If you’ve never read any James Thurber, do.
I’ve personally always been fond of his drawings, particularly his characterization, from A New Natural History, of the Hopeless Quandary:
But, Thurber is perhaps better known for his short story the Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
Mitty is an average man who dreams of heroism. He imagines himself saving lives as a surgeon and taking on daring missions as a member of the military.
The story is generally read tragically.
Mitty imagines himself a hero, but he is no hero. He’s just a quiet man regularly berated by his wife. Like another tragic hero, Willy Loman from Death of a Salesman, Mitty just can’t seem to catch a break.
But I like to read it differently.
Yes, Mitty is an average man, but he refuses to be defeated by his averageness. He imagines himself a hero and he is a hero.
He will not be cowed by the mundanities of modernity.
Like many classic heroes, he accepts his fate, embraces his fate – tragic though it may be – and faces it resolutely.
So next time you find yourself day dreaming, imagining a world where you’re saving lives or defeating bad guys, remember Walter Mitty.
Walter Mitty the Undefeated, inscrutable to the last.