The Incarnated Soul of Walter Mitty


Walter Mitty is a fictional character in James Thurber’s short Story, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The story was first published in The New Yorker in March,1939. It was made into a movie, starring Danny Kaye, in 1947.

Walter is a weak, mild-mannered, socially awkward man who enjoys a vivid fantasy life. In his fantasies, Walter is the hero, rescuing the damsel in distress, conquering great feats and saving the day.

In the movie (which I cannot recommend highly enough), circumstances force Walter out of his element and into a real-life fantasy–complete with swashbuckling danger and excitement–where he ultimately becomes the hero in his everyday life. The adventures transform him and he becomes the man he always wanted to be.

When I was a kid, as I’d sit watching an episode of I Dream of Jeannie or Bewitched, I’d often zone out for entire episodes, imagining myself as the damsel in distress, being rescued by the swashbuckling hero. A single story often took weeks to play itself out.

As writers, we enjoy a rich fantasy life. We must. It’s a requirement of the job. As writers, we not only create our characters and their stories–including all the danger and tragedy that befalls them–we become our characters. We feel what they feel, experience what they experience. They become part of us. And they change us.

At least, they change me. A little part of each of my characters lives inside of me long after I’ve written THE END to their story. Maybe it’s because I’ve sewn a little part of myself into each of them. Or maybe it’s because the spirit of Walter Mitty has been stitched into my own soul.

What about you? Are you a Walter Mitty? Is there a part of you that would like to be more adventurous?

6 comments on… “The Incarnated Soul of Walter Mitty”

  1. I loved reading this story! It’s interesting hearing what makes a writer tick. And how the characters affect you personally. I’ve often missed and grieved a character when finishing a book that I was really into!

    • Pamela,
      I just recently finished reading Battle Royale and find myself often wondering what the characters are up to now that the book has ended. 🙂

  2. Suzanne,
    I was so excited to see a post by you on The Secret Life… I freakin’ LOVE that short story. I think it is so relatable because we all have a bit of Walter in us. We all imagine ourselves as greater than we are. Interestingly enough, I think that tendency leads us to our better selves IF we are willing to listen and put in some effort in the real world. I don’t believe that great things ever came about without someone dreaming them first.
    So dream away. 🙂

  3. I have wanted to see that movie!! And now I really REALLY want to see it! It’s true, writers do have a rich inner world…. And I love mine. Though I can stand to be more forthright in expressing my desires and feeling unafraid of what others will think as I create my dreams or when/if I fail in the process.

    • I think that’s true of most writers (not sure), Lindsey, but it’s certainly true of me. It’s much easier to be forthright with our thoughts and feelings when we’re writing 🙂

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