James Thurber (1894 to 1961-Columbus, Ohio, USA) wrote a lot of short stories and journalism. In his by far most famous story, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" (first published in The New Yorker where most of his work and his cartoons were published) he created a name for a type of man that is known to millions of people who would have no idea who James Thurber was. To call someone a "Walter Mitty type" means they are a mild, meek man who compensates for his unhappy life with a rich set of fantasies.
A lot of people also know the story through the very funny 1947 movie staring Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo. Danny Kaye is brilliant in the movie and Virginia Mayo is a perfect fantasy girl!
I read the story because it is included in a 1947 collection of short stories my cousin Bonnie gave me and I really enjoyed it a lot. I think the best thing about the story is how the fantasies are all somehow related to conversations Walter has with his domineering mother. His mother reminds him of a doctor appointment and he spins off into a fantasy about being a great surgeon. She tells him to put coal in the furnace and he becomes an RAF fighter pilot. (The movie is sometimes shown on the Turner Classic Network.)
I really enjoyed this story. It is included in a lot of anthologies of American humorous short stories. It might not be on the artistic level of another Ohio writer, Sherwood Anderson, but I think most everyone who reads it will smile and lot of us will see a bit of themselves in Walter Mitty. It is for sure worth the less than three minutes it will take you to read it.
Please share with us your experience with James Thurber.
You can read it online here
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