|Walter James Mitty|
|First appearance||"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" |
The New Yorker,
March 18, 1939
|Created by||James Thurber|
|Spouse||Mrs. Mitty (wife)|
Walter Mitty is a fictional character in James Thurber's first short story "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty", first published in The New Yorker on March 18, 1939, and in book form in My World and Welcome to It in 1942. Thurber loosely based the character, a daydreamer, on his friend Walter Mithoff. It was made into a film in 1947 starring Danny Kaye, with a remake directed by, and starring Ben Stiller released in 2013.
Character and plot
Mitty is a meek, mild man with a vivid fantasy life. In a few dozen paragraphs he imagines himself a wartime pilot, an emergency-room surgeon, and a devil-may-care killer. Although the story has humorous elements, there is a darker and more significant message underlying the text, leading to a more tragic interpretation of the Mitty character. Even in his heroic daydreams, Mitty does not triumph, several fantasies being interrupted before the final one sees Mitty dying bravely in front of a firing squad. In the brief snatches of reality that punctuate Mitty's fantasies the audience meets well-meaning but insensitive strangers who inadvertently rob Mitty of some of his remaining dignity.
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The character's name has come into more general use to refer to an ineffectual dreamer and appears in several dictionaries. The American Heritage Dictionary defines a Walter Mitty as "an ordinary often ineffectual person who indulges in fantastic daydreams of personal triumphs". The most famous of Thurber's inept male protagonists, the character is considered "the archetype for dreamy, hapless, Thurber Man".
When referencing actor Errol Flynn, Warner Brothers studio head, Jack L. Warner, noted in his autobiography, My First Hundred Years in Hollywood, "To the Walter Mittys of the world he [Flynn] was all the heroes in one magnificent, sexy, animal package".
In his 1992 biography of Henry Kissinger, Walter Isaacson records that on 6 October 1973, during the 1973 Arab Israeli War, Kissinger urged President Richard Nixon's Chief of Staff General Alexander Haig to keep Nixon in Florida in order to avoid any "hysterical" moves and to keep any "Walter Mitty tendencies" under control.
In the 1997 book Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer—a personal account of the events of the 1996 Everest disaster—Krakauer states: "Walter Mittys with Everest dreams need to bear in mind that when things go wrong up in the death zone (above 26,000 feet)—and sooner or later they always do—the strongest guides in the world may be powerless to save a client's life; indeed as the events of 1996 demonstrated, the strongest guides in the world are sometimes powerless to save even their own lives."
In the 1999 autobiography John Glenn: A Memoir by Mercury by astronaut and US Senator John Glenn, he states, "The average person could Walter Mitty him- or herself into winning the Indianapolis 500, since everybody drove a car; all you had to do was imagine yourself going faster and making nothing but left turns. But space was so new nobody had a way to relate to it realistically."
In 2007, automaker Ford stated that it had to exclude from the list of potential bidders "Walter Mitty" types who had dreams but no experience, prior to the sale of their Aston Martin British GT car brand to a consortium of business interests from America and the Middle East, headed by Prodrive founder and world rally championship owner David Richards.[dubious ]
The Guardian reported on 23 Jan 2016 that up to 10% of servicemen and ex-servicemen who made use of the services of military psychiatrists for PTSD were "Walter Mitty" characters who fabricated or exaggerated their experiences in combat.
British military slang
Individuals who impersonate serving or retired members of the armed forces are known as "Walts" in the British Armed Forces, a shortened form of "Walter Mitty". In the United Kingdom it is an offence under the Armed Forces Act 2006 to wear real or replica military decorations with intent to deceive. Such an example of this is Alan Mcilwraith, who falsely claimed to be a highly decorated British Army officer.
In his book on selection for the SAS, Andy McNab wrote that soldiers from other units who were applying to join and who gave away the fact they were motivated by reasons of personal vanity were labelled as "Walter Mitties" and quietly sent home.
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Walter Mitty is referenced in the lyrics of these songs:
|Silver Bird||Mark Lindsay||1970|
|Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll||Ian Dury||1977|
|Lady Killer||Flash and the Pan||1978|
|Kitty Ricketts||The Radiators||1979|
|In The City||Madness||1981|
|Walter Mitty Blues||The Meteors||1986|
|All Dressed Up For San Francisco||The Philosopher Kings||1996|
|Sammy Davis City||Joe Strummer and Brian Setzer||1996|
|Playing Xylophone||Gordon Haskell||2000|
|A Questionnaire for Walter Mitty||Duke Special||2017|
- Caspar Milquetoast, a cartoon character
- Snoopy, can be considered a Walter Mitty like character due to his fantasies within the Peanuts comic strip.
- "Politics of Walter Mitty, a Giant in His Own Mind". NPR. Retrieved 2010-09-26.
- "Walter Mitty". dictionary.com. Retrieved 2006-06-15.
- Walter Mitty. (n.d.). The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved May 29, 2007, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/walter_mitty
- King, Steve. "Thurber: Mitty and Dangerous". Today in Literature. todayinliterature.com. Retrieved 2008-07-14.
- "Errol Flynn: Hollywood Star Walk". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 11, 2015.
- Julius, Marshall (1996). Action!: The Action Movie A-Z. Indiana University Press. p. 82. ISBN 9780253210913.
- "The October War and U.S. Policy", October 7, 2003, National Security Archives
- Krakauer, p. 275.[clarification needed]
- "BNP says some members are oddballs and liars". The Guardian. 20 April 2009. Retrieved 01 May 2009.
- "Many military veterans' PTSD claims 'fabricated or exaggerated'". The Guardian. 23 Jan 2016. Retrieved 23 Jan 2016.
- Peary, D. (1986). Guide for the Film Fanatic. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9780671610814.
- Green Chris (30 January 2015). "Homeless Veterans appeal: UK needs new law to stop 'Walter Mittys' posing as war heroes". The Independent. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
- "Is it illegal to wear medals you weren't awarded?". BBC News. BBC. 13 January 2010. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
- Seenan, Gerard (12 April 2006). "Captain Sir Alan KBE - call-centre worker". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 February 2015.
- McNab, A. (2008). Immediate Action. Transworld. ISBN 9781407039268.
- "Walts - ARRSEpedia". arrse.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-01-25.
- "Walter Mitty Alister Hutcheson – 22 SAS Walt". waltermittyhunt.com. Archived from the original on 2014-01-29. Retrieved 2014-01-25.
- "Find the SAS Walter Mitty in this picture · Causes". causes.com. Retrieved 2014-01-25.
- "Ben Stiller on the Set of 'Secret Life of Walter Mitty'". NYMag.com. Retrieved 2012-08-20.
- "Silver Bird Lyrics", metrolyrics.com
- "Silver Bird Lyrics", lyricsfreak.com
|Look up Walter Mitty in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Read the original short story on NewYorker.com