The Role Of Daydreaming In The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty

In the short story, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, James Thurber puts forth the idea of daydreaming as an essential human activity. It provides an arena for rehearsing social skills and can be used as a defense mechanism to escape from harsh reality. 

To begin with, the protagonist of the story, Walter Mitty, often escapes into his imagination to gain control of his life. It helps him recall the present, serving as a key to his consciousness. When Mitty forgets what his wife told him to buy, he starts dreaming about being a lawyer: “Perhaps this will refresh your memory… The District Attorney struck at her savagely… You miserable cur! - ‘Puppy Biscuit,’ said Walter Mitty”. He suddenly snaps out of the dream remembering that he was supposed to buy the biscuits. Ironically, Mitty’s wild imagination helps him feel aware and engaged even when he is lost in his own world. When his thoughts remain in flow, Mitty completes his work and gets through the day. They help him remember the negligible aspects of life so that he stays on task without forgetting anything important. 

Additionally, Walter Mitty’s fantasies give him courage and confidence to stand up for himself as by the end of the story he finally confronts his wife, “Does it ever occur to you that I am sometimes thinking?”. Mitty is inspired from his regular heroic dreams where he is the centre of attraction and they influence him to be incharge of his own life. This motivation helps him cope with his dull life which is constantly being degraded by his wife. Furthermore, his wife thinks of Walter Mitty as a pushover and an incompetent man. As a result, he feels supressed being yelled at by not only his wife but also by the people on the streets: “Pick it up, brother, snapped a cop”. Moreover, Mitty leads an ordinary life in which he is neither accomplished nor respected, so to gain recognition and freedom of making his own decisions, he escapes to the virtual world having exciting and adventurous events to look forward to. 

Thus, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” by James Thurber, is a story that forces the reader to reflect on the normality of living a lie. It highlights the fact that daydreaming is not a meaningless activity but rather a beneficial and pragmatic tool that provides people with a serendipitous encounter to remain normal in unfavourable situations. It is a form of escapism that can bring one back to reality even when they are lost, encouraging to bring forward those conceptions and emotions that are buried deep inside a human’s fragile heart and subconscious mind. 

16 August 2021
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