Diego Ampuero Gac English 102 M, W, & F Dr. Williams March 17, 2010 The relationship between men and women in ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ In this research paper, I am going to analyze the relationship between men and women in the short story ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ by James Thurber. In this essay I am going to discuss how he shows the conflicts between the man that want to be adventurous, perverted, and that lives in several fantasies, but behind that man there is a woman that holds him back.
Many source materials analyze and describe Thurber’s unique humoristic personality and explain how it might affect his work of literature throughout his many short stories. Thurber’s humoristic and satiric style of literature that he uses about the relationship between men and women in ‘The secret Life of Walter Mitty’ attracts the reader’s attention because of that spark of knowledge he gives to his humoristic and intellectual literature. In Thurber’s book, ‘The Thurber Carnival’, he uses many of his short stories including ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ in order to focus on the relationship between men and women.
The conflicts that Thurber writes about typically start out small but then with the time it expands into major conflicts which leads us readers into finding the main problem of the story, in which in this case is about a man that wants to be adventurous and the women who holds him back. In fact, in many of Thurber’s short stories the male characters are shown to be dependent of a strong woman, in which she is the dominant head of the relationship.
In the relationships that Thurber’s men are in, they are constant lead into frustrated experiences with their wives, in which they have been bullied by wives who consider that they know everything. This is exactly what happens in the short story ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ with Walter being treated by his wife more like a mentally retarded child than a husband. This is shown throughout the first paragraphs of the story in which the couple is driving around running errands, but not together as a couple, instead, Walter has to stop in front of the hair salon where his wife is having her hair done, and e is told to “remember to get those overshoes while I’m having my hair done”, and in which Walter replies “I don’t need overshoes” but the wife replies back saying “you’re not a young man any longer” (47). These last quotes show how strong and harsh her character is and how dominant she can be in their relationship. These quotes also foreshadow the coming events of Walter’s several daydreaming throughout the story and in which they end up being the main conflict between the relationship between men (Mitty) and woman (wife).
The wife in ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ is the perfect model for Thurber’s unique style of literature. In the book ‘The Art of James Thurber’, Richard Tobias states “The comedy exists in the tension created by the wife’s world view. The wife is the threat against Mitty’s free and desirable heroism”(85)… “Then with a smile on his lips, he faces the firing squad, erect motionless, and proud. Walter Mitty the Undefeated, inscrutable to the last”(51). This precise analyzing quotes by Tobias, reflects how Thurber used Mrs.
Mitty as the leader of his humoristic and ironic literature to show her superiority above Walter, in which in Thurber’s time, the head of the family was predestined to be the man and not the woman. Tobias also points out the ending of the story with Walter dreaming once again acting like a little kid dreaming about being a hero. Tobias probably points it out because the ending shows how Walter revealed his secrets of being the head of something, the “hero of the war” throughout his paranoiac daydreaming. Several sources have focused on the topic about the relationship between Walter’s prominent daydreams and his marital situation.
One of those sources that analyzes this topic is “Coitus Interruptis: Sexual Symbolism in ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’”, a book in which a few criticizers analyze Walter’s fantasies and their effect on the relationship. One of the many criticizers, Ann Mann, argues that for a permanent daydreamer like Walter Mitty, his wife has to be the “ideal wife” for she has to go through all of his daydreaming fantasies and childlike personality, in which it brings the conclusion that she pretty much plays the role of a scapegoat in the relationship.
Keeping the eyes on the importance of a women in a relationship as Ann Mann stated, in another aspect, Thomas Fensch appears with his book ‘Conversations with James Thurber’ in which Fensch has plenty of conversations with Thurber’s comedian self about different kind of topics that eventually ends up in a topic that shows Thurber’s point of view of the American Women. The man itself has a style of expressing his thoughts with humor and irony but the beauty of it is that at the same time the reader can interpret his sayings as serious thoughts that are in fact very true and intellectual.
This magnificent style helps the typical American reader to understand his advice towards American Women by stating that “Too much attention is given to attracting the males and making other women envious…”, reflecting that Thurber’s point of view of women is that they should go ahead and live life to the fullest and while they can “…woman should be a real helpmate to her husband”(84).
As I come to the end of this analysis about the great author James Thurber and the topic about the relationship between men and women in ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’, I can conclude that Thurber is one of the great American humorist ever of this century and that his genuine literature really helps the reader to understand the relationship between Walter and Mrs.
Mitty, and in which they also reflect Thurber’s real life situations between men and women throughout his life. At last, I can affirm that many of his works are so similar to the present day relationship between men and women that it reflects why his literature works are continuing to be popular in today’s world.