Study Guide

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty Identity

By James Thurber


"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" raises interesting questions about how identity is crafted. How much of our identity is shaped by the opinions of those around us, and how much of it comes from ourselves? To make this a little more concrete, delve into the specific case of Walter Mitty, an absent-minded and inept man in real life – a stud in his own mind. How do these two halves compete and coexist? Which is the real Walter Mitty, and who has the final say in determining this man's identity? These are the questions explored in Thurber's story.

Questions About Identity

  1. Does Walter undergo any changes as the story progresses?
  2. Is Walter "sane" or "insane"?
  3. In this story, who gets to define who Walter Mitty really is: Walter, or the people around him?
  4. What does Mitty's age have to do with the way we view his character? Could you have a similar story about a daydreaming younger man, or would this fundamentally change its meaning?

Chew on This

"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" is ultimately about the ways in which we craft our own identities.

Walter Mitty is headed for a psychological breakdown.