Good Example Of James’s Thurber’s Vivid Imaginations In His Two Short Stories Essay
The two short stories of James Thurber entitled “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” and “The Unicorn in the Building” shows how vivid are the imaginations of the writer. Both of the two writings are detailed with how the characters think and how their environment looks like. Thurber is also aggressive on tickling the imaginations of the readers regarding the truth in the stories like in “The Unicorn in the Building” where in readers are challenged whom they think is mad between the two characters. The two stories alone give an inkling of the creativeness and trickiness of Thurber as a writer.
“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is a story of an aging man named Walter Mitty who was in a fantasy journey while driving his wife to a hair salon, buying puppy cracker, and going a hotel to fetch his wife. In his fantasies, Walter Mitty imagined himself as a Commander who commands respect from his men. Another is being a surgeon whom his colleagues in the medicine field respect. Moreover, he imagined himself as a cool and calm accused. He even thought of himself as a patriotic British pilot when he saw the picture of a German plane. His fantasies were however disturbed every now and then by his domineering wife. Beyond his fantasies, he is a submissive husband to his ever bossy wife who thinks that Walter Mitty is incapable of thinking.
“The Unicorn in the Garden” on the other hand is a story of how a husband tried to convince his wife who is still asleep that he saw a unicorn in their garden. The husband went to their room twice just to tell his wife that he is telling the truth. Unable to convince his wife, he went to the garden and dozed. The wife meanwhile immediately called a police and the shrink to come over their house. She told them that his husband saw a unicorn that morning. When the husband was awake, he went inside their house and was if he ever told his wife that he saw a unicorn in the garden, he adamantly denied telling them that unicorn is just an imagination. The police and the shrink then took the wife as they said, she is mad.
Both of the two short stories revolved around two characters, the wife and the husband. Thurber capitalized on the possibilities of aging couples who are prone to hallucinations. In “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” the various fantasies entered into by the husband can be a cause of hallucinations and an alter ego from his daily life with his dominant wife. “The Unicorn in the Garden” is a tricky one because it tickles the minds of readers as to who is mad between the husband and the wife. It can be the husband if reading from the story without reading between the lines. It can also be the wife who is hallucinating about his husband telling her that he saw a unicorn. It can also be possible that nobody among them is mad and it was a ploy of the husband to send away his wife by making her appear mad.
In one of the analysis of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” his first fantasy where he imagined himself as a commander of a hydroplane was to divert his attention from the dominant wife who always scolds him of everything including not wearing gloves. His fantasy is a direct opposite of his reality. He imagined himself as great commander who can save his men from any natural disasters. This detailed world of fantasy however is not present in Thurber’s “The Unicorn in the Garden” because the story just told how the events happened as a matter of fact. However, in his short chronicle of what happened, it stirs many questions and conclusions in the readers’ minds.
The two short stories also reveal how men react to their wives’ negative attitudes. In the Secret Life of Walter Mitty, the old man copes from the naggings of his wife by entering the world of fantasy. The Unicorn in the Garden on the other shows how the husband revenged on his wife when she called him a “booby.” In the literary analysis of Ustinov (2005) entitled “Who is Mad,” he laid down what he thought are the intrigues in the story. One of which is that the husband is already tired of his wife’s coldness against him that is why he planned to make her appear crazy before the police and the psychiatrist.
The stories also showed that the wives are most of the time fundamentalist. In the same literary analysis written by Ustinov (2005), the man in The Unicorn in the Garden is a person who accepts the world of fantasy while the woman is a believer of institutions like the police and the health interventions. Also, reading The Secret Life of Walter Mitty shows similarity in the character analysis. The wife is also nagging Walter because he is not following basic rules like not stepping on gas beyond forty or not wearing his gloves. In The Unicorn in the Garden, when the husband was telling his wife that he saw and feed the unicorn in their garden, his wife said, “The unicorn is a mythical beast” (Thurber, 1953). The fantasies show that the characters of the husbands in both stories are believers of life beyond the basic rules.
Thurber started both the stories in an interesting manner. In The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, it started with Walter Mitty’s fantasy as a hydroplane commander rather than driving a car. While reading the first stanza, readers may think that it is a fantasy story which is eventually diverts into the life of a nervous submissive husband. On the other hand, Thurber started The Unicorn in the Garden by setting a positive setting which illustrates the husband eating breakfast in the bright sunny morning. It eventually turned into a story full of intrigues especially regarding who is crazy and intrigues if the husband took his revenge by making her wife appear crazy. It is a one-page story but is full of meaning.
According to Karima Kama, the writing style of James Thurber is a source of inspiration among the writers of today. She mentioned that during the 1930s, his style of writing was not given attention because they thought that it was formulaic. His wordplay and narrative style however is grabbing more attention now. Indeed, in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and The Unicorn in the Garden, Thurber is a great in narrative. He has the power with words in illustrating every single scene in one environment. His ability to jump from the fantasy world to the reality without confusing the readers is such a literary power that every writer wants to have. As a point in case, when he was in his way to buy a puppy cracker, he was in his fantasy which was diverted when he was recalling what his wife instructed him to buy. He blurted “puppy crackers” with himself when he was able to recall it. When he blurted, another character appeared laughing at him because of his involuntary blurting. It was one single scene full of symbols and humor.
Finally, Thurber’s wits and humor cannot be discounted with his two stories. His ability to mix humor, fantasy, melodrama, and even intrigues is quite a skill.
Thurber, James. “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” The New Yorker, 18 Mar. 1939. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.
Thurber, James. “The Unicorn in the Garden.” Fables for our Time, 2002. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.
Kama, Karima. “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Introduction.” Gale Cengage, 2002. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.
Adek, Dyah; Cahyaningtyas, Intan; Catur, Walundari; Dimas, Bilal; & NentyRismar. “The Mad Fantasies of Water Mitty in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” IKIP PGRI MADIUN, 2012. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.
Ustinov, Peter. “Who is Mad?” Gymnasium Steglitz Berlin, 2005. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.
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