“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” by James Thurber
“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is one of those stories that I always feel like I should have read. It’s the story of a man (the titular Walter Mitty) with an imagination unimpeded by the world around him. Every mundane moment from dropping his wife at the hairdresser’s to picking up some puppy treats is an opportunity to pilot a submarine or perform a complicated surgery. Real-life Mitty is a brow-beaten married man, but the Mitty of his own imaginings can do anything and is always the hero. Not that he would ever brag.
I first became aware of “Walter Mitty” via Daphne Uviller, author of Super in the City and co-editor of Only Child. In an interview about Super in the City, she mentioned Walter Mitty and cited him as one big inspiration for her own stories and characters. Hearing Uviller sympathize with Mitty’s over-active imagination, I was tickled by a feeling of familiarity: I, too, often found myself running off down some dramatic imaginary path during boring life moments. I immediately resolved to read “Walter Mitty.” Just when I wasn’t being whisked off to an archaeological dig to identify a rare, recently uncovered artifact, of course. Sometimes one is just too busy pulling off the heist of the century to find time for reading short stories, though.
And so “Walter Mitty” languished on my mental ‘to read’ list (and even more ephemeral creation than my on-paper one prone to holes and unexplained disappearances) for years. This week I finally decided the moment was nigh. “Walter Mitty” was shorter than I had been picturing it, but just as charming. Thurber’s creation in a lovely ode to the imagination and one which inspired me to use mine even more. Imagination is a wonderful gift, like a bonus feature attached to your brain’s necessary cognitive powers, and it’s a shame to let it hibernate after “growing up.” As Walter Mitty shows, imagination can be just as handy and just as fun as an adult.
For a nice break, you can read the whole thing online at All-Story.