A Deconstruction of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
In the short story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” we see the main character as a rejected misfit in society. He is often unaware of the world around him and reacts in what others would call a negative way to those situations he actually responds to. However, close examination of the text used by James Thurber to portray him prompts a need to deconstruct the character Walter Mitty. In doing so, we find that, far from being a misfit, he is actually the one member of society that is truly sound.
To determine that he is truly unique, we must first show that Mitty has elevated himself above the seemingly “normal” members of the society in the book. One great example is by refusing concede to do what others tell him, even in a dream. “Captain Mitty” knows that “somebody has to get the ammunition dump,” so he steps up to the challenge, paying no heed to the sergeant’s warnings. This may seem irrational, but he was willing to put his life on the line for his country. The other example is how society reacts to him, and not vice-versa. To see this, you must understand that the people in the story have the wrong ideals. They idolize hard work and neurotic behavior, which helps maintain order but stunts the ability to have an intimate relationship with one’s self. By rejecting Walter from themselves and ultimately their way of thinking, the people in the story forced him to adopt new values. Now, Mitty could take care of himself and meet his own psychological needs. This will be discussed in greater depth later, but the outcome is that civilization forced our character to become a better person than any of them could be.
The effect of his rise from the rest of humanity is the satisfaction of Walter’s psychological needs. In examining Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the most basic mental requirements are belongingness and esteem needs (Huitt). Mitty’s first daydream illustrates this point well. As he is navigating through the ice, the crew “looked at each other and grinned. ‘The Old Man’ll get us through….’” This commentary shows the bond and respect they have with and for “the Commander.” The next levels deal with the need to explore and the need for order (Huitt). These are two main themes in most of his dreams. He is a doctor in one, fixing new problems and telling nurses what to do. “‘Give me a fountain pen’, he snapped.” In another dream...