Comparing Lord Dunsany’s Two Bottles of Relish and James Thurber’s Secret Life of Walter Mitty

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A Comparison of Lord Dunsany’s Two Bottles of Relish and James Thurber’s Secret Life of Walter Mitty

“The Two Bottles of Relish,” by Lord Dunsany, written in 1932, tells the story of Smithers, a relish vendor and London resident, in his quest to sell his product, Num-numo and, along with his new roommate, Linley, solve the murder of Nancy Elth. The 1942 short story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” by James Thurber, documents the fantasies of ordinary man Walter Mitty as he attempts to escape his mundane life. Both Smithers and Mitty have low self-esteem and are ambitious in different ways, but they differ in imagination.

Both Smithers and Mitty have low opinions of themselves and permit others to
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Each man is ambitious; however, Smithers sets realistic goals, but Mitty’s aspirations have no basis in reality. Smithers simply wants to be a better salesman and proves his desire when he becomes excited about living with Linley because Smithers thinks by learning to sound more sophisticated he can sell to a larger clientele, and he proclaims, “ If I picked up only a quarter of it from this Mr. Linley I’d be able to double my sales”(43). Smithers is so committed to his goal that he is willing to pay more rent than he can afford to soak up Linley’s knowledge. Also, Smithers displays the initiative to solve the murder and does all the work by traveling to Unge to gather the clues needed to solve the mystery. He displays his determination to sell his product in Unge after he finds out that Steeger, the prime suspect in the murder, had bought two bottles of Num-numo relish, and Smithers says, “ A murder certainly stimulates people’s minds, and Steeger’s two bottles gave me an opportunity that only a fool would have failed to make something of”(51). Mitty’s ambition is unrealistic and is proven when he pretends to be a hydro-plane pilot and to understand the use of complicated dials on the plane. Another example of Walter Mitty’s ludicrous dreams is his imagining he is a doctor who is completely relaxed while operating on one of the most important people in the country and is poised in a high stress situation when he fixes an anaesthetizer with

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