Title: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Author: James Thurber (Reader: Ben Stiller)
Publication Date: 1939 (original pub date)
Length: 32 pages (0 h 15 min)
Series: Stand Alone
Audio or Book: Audio
Reason for Discovery: Audible Freebie
Mild-mannered Walter Mitty is a day-dreamer who escapes his anonymous life by disappearing into a world of fantasies filled with heroism, romance and action. This well-known and beloved tale has launched its famous protagonist into the cultural lexicon, warranting his inclusion in English-language dictionaries and countless anthologies. Stiller's imaginative performance as Mitty is the perfect re-introduction to the classic character and a great preface to the upcoming film, for longtime fans and new listeners alike.
Walter Mitty is spending the day in town with his wife. While going on mundane errands, Mitty fantasizes about being in exciting and dangerous adventures. Mitty always seems to be able to create an imaginary scenario that is more adventurous than what he is doing in his real life.
When The Secret Life of Walter Mitty came out, I got an email from Audible stating that I could get a free copy of the short story. If you are in the US and click the Audible link above, you should be able to get your own copy too, at least that is true as of typing these words. I decided to read this book, because I have heard people refer to the character of Walter Mitty at times and even one of my therapy supervisors had encouraged me to check it out.
According to Wikipedia:
The name Walter Mitty and the derivative word "Mittyesque" have entered the English language, denoting an ineffectual person who spends more time in heroic daydreams than paying attention to the real world, or more seriously, one who intentionally attempts to mislead or convince others that he is something that he is not. In military circles, this usually refers to people who try to fake an impressive career.
As you can see from the Wikipedia entry, someone who is Mittyesque or a Walter Mitty is someone who spends more of their time fantasizing than living in the real world. I am sure that a lot of you like to day dream (I do too), but Mitty takes it to the extreme. As you read the short story, you see that Mitty does not have any agency or the desire to gain any. Mitty would rather live in his dream world than in the real world (a patient that my supervisor and I were seeing at the time shared this same quality) This short story is a bit of a downer; however, the character of Mitty is fascinating, because he is a fleshed-out character, even if he is a sad one.
An important note is that the Ben Stiller movie is VERY different from the short story. I have not seen the movie, but just based on the trailer, I can see that outside of the fantasizing, the movie is completely different from the short story. I have a feeling that Walter Mitty in the movie is not as Mittyesque as he is in the short story.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty won't take you very long to read. The book version is listed at 32 pages; however, I am sure that this page count takes into account analysis of the book. I cannot imagine it being longer than 20 pages. This short story, however, is everything that you want in a short story. You have a fully-realized character that you quickly grow to understand even if you are completely frustrated with him.
Audio: I was pleasantly surprised with how well Ben Stiller read this short story. I was quite impressed, and I hope that Ben Stiller decides to do more voice over work in the future.
I give this short story a 5 out of 5.