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Written by Timothy Sexton
This repetitive bit of onomatopoeia is central example of imagery in the tale of Walter Mitty. The sound produced by those letters arranged in that particular can instantly be brought to mind as the image of the various machines producing it in Walter’s imagination. That mechanistic sound could be applied to just about any device or gadget that produces a repetitive effect and for Walter that ranges from a hydroplane to an operating room medical device to a flamethrower.
“The Commander’s voice was like thin ice breaking. He wore his full-dress uniform, with the heavily braided white cap pulled down rakishly over one cold gray eye.”
Walter Mitty has an impressive eye for detail when constructing fantasies on the fly. In less than 30 words, Thurber creates a fully realized image of the Commander and the demeanor he projects under pressure.
Neologisms and Malapropisms
An effective means by which Thurber conveys the limitations of Walter Mitty’s knowledge within the context of the unlimited expanse of his imagination is through the need for Everyman to invent words that sound authentic when he lacks the experience to use jargon or terminology. Invented jargon like “Obstreosis of the ductal tract” sounds like it just might be real enough to convince a layman while malapropisms like streptothricosis (an animal disease) and coreopsis (a flower) in his fantasy inside the operating room run the risk of giving him away even to those unfamiliar with medical terminology.
Walter Mitty’s fantasies are in part an escape from his domineering wife. Thurber effectively engages a recurring motif of protective imagery to undercut the Mrs. Mitty’s potential to come off as more unpleasant that she actually is. Her complaints about his speed while driving, her insistence upon his wearing driving gloves, the snow chains and the overshoes can all be taken as signs of his wife imposing her will on a henpecked husband…or they can just as easily be interpreted of images of a loving wife looking to protect a husband given to losing himself in daydreams.
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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber.