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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

by James Thurber

Men and Masculinity Theme

Walter Mitty is an ordinary man who dreams of being extraordinary. Part of the explanation for his dissatisfaction with his everyday life is that he fails to live up to what he holds as masculine ideals. Mitty is mechanically inept, a poor driver, a passive husband, and a forgetful man. In his fantasies, however, he is skilled, decisive, bold, brave, and perhaps most importantly, respected by those around him. These are the qualities that Mitty holds up as the pinnacle of masculinity. Just what Thurber intends to present as masculine ideals is not clear.

Questions About Men and Masculinity

  1. What traits are presented as typical male qualities in this story? What is the ideal man like? What passages can you site as evidence?
  2. How does Walter fit or deviate from these "ideal" male qualities?
  3. What sort of man does Walter try to emulate in his fantasies, and how are these different fantasy men different from the man Walter actually is?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Thurber embraces the type of masculinity that Walter idealizes in his fantasy.

Through this story, Thurber rejects typical Romantic ideals of masculinity and instead promotes the everyday sort of masculinity that Walter embodies in real life.

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