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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: James Thurber Biography James Thurber was a prolific writer and artist who published over twenty books of stories, biographies, . The Library of America • Story of the Week Reprinted from James Thurber: Writings & Drawings (The Library of America, ), pages – First appeared in. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber. To print or download this file, click the link below: PDF document icon The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James .


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Story Event or Detail. Author's Purpose? Possible Significance. Before You Read: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty • Uncle Marcos Literary Analysis. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty Walter Mitty drove on toward Waterbury in silence, the roaring of the SN through the worst storm in twenty . “I've read your book on streptothricosis,” said Pritchard-Mitford, shaking hands. Walter Mitty stopped the car in front of the twisted a row of He drove. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty 31 your book on streptothricosis," said Pritch- ard-Mitford.

Sign in. His wife suggests that he see a psychiatrist, but he will not recognize the need. Obstreosis of the ductal tract. The husband is often reduced to the status of a naughty child as demonstrated by a prepubertal mentality ; and he attempts to escape rather than confront a world symbolized by a wife who, more often than not, seems to be a mother-figure rather than a partner. During the s and s, Thurber wrote for the popular and influential literary magazine The New Yorker. Again, in the last dream, Mitty stands before a firing squad the explosive pressure of society against him for being the kind of dreamer that he is , refuses the blindfold, carelessly lights a last cigarette, and calmly awaits his vengeful martyrdom. He sits in a chair and picks up a magazine that carries a story about airborne warfare.

He sprang to the machine, which was now going pocketa-pocketa-queep-pocketa-queep. He began fingering delicately a row of glistening dials. Someone handed him a fountain pen. He pulled a faulty piston out of the machine and inserted the pen in its place. They slipped a white gown on him; he adjusted a mask and drew on thin gloves; nurses handed him shining. Look out for that Buick! The attendant vaulted into the car, backed it up with insolent skill, and put it where it belonged.

Once he had tried to take his chains off, outside New Milford, and he had got them wound around the axles. A man had had to come out in a wrecking car and unwind them, a young, grinning garageman. Since then Mrs. Mitty always made him drive to a garage to have the chains taken off.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber

He kicked at the slush on the sidewalk. When he came out into the street again, with the overshoes in a box under his arm, Walter Mitty began to wonder what the other thing was his wife had told him to get.

She had told him, twice, before they set out from their house for Waterbury. In a way he hated these weekly trips to town—he was always getting something wrong. Toothpaste, toothbrush, bicarbonate, carborundum, initiative and referendum? He gave it up. But she would remember it. An excited buzz ran around the courtroom.

The Judge rapped for order. We have shown that he wore his right arm in a sling on the night of the fourteenth of July. The District Attorney struck at her savagely. Without rising from his chair, Mitty let the man have it on the point of the chin. He stopped walking and the buildings of Waterbury rose up out of the misty courtroom and surrounded him again. A woman who was passing laughed. He went into an A.

Story of the Week: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

He found a big leather chair in the lobby, facing a window, and he put the overshoes and the puppy biscuit on the floor beside it. He picked up an old copy of Liberty and sank down into the chair.

Captain Mitty looked up at him through touselled hair. Spot of brandy? War thundered and whined around the dugout and battered at the door. There was a rending of wood and splinters flew through the room. Mitty finished one last brandy. Something struck his shoulder. How did you expect me to find you? Mitty said. The puppy biscuit? Although he always forgets what his wife wants him to pick up at the store and he waits for her in the wrong part of the hotel lobby, Walter is alert, courageous and at the center of attention in his dreams.

Thurber suggests that this ordinary man who hates the reality of middle-class life and his own shortcomings prefers to live in his imagination. Gender Roles Walter's failures in life and his successes in dreams are closely connected with gender roles. Everyday life for him consists of being ridiculed by women, such as the one who hears him mutter "puppy biscuit'' on the street and his wife who nags him. Among women, Walter is subservient and the object of derision.

Among men, Walter fails to meet traditional expectations of masculinity. He is embarrassed by his mechanical ineptitude: The mechanic who arrives is described as "young" and "grinning. Walter resolves that the next time he takes the car to the shop to have the chains removed, he will cover his shame by wearing his right arm in a sling. Walter compensates for his failure to fulfill conventional expectations of masculinity in his daydreams.

All of his fantasies center around feats of traditionally masculine prowess, and many of them involve violence.

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He can hit a target three hundred feet away with his left hand, fix sophisticated machinery with a common fountain pen, and walk bravely into battle in his fantasy worlds.

Thurber' s exploration of sex roles in modern America can be understood in various ways: Thurber might be suggesting that men have become weak and ineffectual and women overly aggressive, or he may be pointing to a lack of opportunities for men to perform meaningful, heroic action in modern, suburban, middle-class America. Style Narration In "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,'' Thurber tells the story of Walter Mitty, a man who lives in a dream world to escape from the routines and humiliations he suffers in everyday life.

The action takes place over the course of a single day, during which Walter Mitty and his wife go on their weekly shopping trip. Walter slips into his daydreams, only to be awakened when he has made an error in judgment, such as speeding or driving on the wrong side of the road. Thurber has carefully constructed the story's narrative to connect Mitty's "secret life" with his external life. In the first dream sequence, Walter is a naval commander who sails his hydroplane at full speed to avoid a hurricane.

The dream abruptly ends when his wife admonishes him for driving too quickly, implying that Walter's dream led to his speeding. The second dream begins when his wife notes that he is tense, and asks him to see a doctor. Hearing the name of the doctor sends Walter Mitty into dreaming that he is a famous surgeon who assists in saving the life of a wealthy patient, a banker named Wellington MacMillan.

Each of the dreams, then, begins with some detail from Walter's everyday life. Walter transforms insignificant comments, sounds or objects into major props in his heroic conquests. The same details from reality force him out of his dream world. Significantly, the story opens and closes in the middle of dream sequences, as if to emphasize their priority over reality for Walter.

It is left to the reader to consider the importance of the last scene, in which Walter bravely faces a firing squad without a blindfold. Thurber's narrative proficiency is such that he actually writes six stories within one. None of the mini-narratives have decisive conclusions: The dream sequences complicate this third-person limited point of view. During these sections of the story, readers are inside of Walter's fantasy.

His conscious thoughts are on display. He wonders what he was supposed to buy at the store. Readers also have access to another level of Mitty's consciousness during the dream sequences. Here, Walter's thoughts are projected into narrative action. Thurber shifts from one level of awareness to another without confusing the reader. Wordplay Thurber has been praised for his use of extravagant wordplay and literary allusions.

Noted primarily for his light sketches and humorous line drawings, Thurber did not receive a great deal of serious critical appraisal during his career.

However, later critics have commented on his bitter political and social commentary and the latent, darker themes in his work. Through his use of humor and wit, Thurber was able to explore the conflicts and neurotic tensions of modern life. Mitty's misuse of words such as "coreopsis" and "obstreosis" in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" is a typical example of how Thurber employed speech to great effect. Humorous distortions of medical terms, technological advancements, and items of warfare make Mitty's portrayal accurate, lifelike, and believable.

During his courtroom daydream, Mitty is called upon to identify a gun known as a "Webley-Vickers Carl M. Lindner asserts that this distortion of a brand-name probably Smith and Wesson—a well-known gun manufacturer demonstrates Mitty's "ignorance of the heroic experience" and amuses readers at the same time.

Thurber used such distortions of speech and reality to effectively depict the absurdities of the human condition. While the Axis powers were consolidating, Britain and France declared war on Germany. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared U. Roosevelt, at the suggestion of Albert Einstein, ordered a U.

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Modernism Thurber's use of wordplay and exploration of the absurdity of modern life has been noted for its affinities with modernist writing. Modernists played with conventional narrative form and dialogue, attempting to approximate subjective thought and experience.

Thurber's narrative technique has been compared to the writings of William Faulkner, whose novels Absalom, Absalom!

Thurber's playful use of words and themes of absurdity also show the influence of the poet Wallace Stevens, whose book of verse, The Man with the Blue Guitar was published in Towards the end of the story, Walter comments that "things close in," which, according to Carl M.

Lindner, represents the suffocating effects of modern life on "the Romantic individual. Walter Mitty has become a well-known character in American fiction. The tenth edition of the Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary defines a "Walter Mitty" as "a commonplace unadventurous person who seeks escape from reality through daydreaming.

Critics refer to this type of character as the "Thurber male. On the one hand, Richard C. Tobias's The Art of James Thurber views Thurber as a cerebral comic writer, whose protagonists defeat humdrum reality with their imaginations. Characters like Mitty, Blair argues, let their neurotic fears defeat them, and are unable to cope with the world. Like these archetypal comic figures, Mitty chooses to escape society rather than confront it.

Refusing to accept adult responsibility, Lindner argues, these figures of masculinity regress to boyish behavior. Critics disagree about Thurber's portrayal of women as well. Commentators such as Blair and Hill consider him a misogynist—a person who hates women. Viewing Mrs. Mitty as the one responsible for Walter's loss of independence and his inability to function, such critics believe Thurber was opposed to strong, empowered female characters.

Tobias, on the other hand, praises Thurber's assertive female characters. Critics who analyze Thurber's stories as lightly comic and triumphant are more likely to regard favorably his depictions of women; those who concentrate on his darker themes point to his negative portrayals of women.

Another issue which recurs in critical discussion is Thurber's view of modern life and his technique in portraying it. His writing has been compared to that of modernist writers such as William Faulkner, James Joyce and T. His use of wordplay, integration of different narrative consciousnesses, and treatment of the absurdity of modern life connect Thurber's fiction to modernism.

Robert Morseberger, in his monograph, James Thurber, characterizes Thurber as a Romantic writer, one who opposes technological advances and rationality and believes in the mind's ability to provide an escape from the destructive forces of society.

Man vs. Man, Man vs. Society, Man vs. Self and Man vs. Sundell compares Thurber's ability to elicit the sympathy of the reader in "Mitty" to J. Salinger's portrayal of Holden Caulfield, the protagonist in the novel Catcher in the Rye. He notes that, like Holden, Walter seems to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Unlike the adolescent Caulfield, though, Walter is an adult, and thus his chronic daydreaming merits less sympathy from the reader. He spends much of his time escaping into fantasies in which he is brilliant and heroic, and his life is dramatic and adventurous.

Mitty is, of course, an extreme case when it comes to daydreaming. In the single afternoon covered by the story's action, he imagines he is a prominent surgeon operating on a millionaire; a skilled marksman providing testimony in a sensational trial; a courageous warrior of the air twice ; and a condemned man bravely facing a firing squad. Numerous critics have pointed to Mitty as a prime example of modern man, trapped in a world that is full of dull responsibilities and offers few possibilities for adventure—or, at least, offers these possibilities only to the few.

Mitty dreams of flying planes in hazardous conditions and causing scenes in courtrooms, but his life consists of buying overshoes and waiting for his wife to have her hair done. In his fantasies, not only is his life exciting, but his imagined persona is heroic and resourceful as well.

In his daydreams he is a figure larger than life, unflappable and in control of every situation; in reality he is a character critics have dubbed the "little man,'' ineffectual and somewhat ridiculous. He inspires feelings of superiority in garage attendants. When he remembers that he is supposed to buy puppy biscuit, he says the words aloud, leading a passer-by to laugh and remark to her companion, "That man said 'Puppy biscuit' to himself. Mitty's mental meanderings also have something to do with asserting his manhood, at least a stereotypical idea of manhood.

He fantasizes about excelling at what are considered "masculine" pursuits having to do with guns and bombs; in reality, he has trouble taking the chains off his car's tires. Scholar Carl M. Lindner asserts in an essay in The Georgia Review that the forces that induce Mitty to daydream include the development of urban, industrial society.

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When the United States was a young country, with an untamed frontier, there were far more opportunities for heroic action—or, at least, there seemed to be, Lindner notes.

Also, literature and legend immortalized many frontier heroes, whether fictional creations such as James Fenimore Cooper's Natty Bumppo or real historical figures such as Davy Crockett whose accomplishments were heavily exaggerated, so that he now seems almost like a fictional character.

Whether Mitty actually would become a hero if possibilities for action were available to him is open to question; he appears to lack capability as well as opportunity.

Some critics have contended Mitty's inability to deal with life is the natural result of the modern world's stresses on the individual.

However, in the estimation of another critic, Ann Ferguson Mann, Mitty has merely abdicated responsibility for his life. In her essay in Studies in Short Fiction, Mann writes: In his stories and cartoons, Thurber often portrayed women, especially wives, as dominating and menacing creatures, breaking the spirit of the men in their lives.

Yates writes: Mitty in some ways. She obviously worries about Walter's health and welfare; she observes that he is nervous, suggests a visit to a doctor, notes that she intends to check his temperature when they return home, and reminds him to wear his gloves and buy overshoes.

The fact that she would have to remind him of these things is a sign that she is indeed more competent than he, and is constantly concerned about his well being. Another indication of her competence is that she notices when he is driving too fast. She also seems not to understand his need for escapism; he wonders if she realizes that he is sometimes thinking. Mitty's actions can be seen as quite understandable and even praise worthy.

Indeed, the story contains ample evidence that Mitty would try a mate's patience. He has trouble remembering the errands he is supposed to run. He rebels at the idea of dressing properly for winter. He is an inept driver. And he slides into his fantasies with little provocation. It has fallen to Mrs. Mitty Thurber gives her no first name to manage the details of Walter's life. Mitty is not only at odds with that held by many other critics, but also might surprise Thurber, given that much of his work contained negative portraits of women.

Late in his career, however, Thurber contended he was not a misogynist. Yates points to a statement Thurber wrote in In the end, it is possible to sympathize with both Walter and Mrs. It is understandable that he would want to find in his fantasies what he lacks in life; it is also easy to see that she would have to be the more responsible member of the couple, and that she would sometimes have to play the unpopular role of disciplinarian.

He needs someone to take care of him; perhaps she needs to take care of someone. Therefore, each fulfills a need for the other. Readers may be able to identify with Mrs. Mitty to some extent. This is limited, however, because she is rather sketchily drawn, because her role in the story is secondary to Walter's, and because dreamers are generally more appealing than are earthbound, practical people.

Walter remains the story's primary audience-identification figure. Readers are able to identify with Mitty not only because of the fact that he fantasizes, but also because of the content of his fantasies. The content is familiar, as it is drawn from American popular culture.

His military scenarios are full of cliches from war films. The courtroom scene could be from a low-budget s mystery movie or a paperback crime novel.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The firing-squad ending could come from a movie, too. And the medical fantasy is pure soap opera. Some critics have pointed out that the daydream sequences show Thurber's skill as a parodist—a skill he also displayed in Fables For Our Time and other works.

Consider these lines from Mitty's dream of being a naval aviator, flying through a severe storm: A woman's scream rose above the bedlam and suddenly a lovely, dark-haired girl was in Mitty's arms. The District Attorney struck at her savagely. Without rising from his chair, Mitty let the man have it on the point of the chin.

The fantasy scenes also contain humor based on made-up and misused words; for instance, Mitty imagines himself to be a doctor dealing with diseases called obstreosis and streptothricosis both fabricated words , as well as coreopsis really a genus of herb. Several critics interpret the cliched content and twisted vocabulary of Mitty's daydreams as revealing the limitations of his experience, Lindner notes that Mitty's "concocted over-dramatizations" are based on "what he has read rather than what he has done'' because, after all, Mitty has not done much in his life.

As for Mitty's erroneous use of words, Lindner asserts, "While Thurber deliberately places these wrong-way signposts to reveal Mitty's ignorance of the heroic experience Mitty remains oblivious of his blunders as he succeeds in fashioning his own reality.

More than anything, that point of identification is the reason the story continues to appeal to readers year after year. Trudy Ring is a reporter, editor, and frequent writer on literary subjects.

His stories, sketches, and cartoons are engaging, often leading to chuckles of wry reminiscence. But when he created "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," Thurber wrought better than he knew, for he had touched upon one of the major themes in American literature—the conflict between individual and society. Mitty's forerunners are readily observable in native folklore and fiction.

On the other side he dream-wishes qualities customarily exhibited by the legendary frontier hero. Yet, while Thurber's story derives from American cultural tradition, it presents the quest for identity in an unmistakably modern context. In what may be the final scene in an unfolding tapestry of heroic situations, Mitty struggles to achieve a measure of self-respect, but finds himself restricted to the pathways of retreat and wish-fulfillment.

Mitty's closest literary forerunner is Rip Van Winkle, the "good-bad boy" of American fiction. Like Rip, Mitty has a wife who embodies the authority of a society in which the husband cannot function. Mitty's world is routine, trivial, and fraught with pigeon-holes; it persecutes the individual, strips his life of romance, and dictates what his actions if not his thoughts should be. The husband is often reduced to the status of a naughty child as demonstrated by a prepubertal mentality ; and he attempts to escape rather than confront a world symbolized by a wife who, more often than not, seems to be a mother-figure rather than a partner.

Because of the threat which the wife-mother poses to the American male psyche, Rip must go hunting, Deerslayer cannot marry and dwell in the town, and Huck seeks the river rather than be sivilized. Huck's boyhood companion, Tom Sawyer, is not only one of the most popular characters in American fiction, he is one of the most successful at circumventing authority-figures.

He manages to do this in the real world, thus distinguishing himself from Rip and Mitty. But if he succeeds, it may be because the pressure is not as great; after all, he is only a boy, not subject to the strain of a day-to-day relationship with its attendant responsibilities.

Society does not weigh heavily upon Tom's boyish shoulders, and his pranks and practical jokes permit him to squirm free from the little discomfort he experiences. Because Tom's freedom is never seriously threatened, his rebellion a conventional one at that remains on an adolescent level.

What Mitty and Tom do share, however, is an imagination based on book-adventures. Like Tom, Mitty romanticizes and inflates situations, and this goes far to explain why Mitty's mind will not indeed, can not grapple with the world about him.

Because his imagination depends upon what he has read rather than what he has done, Mitty lives a vicarious existence. And, conversely, Mitty's misuse of words and concocted over-dramatizations betoken his unwillingness to dwell in a dimension which cannot feed his imaginative faculties.

Given his routine external life, how could it be otherwise? Only in Mitty's world could an eight-engine hydroplane leave the water. The banker, Wellington McMillan note the initials , falls prey to "coreopsis" during his operation—but "coreopsis" denotes a genus of plants. Captain Mitty, the courageous flier, mistakenly refers to the "Jerries" as the "Archies.

A dual purpose is evident here, for while Thurber deliberately places these wrong-way signposts to reveal Mitty's ignorance of the heroic experience Mitty remains oblivious of his blunders as he succeeds in fashioning his own reality. Simultaneously it is a sad and amusing show.

Mitty's visions, however, are more than mere adolescent fantasies with their theatricality and simplistic crises; they are surprisingly true to what Lawrence in Studies in Classic American Literature defined as the fundamental American male psyche: An isolate, almost selfless, stoic, enduring man, who lives by death, by killing, but who is pure white.

It must be noted that nearly all of Mitty's visions deal with violence, and even the one exception dramatizes a matter of life and death. This kind of situation allows the ultimate in symbolic action in which the questions of self can be answered and personal values defined. One can speculate whether Mitty's visions of crises and correspondingly heroic responses are so familiar because they are inherent in the national unconscious or because they recur with such frequency in the national literature.

The speculative game is one of chicken and egg; the undeniable fact suggests serious and alarming possibilities concerning the American male mentality in a time when football and military force provide over-simplified moral and physical confrontations. This quality of self-reliance, so directly traceable to the American past, is manifested by Mitty's dream-self to a considerable degree. In both the frontier literature and that of the New England Romantic tradition, the hero always defined himself through actions which dramatically delineated his inner self and established his identity, as Daniel Hoffman points out in Form and Fable in American Fiction.

A youthful culture naturally produced heroes with youthful qualities, most notably an unshaken self-confidence which framed their belief that they could always adapt to the world, no matter what the world might prove to be. This kind of unqualified optimism in one's ability one side of the Romantic coin reveals itself most clearly in Cooper's Natty Bumppo, Emerson's "Self-Reliance" and Thoreau's exploits in Walden.

It is this swaggering self-assertion and a conviction regarding the control of one's destiny which characterize at once the American hero and Mitty's alter ego. One need only recall how Mitty substitutes the fountain pen for the faulty piston in the failing anaesthetizer, how he strikes the villainous District Attorney from a sitting position with his one good arm in the chivalrous defense of a Byronic heroine, and how he prepares to fly, alone and weary, on a vital mission against the "Archies.

But the man who can surmount catastrophes, man-made or natural, exists today only in the mind of a bewildered and hen-pecked protagonist. Whether the potential for heroic action was greater in the past, or whether there were indeed giants in those days, Mitty, like Miniver Cheevy, can only think about it. In the continuing battle with society, the individual resorts increasingly to escapism rather than to direct opposition. Rip sleeps away the time in order to avoid the wear and tear of prolonged and ineffectual confrontation.

Mitty attempts a series of little sleeps, only to be awakened before each climax. Inevitably and ironically, the relentlessly real world determines both the origin and the premature conclusion of each fantasy. With the repeated stifling of each psychological orgasm, Mitty's predicament becomes more frustrated and with increasing desperation he returns to his dream-world to seek release.

His triumphs, projected upon an internal terrain, are the more tantalizing because they are so fleeting and so abruptly terminated. There is no satisfaction at having beaten the system, for even his inward retreat provides no real haven. What becomes more evident as the story progresses is the vision of the contemporary world as Hell for the Romantic individual.

Mitty is recalled from his first vision when this word tolls, and the word is immediately followed by his wife's voice, admonishing him not to drive so fast. The dreamer is repeatedly forced to return to a world he neither desires nor understands. It is a world peopled with a host of authority-figures who plague the beleaguered Mitty like demons—doctors, bankers, district attorneys, mechanics, parking-lot attendants, and policemen—all of whom sound very much like Mrs.

Notice how Mitty mistakes the voice and tone of the policeman for his wife's orders to keep his gloves on. Even a lowly parking-lot attendant assumes authority over him, telling him to "Back it up, Mac! When she rebukes him for hiding, Mitty can only resignedly muse to himself, "Things close in. Small wonder that he returns to boyhood methods of dealing with a world which confuses him—and small wonder that he conceives his wife as threat and stifler of his inner self The heroic mold has generally been cast by a juvenile imagination in America.

Certainly the folk heroes were inflated to larger-than-life proportions. And the Romantic imagination would naturally have seized upon the frontier as a natural landscape whereon heroic deeds of a corresponding size and nature could be performed. But in Thurber's modern man only a dim memory of a heroic past remains, nurtured on puerile fantasies propagated by films and pulp fiction. With the frontier gone, and space and privacy at a premium, there is only one place where Mitty can hope to fulfill himself—in a world of self-projection.

And even here he cannot totally escape, for the real world apprizes him of its presence by shattering each delusion before it can be climaxed. As a result of being perpetually interrupted at crucial moments in these fantasies, it seems only proper that Mitty's final role should be that of the condemned man about to be executed by a faceless firing squad for reasons not explicitly given. This vision is a marvelously telling projection of Mitty's place in the world as he feels it.

How fitting it is that the story ends, as it began, with a daydream and that, to the external world his wife, among others , Walter Mitty wears that "faint, fleeting smile" and remains "inscrutable to the last. The Architecture of Walter Mitty's Secret Life Any unit of literature which attempts to deal with the appreciation of the short story, either for pleasure or for the recognition of the principles involved in creative writing, would do well to include in its table of contents Thurber's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

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As is the case with so much literary criticism, my own notes on "The Secret Life" are not so much a result of private musings as the fruit of a dialogue involving students and myself engaged in observing, through sample pieces, the structural elements of this genre.

I read "The Secret Life'' to a group of highly sensitive and alert young people. The subsequent discussion was more rewarding than I had anticipated. We began by referring to the five major types of conflict recurrently treated in fiction.

Man Man vs. Society Man vs. Self Man vs. Nature Man vs. God or Conscience It soon became evident to us that Thurber's story is highly charged with the various types of conflict The Man vs. Man conflict is illustrated in Mitty's several encounters with the walk-on characters who remind him of his alienation from the real world.

During their drive to the beauty parlor, Walter's nagging wife jolts him out of his first fantasy with her chattering censure of his heavy accelerator foot. Minutes later, Mrs. Mitty discharged at her destination, Walter stops for a red light, lingers when it turns green, and receives the snappy order of a policeman to "Pick it up, brother! Look out for that Buick. He recalls, with much chagrin, the occasion on which he attempted to remove the chains from his tires and only succeeded in tangling them in the axle.

He'd had to send for the "grinning young garageman" to unwind them.