The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
by James Thurber
Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
As we discuss in "Genre," there is a clear comic element to this story. Just think about all the melodrama of Mitty's fantasies. There's definitely a sense of authorial amusement to be found here, as though the author is as entertained as his readers by his creation. It never gets to the point, however, where we mock Mitty the way the other characters in the story do. (If there's any mocking at all, it is mocking of Mrs. Mitty and her domineering ways). Instead, the author seems to admire – and encourage the reader to admire – his singular protagonist. We think the end of the story is the greatest evidence of this. We end the story in Walter's fantasy, in which he is "undefeated, inscrutable to the last" (15).