Short Story Analysis

"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" by James Thurber

Critical Biography

  • James Thurber was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1894.
  • At only six years old,Thurber's brother accidentally blinded him with an arrow.
  • Thurber was married twice, the first time in 1922 and the second in 1935.
  • Thurber had bad marriages, because of this in a lot of his works he gave the women bad qualities and focused on conflict between the sexes.
  • His job as a writer for newspapers made him popular.
  • He liked to mix humor with tragedy in his works because of the way he grew up
  • He pursued cartooning as a hobby and even had some of his work published in newspapers.
  • (Morsberger, Robert E)


In "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," a short story written by James Thurber, a man uses his imagination to escape the dullness of everyday life. The main character, Walter Mitty, vividly daydreams throughout the day to he distract himself from the real world. Mitty's exciting imagination causes him trouble because he pays more attention to his "secret world" rather than real life. His lack of attention to the things around him causes him to have awkward encounters with strangers as well as causing him to forget the chores his wife gave him.
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The most notable theme in, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," was that you must seek the extraordinary in the ordinary. Mitty continuously ignores the ordinary life that he lives by escaping into an imaginative world where he has the power to be extraordinary. In his "secret world," Mitty portrays himself as highly respectable characters, contrasting the mundane life he lives. The people in his imagination look up to him, as seen in the quote stating,"'The Old Man 'll get us through,' they said to one another. 'The Old Man ain't afraid of Hell!' (Thurber, James).

Mitty longs for the exciting lifestyles he creates, and by doing so, his wife becomes a nag attempting to pull him back to reality, making him resent the real world even more. "She seemed grossly unfamiliar, like a strange woman who had yelled at him in a crowd," Mitty states after his wife had woken him up (Thurber, James). The author portrays Mrs. Mitty as a nuisance who's always criticizing Walter for daydreaming. She frequently brings up the idea of taking Mitty to a Doctor for his distractions. She says, "It's one of your days. I wish you'd let Dr. Renshaw look you over. " (Thurber, James). Despite his wife's input, Mitty continues daydreaming.

Walter Mitty creates an extraordinary world to fulfill the extremities his ordinary life cannot. Despite the numerous problems his daydreams cause, he does not stop. His "secret world" is favored over reality in a way that his happiness would diminish if he were to stop daydreaming. The author shows us in an admirable way we should control our lives and live them the way we want to. Walter Mitty is not content with his life, and he finds a way to enjoy it by escaping reality.

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Works Cited

Morsberger, Robert E. "Thurber, James 1894-1961." American Writers: A Collection of Literary Biographies, Supplement 1. Ed. Leonard Unger. Vol. 2. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1979. 602-627. Scribner Writers on GVRL. Web. 10 May 2016.

Thurber, James. "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." fraumuenster. 10 October 2013. PDF file.

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