For those of you who have read some of the classics of the past I”m sure you will finish this post title with “Walter Mitty”. I think all of us at one level or another live our own Walter Mitty lives in our minds. There are those missed opportunities where we could have made fundamentally different choices that might have radically changed who we are. Regrettably most of us cower during those times and then can only live that alternate choice in the depths of our minds. I am certainly one such person.
Here I am getting toward the end of my sixth decade on this earth so my days forward are much less than my days behind. My body continues to degrade on a seemingly daily basis which makes me realize that there will be many unrealized dreams. I don’t want to fall into a state of melancholy here so I will now divert the focus of this post onto the Thurber short story instead of my own.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was a short story written by James Thurber in 1939. It was made into a movie in 1947 and was recently re-made late last year. Here is the basic plot of the story as described by Wikipedia.
The short story deals with a vague and mild-mannered man who drives into Waterbury, Connecticut, with his wife for their regular weekly shopping and his wife’s visit to the beauty parlor. During this time he has five heroic daydream episodes. The first is as a pilot of a U.S. Navy flying boat in a storm, then he is a magnificent surgeon performing a one-of-a-kind surgery, then as a deadly assassin testifying in a courtroom, and then as a Royal Air Force pilot volunteering for a daring, secret suicide mission to bomb an ammunition dump. As the story ends, Mitty imagines himself facing a firing squad, “inscrutable to the last.” Each of the fantasies is inspired by some detail of Mitty’s mundane surroundings.
I don’t remember when I read the story or saw the movie but I am sure that it was in my early childhood. I have been a dreamer all my life so the story enthralled me. During those rather boring grade school and high school days I was often a dreamer rather than a listener. I could have probably made my dreaming into a life mission but of course that is also a Walter Mitty dream for me.
I never went on to try to find any other stories by Thurber. Maybe I will do that now or at least I will re-read the original story. But I definitely will watch the new re-make as soon as it is available with captions. If any of you young people out that think I have anything worth saying I will advise you to seriously look at your current passions in life and to try to do something to make them happen instead of just end up dreaming about them when you are an old guy like me. :) Don’t settle for the mundane…