The Role of Fantasy in James Thurber's The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

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The Role of Fantasy in James Thurber's The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

In "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," James Thurber tells the story of a henpecked old man who escapes his monotonous life with frequent excursions to fantasy. In the real world, he is a forgetful old man who must obey his wife's every whim. But, in his fantasies, Walter Mitty is intelligent, brave, and the epitome of manliness. He makes up for the characteristics he lacks in the real world through the heroic characters he embodies in his fantasies. Eventually, the story leads to Walter's death-a brave, heroic death in his fantasy world.

Because the story opens in Mitty's fantasy world with no explanation that it is imagination, we assume that Walter Mitty is
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In his fantasy, compliments are expected because he knows he is the best at whatever he does. He shouts out commands that are readily followed and fixes the operating machine at the same time. His skill is crucial to the operation because, as the intern nervously exclaimed, "There is no one in the East who knows how to fix it!" (566). If Dr. Mitty had not shown up to fix the machine, the results would have been tragic. His exceptional skill and intelligence as a doctor saved the day. This heroic effort makes up for the lack of skill that Walter has back in the real world.

As he leaves the imaginary hospital, we once again find Mitty in his car, again being scolded on how to drive. This time, it is the parking lot attendant who is yelling "Back it up, Mac! Look out for that Buick!" (566). Walter had made the attendant nervous by his unskilled driving. Eventually, because Mitty is such a bad driver, the attendant suggests, "Leave her sit there... I'll put her away" (566). The courageous doctor who miraculously fixed the machine and saved the day cannot even park his own car back in reality. His frustration at his lack of automotive skill continues as he mutters about the embarrassment he endures whenever he had to take his car into the shop to have the chains removed because he could not do it correctly himself. The escape to the imaginary hospital is a response by Mitty to his inability to perform manly

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