distortions of peech and reality to effectively depict the absurdities of the human condition.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Historical Context War Fantasies “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” was first published in 1939, the year World War II began. German troops invaded Poland, the Germans and the Soviets signed a Nazi- Soviet nonagression pact, and Germany and Italy formed the Pact of Steel Alliance. While the Axis powers were consolidating, Britain and France declared war on Germany. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared U. S. neutrality in the war, but the United States entered the war in 1941 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Roosevelt, at the suggestion of Albert Einstein, ordered a U.

S. effort to build an atomic bomb. In Spain, the forces of fascist Francisco Franco captured Madrid, ending the Spanish Civil War. While Walter Mitty, a middle-aged man, dreams of being a captain in the First World War, the dream is triggered by his reading an article intimating World War II in Liberty magazine entitled, “Can Germany Conquer the World Through the Air? ” The articles contain “pictures of bombing planes and of ruined streets. ” In the late 1930s and early 1940s, American men like Walter Mitty had to confront their ears of and desires for proving their manhood in battle.

Modernism Thurber’s use of wordplay and exploration of the absurdity of modern life has been noted for its affinities with modernist writing. Modernists played with conventional experience. Thurber’s narrative technique has been compared to the writings of William Faulkner, whose novels Absalom, Absalom! and Light in August were published in the 1930s. Thurber’s playful use of words and themes of absurdity also show the influence of the poet Wallace Stevens, whose book of verse, The Man with the Blue Guitar was published in 1937. Towards the end of the story, Walter comments that “things close in,” which, according to Carl M.

Lindner, represents the suffocating effects of modern life on “the Romantic individual. ” That the world was changing The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Style 5 due to technological, economic, and social developments (think of Walter’s problems fixing his car, for example) is reflected in the opening of the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair, whose theme was “The World of Tomorrow. ” The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Critical Overview “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is Thurber’s best-known short story. Walter Mitty has ecome a well-known character in American fiction.

The tenth edition of the Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary defines a “Walter Mitty” as “a commonplace unadventurous person who seeks escape from reality through daydreaming. ” Waller Mitty, the average, ineffectual American is a recurring character-type in Thurber’s fiction. Critics refer to this type of character as the “Thurber male. ” However, critics are divided on how to interpret this Thurberian character. On the one hand, Richard C. Tobias’s The Art of James Thurber views Thurber as a cerebral comic writer, whose protagonists defeat humdrum reality with their imaginations.

On the other hand, Walter Blair and Hamlin Hill discuss Thurber’s bleak comic sensibility in their book, America’s Humor. Characters like Mitty, Blair argues, let their neurotic fears defeat them, and are unable to cope with the world. In The Georgia Review, Carl M. Lindner sees Walter Mitty as the latest in a line of American male heroes, such as Rip Van Winkle and Tom Sawyer. Like these archetypal comic fgures, Mitty chooses to escape society rather than confront it. Refusing to accept adult responsibility, Lindner argues, these figures of masculinity regress to boyish behavior. Critics disagree about

Thurber’s portrayal of women as well. Commentators such as Blair and Hill consider him a misogynist??”a person who hates women. Viewing Mrs. Mitty as the one responsible for Walter’s loss of independence and his inability to function, such critics believe Thurber was opposed to strong, empowered female characters. Tobias, on the other hand, praises Thurber’s assertive female characters. Critics who analyze Thurber’s stories as lightly comic and triumphant are more likely to regard favorably his depictions of women; those who concentrate on his darker themes point to his negative portrayals of women.

Another issue which recurs in critical discussion is Thurber’s view of modern life and his technique in portraying it. His writing has been compared to that of modernist writers such as William Faulkner, James Joyce and T. S. Eliot. His use of wordplay, integration of different narrative consciousnesses, and Robert Morseberger, in his monograph, James Thurber, characterizes Thurber as a Romantic writer, one who opposes technological advances and rationality and believes in the mind’s ability to provide an escape from the destructive forces of society.

In an essay in the English Journal, Carl Sundell discusses the “architectural esign” of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. ” He notes that Thurber addresses four of the five major types of conflict found in fiction: Man vs. Man, Man vs. Society, Man vs. Self and Man vs. Nature. Sundell compares Thurber’s ability to elicit the sympathy of the reader in “Mitty” to J. D. Salinger’s portrayal of Holden Caulfield, the protagonist in the novel Catcher in the Rye. He notes that, like Holden, Walter seems to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Unlike the adolescent Caulfield, though, Walter is an adult, and thus his chronic daydreaming merits less sympathy from the reader. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Essays and Criticism Walter Mitty is one of literature’s great dreamers. He spends much of his time escaping into fantasies in which he is brilliant and heroic, and his life is dramatic and adventurous. The enduring popularity of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is undoubtedly due in great part to readers’ ability to identify with Mitty; after all, most 6 of us find our lives at times mundane and unsatisfying, and use daydreams to enter a more interesting world.

Mitty is, of course, an extreme case when it comes to daydreaming. In the single afternoon covered by the story’s action, he imagines he is prominent surgeon operating on a millionaire; a skilled marksman providing testimony in a sensational trial; a courageous warrior of the air (twice); and a condemned man bravely facing a firing squad. Numerous critics have pointed to Mitty as a prime example of modern man, trapped in a world that is full of dull responsibilities and offers few possibilities for adventure ??”or, at least, offers these possibilities only to the few.

Mitty dreams of flying planes in hazardous conditions and causing scenes in courtrooms, but his life consists of buying overshoes and waiting for his wife to have her hair done. In his fantasies, not nly is his life exciting, but his imagined persona is heroic and resourceful as well. In his daydreams he is a figure larger than life, unflappable and in control of every situation; in reality he is a character critics have dubbed the “little man,” ineffectual and somewhat ridiculous. He inspires feelings of superiority in garage attendants.

When he remembers that he is supposed to buy puppy biscuit, he says the words aloud, leading a passer-by to laugh and remark to her companion, “That man said ‘Puppy biscuit’ to himself. ” Even a revolving door seems to mock him; it makes a “faintly derisive” noise when pushed. Mitty’s mental meanderings also have something to do with asserting his manhood, at least a stereotypical idea of manhood. He fantasizes about excelling at what are considered “masculine” pursuits having to do with guns and bombs; in reality, he has trouble taking the chains off his Scholar Carl M.

Lindner asserts in an essay in The Georgia Review that the forces that induce Mitty to daydream include the development of urban, industrial society. When the United States was a young country, with an untamed frontier, there were far more opportunities for heroic action??”or, at least, there seemed to be, Lindner notes. Also, literature and legend immortalized many frontier heroes, whether fictional creations such as James Fenimore Cooper’s Natty Bumppo or real historical fgures such as Daw Crockett (whose accomplishments were heavily exaggerated, so that he now seems almost like a fictional character). With the frontier gone, and physical and psychological space limited, the typical male is reduced to fantasy-visions as outlets for that action which is now denied him,” Lindner states. Whether Mitty actually would become a hero if possibilities for action were available to him is open o question; he appears to lack capability as well as opportunity. Some critics have contended Mitty’s inability to deal with life is the natural result of the modern world’s stresses on the individual. In James Thurber’s vision, this world is “Hell for the Romantic individual,” comments Lindner.

However, in the estimation of another critic, Ann Ferguson Mann, Mitty has merely abdicated responsibility for his life. In her essay in Studies in Short Fiction, Mann writes: “What Thurber’s story can show us, while it delights us with its clever humor, is that what traps the Walter Mittys of this orld and insures that they will remain ‘little men’ is their own limited view of themselves and others. ” Mann’s view diverges from a widely held assertion that holds Mitty’s wife responsible for his predicament as well as blaming contemporary society.

In his stories and cartoons, Thurber often portrayed women, especially wives, as dominating and menacing creatures, breaking the spirit of the men in their lives. Critic Norris Yates gives an interpretation of Thurber’s viewpoint in his book entitled American Humorist; Conscience of the Twentieth Century. Yates writes: “Thurber eels that the male animal is unduly repressed by his environment, an environment which contains another animal, his wife, who both abets and conceals her ruthlessness by means of more resolution, solicitude for her mate, and competence in the small matters of everyday living than he shows. Certainly, this description fits Mrs. Mitty in some ways. She obviously worries about Walter’s health and welfare; she observes that he is nervous, suggests a visit to a doctor, notes that she intends to check his temperature when they return home, and reminds him to wear his gloves and buy overshoes. The fact that she would have to remind him of these things is a sign that she is indeed more competent than he, and is constantly concerned about his well being.

Another indication of her competence is that she notices when he is driving too fast. She also seems not to understand his need for escapism; he wonders if she realizes that he is sometimes thinking. 7 Mann makes a rather convincing argument in that Mrs. Mitty’s actions can be seen as quite understandable and even praise worthy. “No critics and few readers of the story have tried to imagine the difficulties of living with Walter Mitty,” Mann atience. He has trouble remembering the errands he is supposed to run.

He rebels at the idea of dressing properly for winter. He is an inept driver. And he slides into his fantasies with little provocation. It has fallen to Mrs. Mitty (Thurber gives her no first name) to manage the details of Walter’s life. “She is there to keep him from driving too fast, to get him to wear gloves and overshoes, to take him to the doctor, but, most importantly, to free him from all the practical responsibilities of living so that he can pursue his real career??”his fantasy life,” notes Mann.

It is not inconceivable that Mitty, the architect of so many intricate fantasies, unconsciously chose for himself a wife like Mrs. Mitty. ” This rather positive view of Mrs. Mitty is not only at odds with that held by many other critics, but also might surprise Thurber, given that much of his work contained negative portraits of women. Late in his career, however, Thurber contended he was not a misogynist. Yates points to a statement Thurber wrote in 1953: “If I have sometimes seemed to make fun of Woman, I assure you it has been only for the purpose of egging her on. Additionally, tories can be interpreted in many ways, not limited to what the author may have intended. In the end, it is possible to sympathize with both Walter and Mrs. Mitty. It is understandable that he would want to find in his fantasies what he lacks in life; it is also easy to see that she would have to be the more responsible member of the couple, and that she would sometimes have to play the unpopular role of disciplinarian. He needs someone to take care of him; perhaps she needs to take care of someone.

Therefore, each fulfills a need for the other. Readers may be able to identify with Mrs. Mitty to some extent. This is limited, however, because she is rather sketchily drawn, because her role in the story is secondary to Walter’s, and because dreamers are generally more appealing than are earthbound, practical people. Walter remains the story’s primary audience-identification fgure. Readers are able to identify with Mitty not only because of the fact that he fantasizes, but also because of the content of his fantasies.

The content is familiar, as it is drawn from American popular culture. His military scenarios are full of cliches from war films. The courtroom scene could be from a low-budget 1940s mystery movie or a paperback crime novel. The firing-squad ending could come from a movie, too. And the medical fantasy is pure soap opera. Some critics have pointed out that the daydream sequences show Thurber’s skill as a parodist??”a skill he also displayed in Fables For Our Time and other works.

Consider these lines from Mitty’s dream of being a naval aviator, flying through a severe storm: “The crew 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. ‘” Or these from the trial fantasy: “Pandemonium broke loose in the courtroom. A woman’s scream rose above the bedlam and suddenly a lovely, dark- aired girl was in Mitty’s arms. The District Attorney struck at her savagely.

Without rising from his chair, Mitty let the man have it on the point of the chin. ‘You miserable cur! ‘… ” Thurber takes material that is familiar to the audience and makes it hilarious through exaggeration. The fantasy scenes also contain humor based on made-up and misused words; for instance, Mitty imagines himself to be a doctor dealing with diseases called obstreosis and streptothricosis (both fabricated words), as well as coreopsis (really a genus of herb). Several critics interpret the cliched content and


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