The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and the Story of an Hour
Jurrell D. Harrison The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and The Story of an Hour Introduction to Literature Professor Daw Monday 12th December 2011 The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, written by James Thurber (1939) and the Story of an Hour written by Chopin (1894) are the two literary works that will be compared and contrasted in this paper. Both these pieces depict some of the trials and tribulations of a union in marriage, such as the want of independence and excitement; experiences that a marriage can inadvertently inhibit.
Not only do both these stories illustrate some of the wants or needs that arise out of marriage, but they both also show how at times; the only means by which desire or necessity can be satisfied or experienced, is within the confines of one’s mind. Additionally, both works illustrate a sense of confinement that can arise out of marriage. Mitty’s confinement is illustrated trough is daydreams, where as Mrs.
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Mallard’s is illustrated through her emotions and reactions. The themes of these two pieces, restriction and excitement, or lack there of will be compared and contrasted in the following paragraphs.
Also, the structure, style and literary elements of both works will be analyzed and discussed. Thurber’s protagonist, Walter Mitty, who will be referred to, as Mitty hereafter, is an ordinary man whom frequently daydreams of being extraordinary. This daydreaming explicitly illustrates Mitty’s want for excitement, excitement that has been inhibited by his wife. Similarly, Mrs. Mallard, the main character in Chopin’s work, is a woman whose devotion to her husband is limitless. However it would seem as though this devotion is not genuine, Chopin alludes that Mrs.
Mallard says with her husband because she has grown accustomed to him, and remains with him out of tradition and comfort. Thus, it becomes apparent that Mrs. Mallard, like Mitty, is dissatisfied with her life. It is interesting to note that both their dissatisfaction arises from marriage. In the onset of Thurber’s short story, Mitty’s wife is having a row because Mitty exceed the driving speed she is comfortable with, by just a mere five miles per hour faster. And almost exactly after, his wife said what she had to say, Mitty’s mind goes right back into its own world.
This transition between reality, and the intimate airway of [the] mind, as Thurber described it, is just one illustration keeping within the theme of confinement. Chopin’s work is almost very similar in theme. To Mrs. Mallard, independence is a forbidden pleasure. She is restricted in several ways. At the beginning of the story for example, the author introduces the fact that Mrs. Mallard has a “bad heart”. This symbolizes an arrest of the freedom to explore, to adventure, in all actuality, Mrs. Mallard may very well have had a considerable lack of physical activity. (National Heart Lung and Blood Institute).
It is interesting to note that this heart problem not only symbolizes Mrs. Mallard’s restriction, but it also represents her ambivalence toward her marriage. That is although she is faithful and devout toward her husband, she desperately wishes to experience freedom outside of her marriage, most likely not in a promiscuous manner, but, to experience the freedom from not being obligated nor obliged. These two very different settings, and two very different characters play a very similar role in their own stories. They both feel restricted by their better halves – Mitty by his wife, Mrs. Mallard by her husband.
Thus in analyzing the theme of these two stories respectively, it is clear that both authors wish to portray that a certain sense of freedom is stripped from the characters, a consequential result of marriage. Although the theme of both stories are similar, the writing style has considerable differences. Consider the following, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, theme aside, it about a playful imagination. There are several symbols, imagery and allegories that affect Walter Mitty, and send him into his imaginative daisy. It is very clear then, that Thurber’s writing style has an imaginative influence.
For example, look back to the beginning part of the piece again and not how Thurber describes the rainy weather as: a terrible storm raging. ” By using this metaphor, Thurber clearly engages the readers mind in an imaginative way. Another example is when Mitty describes sound of the hotel lobby doors as faintly derisive whistling, it is clear therefore to see that there is a playfulness, and a great detail of description through imagery in Thurber’s writing. Unlike Thurber however, Chopin’s piece is a lot darker – It isn’t as playful as Thurber’s.