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Mimishu1995's avatar

Can you point me to a good source for an analysis of Walter Mitty? Or alternatively, can you tell me what you think about the story?

Asked by Mimishu1995 (19957points) September 22nd, 2020

I’m looking for an in-depth analysis into the psychology of Walter Mitty. Most analysis I found only skim over how ridiculous Walter’s dreams are and how they make for a humorous narrative. I haven’t seen a good breakdown of Walter’s dreams and how it is connected to his life in general, things like that.

So yeah, I’m partly looking for a credible source of this claim on Wikipedia: Although the story has humorous elements, there is a darker and more significant message underlying the text, leading to a more tragic interpretation of the Mitty character. Even in his heroic daydreams, Mitty does not triumph… If this claim is true, then it would be great if I could see how that works out psychologically.

If you don’t know any source, you could just tell me what you think of the story and the character :) I don’t know how well-known this story is in the US so…

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8 Answers

SergeantQueen's avatar

I think this is the story, for anyone interested

I will check it out after I shower @Mimishu1995 and give you my thoughts. I have never heard of it until now and it sounds super interesting.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Thurber’s short story is one of the greats. There’s a movie version from the 40s starring Danny Kaye. I remember it because the red hot Virginia Mayo was the romantic interest “kapockita pockita”. It’s right up your alley Mimi—daydreams about gangsters and villains. If you really want to look into it, I would get the reviews from newspapers and periodicals of the time. I think it was published in the early 40s, probably in a magazine like the Saturday Evening Post or New York Times, Atlantic, etc. I would also consider looking up Thurber’s own comments on the tale. It made him an instant hit. Get his biography. Don’t ask us what was on his mind. Get it directly “from the horse’s mouth.”

janbb's avatar

Do you have access to good library databases? There is a series by Gale called Short Story Criticism which will have excerpts from various critics of the story. There is another database called Literature Resources or something like that that would help you.

janbb's avatar

I just checked and the second database is called Literature Resource Center. There is also a database called Literary Resources Center that is good. You should have access to them for your academic institution’s library.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

@SergeantQueen Yes, the complete story is in the PDF you linked. I checked it against the New Yorker archive.

Anyway… I just read the story for the first time in many years. My dark interpretation is that Walter is a feckless, timid person. Instead of engaging with those around him in a more effective way, he bottles up the resentment and hides in his daydreams.

The movie Taxi Driver could be seen as a grimdark version of Walter Mitty.

Mimishu1995's avatar

Thanks everyone. I didn’t know Thurber commented on his own story @stanleybmanly! I’ll definitely check out his review. And also the movie. I want to see some gangster daydreaming in action!

@janbb Since I finished my thesis I’m no longer considered a student at my school. But there is this large building called something like “Electronic Resource Center”. It’s supposed to be a digital library for everything academic for the entire university system in my city, and as far as I know, I don’t need anything to gain access to their things if I don’t take anything away. I’m not sure what I can find there but I may give it a go.

@Call_Me_Jay Taxi Driver is on my watch list. I’m trying to finish my watch list as I have been abandoning it while doing my thesis. I remember choosing it because it looked like a quirky story about a taxi driver getting violent for some reason. Never thought it’s connected to Walter Mitty.

@SergeantQueen have you finished showering? :D

SergeantQueen's avatar

@Mimishu1995 I am so sorry! haha I even got the mini story on kindle, I just had school today and I am exhausted. I will be reading it I swear!

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

@Mimishu1995 I may be the first person to connect Walter Mitty and Travis Bickle (or maybe not). My take was off the top of my head and I have no literary criticism training beyond high school classes.

Walter Mitty is pretty much universally considered to be a light amusing story. James Thurber was a funny guy, better known for his cartoons than his writing.

His topic was often the “battle of the sexes”, with husbands and wives against each other. Walter Mitty is like one of those cartoons expanded into prose.

I guess I could have daydreams about being a renowned critic. If only there were some sort of fictional character whose name has become synonymous with grandiose fantasies. :-)

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