Marriage in Literature: “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and “The Story of an Hour”
On the surface, it would not seem as though Thurber’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” would be comparable because of their varying tones, the former is comedic and the latter is more serious, and themes, escapism vs. reality. However, at the heart of both stories is a marriage that is unhappy. In both stories, the protagonist has been slowly suffocated by their husband or wife. They both are extremely unhappy in their unions and use their imagination to escape their realities. The stories differ in how the protagonist deals with the intrusion of reality into their happy fantasy; one continues on in the fantasy world, making it less and less likely that he can survive within reality and one admits that she cannot return to reality and dies.
In James Thurber’s short work “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” the eponymous character spends the majority of the story imagining himself in these amazing situations where he is someone of great importance. Mitty, in his real life, is a middle-aged man who is henpecked by his wife. In reality, he has no power. So, it would make sense that his fantasy life would place him in positions of power and respect, but all the fantasies call upon Mitty to perform an act of heroism and save the day. What makes Walter Mitty different from men in similar positions is that he spends more of his life in this fantasy world than he does in the real world. Walter Mitty is decidedly unhappy in his life. He escapes it by becoming an author in his own mind.
The story begs for the reader to understand what it is like for this oppressed and dissatisfied man and to relate to his need for an existence more imaginative and more adventurous than he could ever experience in reality (Belsey 2005,-page 2). In reality, Walter Mitty is taking a simple drive to town with his wife to do their weekly shopping and so she may go to the beauty parlor. His life is so uneventful that the greatest achievement of his life is going to the store with his wife. This is the highlight of Walter Mitty’s life; at least it is the highlight of his real life.
Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” is an account of a marriage in the late 1800s. This was the era of the cult of domesticity where the little wife was supposed to be the angel of the house, running the domestic sphere and leaving the outside world to her husband. In short, a Victorian woman’s life was her marriage. Her last name was her identity and her interests were supposed to include nothing outside of the home and her domestic duties. In “The Story of an Hour,” Mrs. Louise Mallard tastes freedom from the identity she has earned through marriage after hearing that her husband is dead. This freedom takes over her body and soul and when the moment of realization comes that this freedom was only fleeting, Mrs. Mallard is unable to exist any longer. When that freedom is taken away, she simply can no longer be. Louise Mallard is tasked with choosing between the freedom of her soul and the shackles of her marriage and is destroyed in the process.
Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” begins with a woman being told that her husband has been killed in a horrible train accident. Her family worries that the news will destroy her because she has a weak heart, not an unattractive trait for a Victorian woman. “Mrs. Mallard’s heart trouble is not so much a physical ailment, as the other characters in the story think, as a sign of a woman who has unconsciously surrendered her heart (i.e. her identity as an individual) to the culture of paternalism” (Jamil 2009,-page 216). Louise had once believed that she would be forever wed to this man for whom she has little or no affection. “It was only yesterday [Mrs. Mallard] had thought with a shudder that life might be long” (Chopin 2007,-page 194). Instead of going to pieces at the news of her widowhood, she comes to realize the failures of her marriage. Though she was doing her duty as a wife, she was miserable in it. After hearing of her husband’s demise, Louise reflects on the truth of her marriage. “There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature” (Chopin 2007,-page 194). She realizes that it has been a long time that she has been unhappy with her marriage, but that she was impotent against it.
In the first fantasy, Walter Mitty is a captain piloting a boat during a huge storm, then a magnificent surgeon, an assassin testifying in a courtroom, a member of the Royal Air Force (RAF) in Britain volunteering for a suicide mission, and finally as a man facing a firing squad prepared to meet death with courageous stoicism. Each of these fantasies is interrupted by the real world in the form of outside individuals. However, Mitty is never really fully engrossed in his fantasies. Despite his most fervent efforts, the sound of the car’s sputtering motor still makes its way as a sound effect in each of his fantasies. This influence prohibits Mitty from fully escaping into his fantasy world. After the first fantasy, Mitty is recalled to reality by the nagging of his wife to slow down the car. “She seemed grossly unfamiliar, like a strange woman who had yelled at him in a crowd” (Thurber 1939). It is evident from this line that slowly, Mitty is becoming more and more reliant on these fantasies to make it through his mundane existence. The fantasy is becoming closer to truth for him than a woman whom he has been married to for many years.
The reader is meant to sympathize with Walter Mitty above any of the other characters in the short story. While speaking with his wife, he talks in curt, short sentences but it is clear that she is the dominant one in the relationship. Their conversation right before she exits the car involves Walter going to purchase overshoes while she goes to get her hair done. He meekly replies, “I don’t need overshoes” (Thurber 1939). Mrs. Mitty is completely domineering of her husband. She demands that he buy overshoes, that he wear his gloves, and constantly reminds him that he is not a young man. Basically, Mrs. Mitty infantilizes her husband at every opportunity. In this way, she is systematically minimizing his importance as a man. This is why in his fantasies, Mitty is an unparalleled powerhouse. No one in the fantasy world can diminish his importance. It is not only his wife that makes Walter Mitty feel enfeebled. He also gets mocked by the policeman and by a strange woman on the street who laughs at him. At the climax of each fantasy, Mitty is called out of his fantasy by the reality of his life. Each time this happens, it is harder and harder for Walter to reconcile his desires with his true set of circumstances and he dives deeper and deeper into depression. At the very end of the story, Walter Mitty is reconciled with his wife. Their conversation is brief. He has purchased the overshoes that she was so set upon. Still Mrs. Mitty is unhappy because her husband did not put on the despised overshoes while he was in the story. His reasoning for this is that “I was thinking” (Thurber 1939). For the first time, Mitty stands up to his wife, to anyone in the real world when he asks her, “Does it ever occur to you that I am sometimes thinking?” It is evident from this that Walter never confronts his wife. He never questions her desires or stands up for himself or does anything in reality against her demands. In response to this she declares that Walter must be ill. No healthy version of her husband would have the audacity to stand up for herself in the slightest way.
Louis Mallard is trapped in a marriage, a union she despairs of and upon learning of her husband’s demise, she does not mourn as a proper wife should. Instead, she finds herself. “When she abandoned herself a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips. She said it over and over under her breath: ‘free, free, free!” (Chopin 2007,-page 194). For Louise, the news of her husband’s state of existence killed her. Witnesses mistakenly believed it was a heart attack brought on by joy. “When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease — of joy that kills” (Chopin 2007,-page 194). The reader is aware that this is entirely ironic. It is not joy which has caused Mrs. Mallard’s death but the knowledge that she must once again become “Mrs. Mallard.” Louise’s husband demolished her individuality until she felt she had no sense of self. His death gives Louise her individuality back. Selina Jamil (2009) writes, “Until her moment of illumination, Mrs. Mallard’s emotions have been stifled and suppressed to fit into the mold of hollow social conventions” (page 216). When that freedom is taken away again by the return of the no longer deceased Mr. Mallard, she collapses under the weight of her ball and chain, knowing that with his continued existence comes her further incarceration. Louise even questions to herself whether she ever loved her husband at all. “What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of being” (Chopin 2007,-page 194). She comes to the conclusion that her supposed affection was one out of societal necessity, not her own true affection. Louise, as a woman of class, was destined from birth to marry within her class, produce offspring, and eventually die a contented woman with all the comforts of her station. It would be inappropriate, and indeed even unwomanly, to desire anything more. Mrs. Mallard could no longer survive without freedom and yet she was too weak either physically or emotionally to claim that freedom when faced with any opposition.
Walter Mitty spends the final moments of the story entering into another one of his fantasies, this one much darker than the others. In all of Mitty’s previous fantasies, he was successfully combating an outside force, everyone around him depending on his services to save the day (Gander 1999,-page 203). The final fantasy is Mitty preparing to stand before a firing squad awaiting his execution. “He took one last drag on his cigarette and snapped it away. Then, with that faint, fleeting smile playing about his lips, he faced the firing squad; erect and motionless, proud and disdainful, Walter Mitty the Undefeated, inscrutable to the last” (Thurber 1939). There are many ways to interpret this final part of the story. Most assume that Mitty is just entering into another fantasy and that it too will be interrupted. Mitty’s life has been full of similar fantasies and the reader has just been the witness to one afternoon’s worth of imagination. However, if the reader looks more closely at these final lines, it becomes clear that this particular fantasy is more determined than the others. The finality of the words would lead the reader to believe that Mitty has made a decision. Standing on the sidewalk in a heavily-trafficked area, all Mitty has to do is to step into traffic and forever indulge in his world of fantasy and imagination by facing this metaphorical firing squad.
Like Mitty, Louise Mallard is married to a person who does not understand her. She is unhappy but in a general way, without specific things to complain about. This is because she too, like Mitty, is a nonentity (Smith 2010). Mrs. Mallard has no identity outside of her husband. When this man, this identity, is removed, she is reawakened. For the first time in ages she awakes from her self-imposed hibernation. Louise can hear birds and smell the nature around her. She is alive following her husband’s perceived death. Of course, Mr. Mallard comes home, having missed the train that would have ended his life. Faced with the knowledge that she will be once again encapsulated by her last name and the man who owns it, she instead dies.
Walter Mitty and Louise Mallard are both married. They are married to people who they cannot live with, in both a literal and figurative way. Neither is happy and they escape their misery by descending into a world of fantasy. Mitty’s fantasies have become so real that they take over his real life, to the point where he very likely ends his life rather than give up the fantasy. Mrs. Mallard indulges in a fantasy where she is finally a whole person who does not have to exist under the thumb of her husband. In the end, neither can accept when the ideal of the fantasy life is stripped away. Rather than become a dutiful wife again, Mrs. Mallard dies from a heart attack. Though debatable, there is enough evidence to state that Mr. Mitty, unable to handle being anything less than the hero of his imagination, Walter Mitty commits suicide by walking into traffic.
Belsey, C. (2005). Culture and the Real: Theorizing Cultural Criticism. Taylor and Francis: New
Chopin, Kate. (2007). “The Story of an Hour.” Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing. 6th
(Boston: Thomson/Wadsworth) 193 — 94.
Gander, Eric (1999). The Last Conceptual Revolution.” State University: New York, NY.
Jamil, S. (2009). “Emotions in the Story of an Hour.” The Explicator (67.3) 215-20.
Smith, Nicole (2010). “Literary Analysis of ‘Story of an Hour’ by Kate Chopin: Language,
Emotion and Marriage.” Retrieved from http://www.articlemyriad.com/story_hour.htm
Thurber, J. (1939) “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.”
Are you busy and do not have time to handle your assignment? Are you scared that your paper will not make the grade? Do you have responsibilities that may hinder you from turning in your assignment on time? Are you tired and can barely handle your assignment? Are your grades inconsistent?
Whichever your reason is, it is valid! You can get professional academic help from our service at affordable rates. We have a team of professional academic writers who can handle all your assignments.
Students barely have time to read. We got you! Have your literature essay or book review written without having the hassle of reading the book. You can get your literature paper custom-written for you by our literature specialists.
Do you struggle with finance? No need to torture yourself if finance is not your cup of tea. You can order your finance paper from our academic writing service and get 100% original work from competent finance experts.
While psychology may be an interesting subject, you may lack sufficient time to handle your assignments. Don’t despair; by using our academic writing service, you can be assured of perfect grades. Moreover, your grades will be consistent.
Engineering is quite a demanding subject. Students face a lot of pressure and barely have enough time to do what they love to do. Our academic writing service got you covered! Our engineering specialists follow the paper instructions and ensure timely delivery of the paper.
In the nursing course, you may have difficulties with literature reviews, annotated bibliographies, critical essays, and other assignments. Our nursing assignment writers will offer you professional nursing paper help at low prices.
Truth be told, sociology papers can be quite exhausting. Our academic writing service relieves you of fatigue, pressure, and stress. You can relax and have peace of mind as our academic writers handle your sociology assignment.
We take pride in having some of the best business writers in the industry. Our business writers have a lot of experience in the field. They are reliable, and you can be assured of a high-grade paper. They are able to handle business papers of any subject, length, deadline, and difficulty!
We boast of having some of the most experienced statistics experts in the industry. Our statistics experts have diverse skills, expertise, and knowledge to handle any kind of assignment. They have access to all kinds of software to get your assignment done.
Writing a law essay may prove to be an insurmountable obstacle, especially when you need to know the peculiarities of the legislative framework. Take advantage of our top-notch law specialists and get superb grades and 100% satisfaction.
We have highlighted some of the most popular subjects we handle above. Those are just a tip of the iceberg. We deal in all academic disciplines since our writers are as diverse. They have been drawn from across all disciplines, and orders are assigned to those writers believed to be the best in the field. In a nutshell, there is no task we cannot handle; all you need to do is place your order with us. As long as your instructions are clear, just trust we shall deliver irrespective of the discipline.
Our essay writers are graduates with bachelor's, masters, Ph.D., and doctorate degrees in various subjects. The minimum requirement to be an essay writer with our essay writing service is to have a college degree. All our academic writers have a minimum of two years of academic writing. We have a stringent recruitment process to ensure that we get only the most competent essay writers in the industry. We also ensure that the writers are handsomely compensated for their value. The majority of our writers are native English speakers. As such, the fluency of language and grammar is impeccable.
There is a very low likelihood that you won’t like the paper.
Not at all. All papers are written from scratch. There is no way your tutor or instructor will realize that you did not write the paper yourself. In fact, we recommend using our assignment help services for consistent results.
We check all papers for plagiarism before we submit them. We use powerful plagiarism checking software such as SafeAssign, LopesWrite, and Turnitin. We also upload the plagiarism report so that you can review it. We understand that plagiarism is academic suicide. We would not take the risk of submitting plagiarized work and jeopardize your academic journey. Furthermore, we do not sell or use prewritten papers, and each paper is written from scratch.
You determine when you get the paper by setting the deadline when placing the order. All papers are delivered within the deadline. We are well aware that we operate in a time-sensitive industry. As such, we have laid out strategies to ensure that the client receives the paper on time and they never miss the deadline. We understand that papers that are submitted late have some points deducted. We do not want you to miss any points due to late submission. We work on beating deadlines by huge margins in order to ensure that you have ample time to review the paper before you submit it.
We have a privacy and confidentiality policy that guides our work. We NEVER share any customer information with third parties. Noone will ever know that you used our assignment help services. It’s only between you and us. We are bound by our policies to protect the customer’s identity and information. All your information, such as your names, phone number, email, order information, and so on, are protected. We have robust security systems that ensure that your data is protected. Hacking our systems is close to impossible, and it has never happened.
You fill all the paper instructions in the order form. Make sure you include all the helpful materials so that our academic writers can deliver the perfect paper. It will also help to eliminate unnecessary revisions.
Proceed to pay for the paper so that it can be assigned to one of our expert academic writers. The paper subject is matched with the writer’s area of specialization.
You communicate with the writer and know about the progress of the paper. The client can ask the writer for drafts of the paper. The client can upload extra material and include additional instructions from the lecturer. Receive a paper.
The paper is sent to your email and uploaded to your personal account. You also get a plagiarism report attached to your paper.
PLACE THIS ORDER OR A SIMILAR ORDER WITH US TODAY!!!
We provide professional writing services to help you score straight A’s by submitting custom written assignments that mirror your guidelines.
Get result-oriented writing and never worry about grades anymore. We follow the highest quality standards to make sure that you get perfect assignments.
Our writers have experience in dealing with papers of every educational level. You can surely rely on the expertise of our qualified professionals.
Your deadline is our threshold for success and we take it very seriously. We make sure you receive your papers before your predefined time.
Someone from our customer support team is always here to respond to your questions. So, hit us up if you have got any ambiguity or concern.
Sit back and relax while we help you out with writing your papers. We have an ultimate policy for keeping your personal and order-related details a secret.
We assure you that your document will be thoroughly checked for plagiarism and grammatical errors as we use highly authentic and licit sources.
Still reluctant about placing an order? Our 100% Moneyback Guarantee backs you up on rare occasions where you aren’t satisfied with the writing.
You don’t have to wait for an update for hours; you can track the progress of your order any time you want. We share the status after each step.
Although you can leverage our expertise for any writing task, we have a knack for creating flawless papers for the following document types.
Although you can leverage our expertise for any writing task, we have a knack for creating flawless papers for the following document types.
From brainstorming your paper's outline to perfecting its grammar, we perform every step carefully to make your paper worthy of A grade.
Hire your preferred writer anytime. Simply specify if you want your preferred expert to write your paper and we’ll make that happen.
Get an elaborate and authentic grammar check report with your work to have the grammar goodness sealed in your document.
You can purchase this feature if you want our writers to sum up your paper in the form of a concise and well-articulated summary.
You don’t have to worry about plagiarism anymore. Get a plagiarism report to certify the uniqueness of your work.
Join us for the best experience while seeking writing assistance in your college life. A good grade is all you need to boost up your academic excellence and we are all about it.
We create perfect papers according to the guidelines.
We seamlessly edit out errors from your papers.
We thoroughly read your final draft to identify errors.
Work with ultimate peace of mind because we ensure that your academic work is our responsibility and your grades are a top concern for us!
Dedication. Quality. Commitment. Punctuality
Here is what we have achieved so far. These numbers are evidence that we go the extra mile to make your college journey successful.
We have the most intuitive and minimalistic process so that you can easily place an order. Just follow a few steps to unlock success.
We understand your guidelines first before delivering any writing service. You can discuss your writing needs and we will have them evaluated by our dedicated team.
We write your papers in a standardized way. We complete your work in such a way that it turns out to be a perfect description of your guidelines.
We promise you excellent grades and academic excellence that you always longed for. Our writers stay in touch with you via email.