The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and The Poor Relation’s Story
- Pages: 9
- Word count: 2174
- Category: Life
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The first story to be discussed is called “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” written by James Thurber in 1942. This story is set in America in the 1940’s around the time of the Second World War. The story follows the life of an American couple, Walter Mitty, who frequently slips in and out of a fantasy world, and his wife. Walter’s pastimes and interests consist of his fantasies. He is interested in the excitement that is usually found in movies. The second story “The Poor Relation’s Story” was written by Charles Dickens in 1852. The story was set at Christmas time with a family having gathered for Christmas dinner.
Stories were told around the fire. The first story was told by Michael, the ‘poor relation’. He slips into a fantasy world a few times in the process of telling his story, Michael’s pastimes include walks in the parks and admiring monuments, this was often in the company of ‘Little Frank’. It would seem to me that Walter Mitty is of similar age to Michael, who we are told is 59. “That I am at present a bachelor of between fifty-nine and sixty years of age. Of Walter Mitty: ‘You’re not a young man any longer’. Walter Mitty is a middle class citizen of North America in the 1940’s whereas Michael is a lower class Englishman of the 1850’s.
They live in different countries in different times. Only Walter’s wife is mentioned in his story and she seems to be like a mother to Walter rather than a wife. “Why don’t you wear your gloves? Have you lost your gloves? ‘ Walter Mitty is cared for by his wife, whereas the impression that Michael gives, is that no one cares for him. “But if you do me the honour to be surprised at anything that falls from a person so unimportant in the family as I am, I can only say that I shall be scrupulously accurate in all I relate. ” People laughed at Walter Mitty as they walked passed him in the street.
Their opinion of him is that he is a strange man. “A woman who was passing laughed. “That man said puppy biscuit to himself” The factor that stands out most about Walter’s fantasies is that he is always either the hero or the main character and there is a high level of suspense involved. For example, in the fantasy involving a medical operation he was the hero as he ‘saved the day’. This is not always the case though. In the courtroom fantasy, he is on trial for shooting someone. This is an example in which he plays the main character, a romantic rogue and a powerful man.
Walter sees himself as someone who doesn’t matter. He feels that he is a nobody in a world of somebodies. I think that he feels that he does not fit in. He uses his fantasies to escape from that world so that he can runaway to a world where he does fit in. In Michael’s fantasies, he describes what he wants to be. For example, he relates the story of how he and his fianci?? e became married and how successful his business was. He feels that no one cares for him, that he is another unwanted body in the world. “a person who is so unimportant in the family as I am,”
His fantasies were not always happy or had happy endings like Walter’s did. For example, in the same fantasy he explained how his Uncle threw him out. “Eat your last under this roof, you feeble wretch, and may it choke you! ” I think that Walter Mitty is more successful in his bid to escape from reality because his fantasies are so much more obscure compared to his real world. Events happen in his fantasy world that could almost never happen in his real life, whereas in Michael’s fantasies, the events that happen are much more true to life.
The character of Walter Mitty is one that would appeal to readers because he displays a wide range of different characters within himself. For example, he becomes a hero, a murderer, and he is also comical. “How did you expect me to find you? ‘ ‘Things close in,’ said Walter Mitty. ” The story of Walter Mitty was set in modern day America, “look out for that Buick” A Buick is an American car of the 1940’s. The factor that makes Walter Mitty’s story believable is his first fantasy about the war.
Although the fantasies are a figment of Walter’s imagination, the subjects he fantasises about are realistic of the time that the story was set in. They were actually someone else’s real life and the fantasies of these people would ironically be about being a normal person with a normal life, for example, that of Walter Mitty. The Poor Relation’s story was set in the mid 1800’s. There is a great deal of difference between the lifestyles of the two characters, but yet they still find themselves in the same situation, wanting to escape from the real world to their world of make believe.
Michael lives in England in the city of London. The story states that he walks into the city everyday to sit in a coffee shop. The story is realistic due to the mentioning of actual places such as “the Monument”, and “Westminster Bridge”. The stories contain two main narrative strands. These could be called ‘real life’ and ‘fantasy life’. For example, ‘The Poor Relation’s Story’ begins in real life as the family gather round the fire to hear Michael’s story then his story changes from real life to fantasy life.
This can also be seen in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” Walter Mitty’s lives are very erratic. One moment it is his real life and then in an instant he jumps to a fantasy. In the secret life of Walter Mitty his fantasy is introduced instantly. The first sentence makes a great impact on the reader. “‘We’re going through! ‘ the Commander’s voice was like thin ice breaking. ” The reader may be confused as to whether this first fantasy is a memory or a fantasy. This confusion is resolved when his wife mentions that he should see a doctor!
The way in which the reader is able to understand the separation of fantasy and real life is by the use of paragraphs, which serve to separate the fantasy life from the real life. A Poor Relation’s story is very confusing. The stories he tells are different to those in Walter Mitty’s life. For example, Walter Mitty fantasises about dramatic events, whereas Michael fantasises about things that went wrong in his life and how he would have wanted them changed. It is confusing when Michael contradicts himself.
For example, the reader may be confused in the beginning of the 11th paragraph on line 108. This is not my life, and these are not my habits. I do not even live in Clapham road. ” The reader would not know which part of the story is fantasy or real if it wasn’t for the title, “The Poor Relation’s story” implying that the real life of Michael is the poor life. The two lives of Michael are separated by paragraphs. Unlike Walter Mitty, where a new paragraph represents a different life, the paragraphs in Michael’s story do not always mean that there is a different life. There is only one fantasy in the Poor Relation’s story and that is that Michael is rich, with a wife and a good job.
Whereas in Walter Mitty’s life he has more interesting fantasies of a wider range of events. For example, his first fantasy is that he is in the navy, his second fantasy is that he is a medical doctor. All together there are six fantasies; the Buick fantasy, the courtroom fantasy, a second war fantasy and the last fantasy in which he dies. Dickens describes the hypocrisy of society in the 1840’s. He created a character that had a poor life while other characters around him were rich. The effect of this sharp contrast is to cause the readers to actually focus on those people who are less affluent.
The readers in that time would have been well-to-do people because books were expensive in the 1800’s, whereas the ‘poor’ people would be unlikely to read this book. If they did, it would make them even more depressed because it usually reflected their own lives. In most of Dickens’ great novels he makes the character with a lot of money, the enemy. This is clearly illustrated in “A Christmas Carol” by Scrooge. His writings also contain a great spirit of optimism and of good winning out at the end, particularly in his Christmas stories.
The Poor Relation’s story was set at Christmas time. This would appeal to readers because this is a time of good will, a time of giving and the time of Jesus’ birth. Everyone, at that time, went to church every Sunday. They would be able to relate to the tale of people telling stories around the fire at Christmas, especially those with a strong moral message. This was very popular in Victorian times. James Thurber was an American humourist who wrote stories that portrayed a rather sour view of married life, with both the husbands and wives complaining or bossing each other about. ‘I was thinking’ said Walter Mitty.
‘Does it ever occur to you that I am sometimes thinking? ‘ She looked at him. ‘I’m going to take your temperature when I get you home,’ she said. ” He often depicts a day-dreaming man pestered by an exasperated wife. James Thurber wrote a sympathetic presentation of the main character. Readers immediately feel sorry for Walter Mitty because his wife bosses him about. “‘Remember to get those overshoes while I’m having my hair done,’ she said. ‘I don’t need overshoes,’ said Mitty. This story is about the dilemmas of modern men.
Men are usually never satisfied with what they have. In this case it is his life-style. Like other men do, he finds an alternative. The alternative he found was to fantasise about being someone else. This story is very appealing to modern day readers. It is amusing and it illustrates the frustration of one man and how he deals with it. All of Walter’s fantasies would appeal to modern man and it suggests a range of heroic roles which modern men can aspire to, unlike the Victorians who only needed to be wealthy and respectable to achieve status in society.
The theme of escapism in this story appeals to readers because at the time they were written people wanted to escape from their own lives. The reason for this could be that it was set in hard times. For example, the war. “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” was written during World War 2 in America. I think that his fantasies have more than one meaning to them. For example, in the fantasy about the war he is fantasising about being both a young man and wanting to be an action hero. “The Poor Relation’s story” was written at a time when people were born into classes and remained in their classes.
The opinions of poor people were not valued assuming they were even expressed. The story of Walter Mitty convinced the reader that Walter was a divided man by the way he would skip from one life to the other instantly. This was not the case for The poor relation’s story. In this story Michael talked about one life then switched to talking about another life. The stories are shaped very much on the time they were written. For example, Michaels fantasies were those attributes that any other man would have wanted at that time, e. g. wealth, marriage, and career.
Those fantasies would not be appreciated at this time because people take those qualities for granted. The story of Walter Mitty was not shaped by the time it was written. This can be seen by the way that his fantasies could have been thought of by anyone, at any time. Both writers use the main character in the story to convey the theme of escapism. This is conveyed in “The Secret life of Walter Mitty” by the use of Walter Mitty’s fantasies. He fantasies explore a wide range of topics. This is unlike that in “A Poor Relations Story”.
Charles Dickens conveys the escapism theme through the stories told by Michael. I prefer “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”. The reason for this is that it is funnier and it is less confusing. The story can be easily interpreted and understood. I like the role of the wife in this story she reminds me of Hyacinth Bouquet from Keeping up Appearances. This story can easily be related to. Everybody knows of people similar to the characters. The story also has a lot more action in it. For this reason I think it would make a good movie as well. The switching from scene to scene would hold the viewer’s attention.