“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” by James Thurber

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Humor is simply defined as “The quality of being amusing or comic, esp. as expressed in literature or speech.” In this paper a comparison of works one The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber and the other is the play I’m Going a Comedy in One Act by Tristan Bernard.

Both of these readings provide humor in to an audience but they are given in completely different fashion, in James Thurber’s work the most dominating of the literary elements that was used was imagination while Tristan Bernard in his work predominately used farce, although these are not the only aspects used in their work but these are the strongest in use in these stories. Humor is and always will be a well-known form literature that has successfully passed the test of time while earning many laughs from audiences along the way.

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Many things make contributions to any individual piece if work, with those elements added together the end result is usually a refined literary work that will have appeal to the right audience. James Thurber put together a story that has used as much imagination as possible.

As most have seen or read stories that include people that were unique of sorts the character here is very much so as you are able to read of a grown man that does a lot of day dreaming throughout the course of his day. This fact is somewhat memorable as this act was done by most in their early childhood years so the foundation that all would full well know what is being represented here is fully known.

For an example of the level of detailed imagination used in this story, “We’re going through!” The Commander’s voice was like thin ice breaking. He wore his full-dress uniform, with the heavily braided white cap pulled down rakishly over one cold gray eye. “We can’t make it, sir. It’s spoiling for a hurricane, if you ask me.” “I’m not asking you, Lieutenant Berg,” said the Commander. “Throw on the power lights! Rev her up to 8500! We’re going through!” The pounding of the cylinders increased: ta-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa. The Commander stared at the ice forming on the pilot window.

He walked over and twisted a row of complicated dials. “Switch on No. 8 auxiliary!” he shouted. “Switch on No. 8 auxiliary!” repeated Lieutenant Berg. “Full strength in No. 3 turret!” shouted the Commander. “Full strength in No. 3 turret!” The crew, bending to their various tasks in the huge, hurtling eight-engined Navy hydroplane, 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!” (as cited in Clugston, 2010 p4).

The fact that the author uses imagination in this story is not a surprise but the significance of the passage that was just cited is that it is actually the first paragraph in the story so as one just began to reading you are thrown this imaginative fist daydream that the character is having and required to figure out what is taking place. You are brought back to reality by small comment from the other passenger and at the same time get introduced to the actual scenario of what is actually taking place at that exact time, “Not so fast! You’re driving too fast!” said Mrs. Mitty. “What are you driving so fast for?” (as cited in Clugston, 2010 p4).

At this moment we get the first glimpse of insight about one of the other characters in this story as it actually is, Walter Mitty was driving along with his wife while at the same time having a daydream about being the captain of a naval vessel of sorts. Throughout the story there are several other different episodes of Walter Mitty having day dreams on or about various different subjects most not related to any of the tasks that he was to perform while he was out

. As one were to continue forward you begin to see the level and type of communication that is being held by husband and wife and also get a view of some of the expressions that each of the characters display during this dialogue, “Hmm?” said Walter Mitty. He looked at his wife, in the seat beside him, with shocked astonishment. She seemed grossly unfamiliar, like a strange woman who had yelled at him in a crowd. “You were up to fifty-five,” she said. “You know I don’t like to go more than forty. You were up to fifty-five.” Walter Mitty drove on toward Waterbury in silence, the roaring of the SN202 through the worst storm in twenty years of Navy flying fading in the remote, intimate airways of his mind. “You’re tensed up again,” said Mrs. Mitty. “It’s one of your days. I wish you’d let Dr. Renshaw look you over.” (as cited in Clugston, 2010 p4-5).

The previous serves as reflection of how Walter Mitty actually awakes so to speak from his dream and comes back to reality that he is driving along the highway in arguable one of the worst storms on record at increased speeds. While driving under these conditions at best could be dangerous the fact of having or experiencing a daydream throughout and being wakened from it by another passenger while doing such seemed to be startling to the character and kept him modestly humble for the duration of the ride they were taking together but was also seemed surprising to him in the fact he forgot that he was driving in these conditions and of course that he was not alone while doing so he had his wife as a passenger and they were making a trip to town to take care of a few things.

As this story continues the charters interaction is developed and contrasted more, as Walter Mitty sees his wife as some type of nagging, bossy type entity seemingly because she disturbs his constant daydreams and brings him back to reality with some of her words that are not for the most part harshly stated but at the same time probably looking out for his best interest by giving him instruction.

Walter he gives one the impression that he is performing the requested actions with little or no delay but apparently these actions are arguably being done to just be able to get along with his spouse and limit any direct argumentative engagements that could occur from any of these actions, an examples of such would include, Walter Mitty stopped the car in front of the building where his wife went to have her hair done. “Remember to get those overshoes while I’m having my hair done,” she said. “I don’t need overshoes,” said Mitty. She put her mirror back into her bag. “We’ve been all through that,” she said, getting out of the car. “You’re not a young man any longer.”

He raced the engine a little. “Why don’t you wear your gloves? Have you lost your gloves?” Walter Mitty reached in a pocket and brought out the gloves. He put them on, but after she had turned and gone into the building and he had driven on to a red light, he took them off again. (as cited in Clugston, 2010 p5).

Throughout this story there are many examples of figurative language that has been used, from the for mentioned paragraphs that compare driving one’s personal vehicle in the snow to a naval vessel at see other examples of the figurative language that has been used are, “It’s the millionaire banker, Wellington McMillan,” said the pretty nurse. “Yes?” said Walter Mitty, removing his gloves slowly. “Who has the case?” “Dr. Renshaw and Dr. Benbow, but there are two specialists here, Dr. Remington from New York and Dr. Pritchard-Mitford from London. He flew over.” A door opened down a long, cool corridor and Dr. Renshaw came out. He looked distraught and haggard. “Hello, Mitty,” he said. “We’re having the devil’s own time with McMillan, the millionaire banker and close personal friend of Roosevelt. Obstreosis of the ductal tract. Tertiary. Wish you’d take a look at him.” “Glad to,” said Mitty. (as cited in Clugston, 2010 p6).

“Perhaps this will refresh your memory.” The District Attorney suddenly thrust a heavy automatic at the quiet figure on the witness stand. “Have you ever seen this before?’’ Walter Mitty took the gun and examined it expertly. “This is my Webley-Vickers 50.80,”5 he said calmly. An excited buzz ran around the courtroom. The Judge rapped for order. “You are a crack shot with any sort of firearms, I believe?” said the District Attorney, insinuatingly. “Objection!” shouted Mitty’s attorney. “We have shown that the defendant could not have fired the shot. We have shown that he wore his right arm in a sling on the night of the fourteenth of July.” (as cited in Clugston, 2010 p6).

In his second dream he has transcended being Walter Mitty the person that he is and transformed into being Wellington McMillan a successful surgeon that is about to use those skills. In the third dream Walter Mitty is now on trial in a court room but he speaks of this weapon it is more of the figurative language simple because this type of weapon does not exist. The comments go on to support some of the overall perspectives that the charter does a lot of daydreaming and loses his grip on reality while doing so. This story is told from in a third person point of view that sometimes is omniscient and others it would be third person limited omniscient.

The story that I am using as a comparison was written by Tristan Bernard and the name of it is I’m Going! A Comedy in One Act. The setting in this is story is developed by the author in the beginning because it is a play one is given the names of the people in the play, a brief description of the scene, the time and a paragraph detailing the complete scene.

The combination of this information gives enough detail to set the tone of the story of the story to come and also sets the mood for the reader as they begin to know and understand some of the things that might be presented from the era that the story is taking place also provides a slight insight into what might be taking place based on demographics and or possible other factors.

As the story begins it gets to be fairly clear that this is a type of farce, but the plot of this story is intriguing primarily because it is able to keep on laughing and with a smile on their face all throughout the reading, from the following interaction between characters you begin to see that this is a backwards and forwards thing between husband and wife see the following, Henri: Weather is always the same: every Sunday it’s superb until noon, then it’s cloudy and a little rainy—or else there’s a big thunderstorm. It’s always that way when I want to go to the races! Jeanne: Are you going this afternoon? Henri: (A little nervous) Of course, didn’t you know? I told you this morning. Jeanne: You want to lose more money! Henri: You know I never bet. Jeanne: Then you’re going to leave me all alone? Take me with you! Henri: No, no; that’s not the idea. When I go alone, I take a cab and pay five francs for it; that’s my total. I know the doorkeeper and I can always find some friend to drive me around. Now if you go with me, I must get a special carriage, and that costs twenty francs. Jeanne: We paid only fifteen last week. (as cited in Clugston, 2010 p11).

During this bit of interaction we begin to see firsthand that the husband is determined to take off on his adventure to the track unaccompanied at all cost, he also forgets but easily reminded of a previous trip had been made by the couple a week prior to the same venue, this fact provides some foundation to the wife as too how much it actually cost for them to go as a couple and at the same time she is able to remind him of the outing.

The description of the characters in this play initially were mostly vague but definitely developed as the play moves along while also providing enough information to do a contrast of them but overall the development takes place all throughout and this gives insight one the overall opinion of the characters. In this story both are mild mannered but the husband displays some passive aggressive tendencies while the wife is for the most part passive.

In the settings we find that this play was translated to English in 1915 so some of the behavior might or might not be consistent with that of current times all the same here are some example of his passive aggressive and her passive, Henri: No, I have a good time only when I go alone. When you are with me, I can’t run about, I can’t look at the stables, or the judges’ stands, or anything. When I’m alone, I can do as I please. And then, if you go I must put on my best clothes—these are old moth-eaten ones—and I can never have a good time in new clothes. If you insist on going out with me, let’s go for a walk or a drive, but not to the races. Jeanne: Yes, up the Champs-Elysées together! And have you looking daggers at me all the time! Whenever I do go with you, you’re always making disagreeable remarks. Henri: Because you are in a bad humor—you’ll never give me your arm. Jeanne: It looks too foolish for words.

Henri: If you’d only walk like a human being! But you seem to take particular pleasure in walking as fast as your feet will carry you. For instance, I’m walking at your right, and you want to pass someone in front of us; well, you walk directly in front of me and don’t leave me an inch of room. Then I’ve got to run fast in order to catch up to you. Now, it isn’t right that I should have to run to keep up to you, especially as I should be at your side and not have it look as if you were unaccompanied. Think of the remarks people make to you! (as cited in Clugston, 2010 p11).These comments continue to provide for plenty of humor to the play, even those comments that are seemingly close to being border line outrageous they still provide for humor while keeping in with the context of the play and the direction that the comedy is to go.

The point of view that was used throughout the entire play was first person, because this is a play and from the view point that is the story is being told the only way to tell the story would be from this perspective winch plays apart in its appeal for the story. For the comparison of the two stories one can argue winch in fact might be the better of the two but with supported data I would have to lean in the direction of the play.

To date I have seen in production several different types of sitcoms and movies that have been based on the same concept as this farce, and actually seeing that this one was made and translated well before any of these other works that that style of comedy has and will remain around for a long time to come. Overall these forms of literature will not diminish but only grow as we all know humor is and always will be a well-known form literature that has successfully passed the test of time while earning many laughs from audiences along the way.

Cite this page

“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” by James Thurber. (2017, Mar 29). Retrieved from


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