The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013 Film)

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013 Film) Summary and Analysis of Part 4


Walter calls Cheryl and tells her he's in Iceland and gives her some of the words that are written on the cake wrapper. She translates one to mean "strong little man" in Arabic, another to mean "goat hockey" in central Asia. The last word is "warlocks." All of a sudden, Walter begins telling Cheryl about his personal history, the fact that he worked at Papa John's, used to have a mohawk, and that his father, with whom he was very close, died when he was 17. He tells her that when his father died, their mother didn't have much savings, so he immediately got a haircut and a job and left his more spontaneous days behind.

"Your dad let you have a mohawk?" Cheryl asks, and Walter tells her that his dad shaved his head himself. "That's a good dad move," she says. Walter starts to tell Cheryl that he picked up a longboard for Rich, but hesitates. They hang up. Walter receives a text from Hernando that tells him he's been fired by Ted and that Ted is looking to fire Walter next if he doesn't see him soon.

Walter goes back to New York, where he finds that they have shut down two floors of the magazine. Ted spots him from afar, walks up to him, and fires him on the spot. Walter fights back, but Ted is unconvinced. Hernando tells Walter that Cheryl was let go too, and Walter goes in search of her.

Arriving at Cheryl's apartment, Walter rings the doorbell. A man answers the door, and fetches Cheryl, calling her "honey" in the process. Before Cheryl can return, Walter leaves the longboard on the stoop and gets a cab. In the cab, Walter has a vision of himself appearing on Conan O'Brien's talk show to talk about his love life.

At his mother's new apartment, Walter finds his mother and Odessa setting up the new piano. He takes out some money to tip the movers, then throws the wallet from Sean in the trash. In the kitchen, Odessa tells Edna she's going to go to a yoga class and that she got cast as Rizzo in the production of Grease. On the couch, Walter looks at Sean's photo of the mysterious shape, then holds it up to the piano, realizing that it's a close-up of the curve of a piano.

"Hey mom, did somebody take a picture of your piano, like a week ago?" Walter asks Edna, to which she replies, "I did, with Sean's camera." Walter is confused, and Edna informs him that Sean came by to ask about him the week before and seemed very interested in Walter's work. She insists that she told him about it, but that he was probably spaced out when she did. Walter tells his mother and sister he was fired for losing one of Sean's photographs, and Edna tells Walter that Sean was going to "meet with warlords" and was planning to take some of her clementine cake with him on the journey.

Walter searches online for the words that are written on the cake wrapper, and finds a clue that Sean must be in Afghanistan, in the upper Himalayas. Edna confirms this when she looks over his shoulder at the computer. "He told me you were the person who worked the hardest to make sure his work was realized, the way he wished," Edna tells him.

Walter looks over at the box of old objects Edna keeps and grabs the backpack he never got to use, which holds an old t-shirt and his travel journal. He goes to Afghanistan, hiking to the Himalayas and writing in his travel journal along the way. He is accompanied by two "little strong men," and he offers clementine cake to the warlords he meets along the way.

At 18,000 feet, Walter must continue on alone without his guides. While hiking, he gets a call from Todd, the eHarmony representative, who tells him that his profile is doing well, but that Cheryl Melhoff has taken her profile off the site. Walter tells him he's in the Himalayas and needs to start making oxygen choices. Before he hangs up, he tells Todd he wants to take his dating profile down, because he cannot afford the $500 yearly fee.

As he turns around, Walter sees Sean taking photographs. Walter introduces himself, and Sean is surprised to see him in the mountains. He tells Walter to be quiet, as he's trying to photograph a snow leopard nearby. "They call the snow leopard the 'ghost cat'...never lets himself be seen," Sean says, before adding, "Beautiful things don't ask for attention." Walter tells Sean that he lost negative 25, when Sean tells him the negative is in the wallet that he gave him—he thought it would be cute.

Mournfully, Walter tells Sean he doesn't have the wallet anymore, then scolds Sean for not being more careful with the important negative. Walter tells him he threw the wallet away. Suddenly, the snow leopard appears and Sean doesn't take its photo. "If I like a moment, me, personally, I don't like the distraction of the camera," Sean says, as the snow leopard leaves. Sean goes to play a game with some kids nearby, and on his way tells Walter that the negative was a picture of a "ghost cat."


The journey that Walter is on not only makes him a more risk-taking person, but it also connects him with his interior life. When he calls Cheryl, he tells her about the crazy journey he is on, but he is also inspired to tell her a little about his personal history. He explains that he used to have a mohawk and wanted to have a more exciting life, and that he was very close with his father. These details seem apropos of nothing, but they represent a moment of Walter being forthcoming with someone he cares about. Random though it may be, this self-revelation serves to bring him closer to Cheryl.

This moment of self-revelation also gives the viewer a window into Walter's psychological journey. The reason he has found himself in such a banal existence in adulthood is not just a standard trudge through adult responsibility, but connected to the fact that his father died when he was 17 and he had to start taking responsibility for the family financially. The loss of his father, who encouraged him to take risks and be adventurous, represented not only the loss of a paternal confidant, but also the obligation to become an adult before he was ready.

Just when it seems like events are looking up for Walter, matters get a little more complicated. After not being able to locate Sean O'Connell, Walter returns to New York only to get unceremoniously fired by Ted, then goes to Cheryl's apartment to find that she seems to be cohabitating with a man. Dejected, he begins to recede into idealistic vision rather than action, imagining himself appearing on a late-night talk show to talk about his love life.

The unlikely hero in the midst of Walter's dejection at having lost Sean is Edna, his mother. It turns out that she met with Sean a week earlier and has some information that will help Walter find the photographer. Edna is the last person that Walter would expect to be able to help him in his journey, but she surprisingly serves as a key bridge to the truth, and towards Walter getting one step towards finding the missing negative.

In this section of the film, Walter encounters Sean, who is rather surprised to see Walter there. In a devastating ironic twist, Sean tells Walter that the missing negative was in the wallet he sent Walter earlier on. The only problem is that now Walter has thrown the wallet away. Sean O'Connell is a spiritually attuned and present person, taking stock of the natural world around him. He is disappointed that the negative is missing, but he takes it in stride, sagely telling Walter that "beautiful things don't ask for attention."