Escapism In 'The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty'

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Lacey Irby Mrs. McKay Honors English 10 3 November 2015 Escapism in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” Walter Mitty, a daydreamer, imagines himself as the protagonist of his fantasies: a navy pilot commander, surgeon, marksman, bomber pilot, and a victim of the firing squad. Mitty's wife treats him like a child rather than a husband. However, Mitty does tend to provoke her behavior by participating in these daydreams. He is admonished by parking lot attendants, policemen, and his own wife for behaving in this childish manner. Mitty is a grown adult who is upbraided by his wife and cannot fix his own car. Mitty, therefore, is unable to live a fulfilling, normal life; this causes him to create his interpretation of an ideal one. Mitty's external…show more content…
He is treated cruelly by the real world and wishes to escape. When Walter stops for a red light and lingers when it turns green, he is snapped at by a policeman. He drives around and is soon engulfed by another dream, then jolted back by a reprimand from a parking lot attendant. "Back it up, Mack. Look out for that Buick." He is reminded of a previous occasion when he attempted to change the chains from his tires, which resulted with the chains tangled in the axle. He was given help by a garageman to untangle them and claims, "I’ll wear my right arm in a sling and they'll see I couldn't possibly take the chains off myself." In the courtroom fantasy shortly after, Mitty sacrifices himself for the guilty female culprit of a murder. He claims that, even though his right hand is in a sling and he is right-handed, he could have shot the victim with his left hand. He pits himself against society in defense of a young woman. Another example is the time when Walter forgets an item on his shopping list and mutters, "Puppy biscuit." A nearby woman mocks him, saying: "Puppy biscuit. That man said 'Puppy biscuit' to himself” (“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” 196). As a result of these incidents, Mitty turns to escapism. Walter daydreams to escape the cruelty of others; this unintentionally leads to him being mocked. His surroundings trigger and influence his fantasies; his gloves turn…show more content…
For example, at the beginning, Mitty was a boat captain and a surgeon. Towards the end of the story, he was a defendant in court; at the end, all he had control over was his stiff upper lip. This lack of control represents his withdrawal into fantasies. Some critics believe that Mitty’s dreams become progressively more hazardous situations because Mitty is living on the edge of insanity or suicide. Mitty longs to be a hero and only succeeds this position in his fantasies. He flip flops from reality to daydream as often as he can, only drawn away by chance, such as a newsboy’s cry or a rebuke from a parking lot attendant (Kaufman). Critics see Mitty as an example of a modern man that is trapped in a world of dull responsibilities with few opportunities for adventure. To remedy this, Mitty dreams of piloting bomber planes, appearing in courtrooms, and running errands for his wife. Not only is life in his fantasies exciting, but he is a resourceful hero. (“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” 191). He spends every free moment in his fantasy world. Before the climax of each fantasy is reached, someone or something from the outside world interrupts the story; Mrs. Mitty is often the case. Therefore, he cannot truly escape from reality. The story begins and ends in one of Mitty’s daydreams. It is both fitting and ironic that the story ends with Mitty being described as “inscrutable to the last”
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