The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

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Walter Mitty’s nagging wife. Domineering and demanding, she controls every aspect of her husband’s behavior, from whether he wears his gloves to how fast he drives the car. While she believes she is acting for Mitty’s own good—her insistence that he buy a pair of overshoes, for instance, is part of her ongoing concern about his health—her criticism is often unreasonable, and her tendency to attribute Mitty’s unhappiness to physical illness shows her failure to understand his psychological needs.

Mrs. Mitty Quotes in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The The Secret Life of Walter Mitty quotes below are all either spoken by Mrs. Mitty or refer to Mrs. Mitty. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Heroism and Masculinity Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Perennial Classics edition of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty published in 1999.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty Quotes

“Not so fast! You’re driving too fast!” said Mrs. Mitty. “What are you driving so fast for?”

Related Characters: Mrs. Mitty (speaker), Walter Mitty
Related Symbols: Car
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we discover the truth about what we've just been reading. The "Commander" is indeed an imaginary character--a manifestation of Walter Mitty's imagination. In real life, Walter is driving a car, and his irritable wife is telling him to slow down. The passage describes the basic relationship between Walter and Mrs. Mitty: Walter is meek and submissive to his wife, and his wife often yells at him and tries to control his behavior. Both characters are like caricatures of the meek man and the nagging wife, so it makes sense that Walter slips so easy into other caricatures, like those of his almost farcically confident and masculine imaginary alter-egos.

The passage also explains why Walter imagines his elaborate fantasies. Instead of lashing out at his wife or changing his behavior, Walter takes refuge in his imagination--like a child, he uses his fantasies to "get back" at other people (i.e., Mrs. Mitty) without actually confronting them. In real life, Walter slows down the car, but in his fantasy, he goes "full speed ahead."

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He looked at his wife, in the seat beside him, with shocked astonishment. She seemed grossly unfamiliar, like a strange woman who had yelled at him in a crowd.

Related Characters: Walter Mitty, Mrs. Mitty
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

Walter has just awoken from a vivid fantasy, in which he's been playing the role of a military Commander. Walter is a little dazed: he barely recognizes his own wife, Mrs. Mitty, because his imaginations has been so vivid.

We already knew that Walter retreated into fantasy when Mrs. Mitty was bullying him. But here, it becomes clear that Walter's fantasy life is more than just a conscious defense mechanism--Walter's fantasies are so rich and so vivid that he forgets why he started fantasizing in the first place! In general, Walter is both a highly relatable character (who hasn't daydreamed to get away from reality?) and a farcical, humorous figure who disappears into his imagination to an almost unrealistic degree. In real life, this would also be somewhat disturbing--he seems to be hallucinating while he's driving a car.

“Remember to get those overshoes while I’m having my hair done,” she said. “I don’t need overshoes,” said Mitty. She put her mirror back into her bag. “We’ve been all through that,” she said, getting out of the car. “You’re not a young man any longer.” He raced the engine a little.

Related Characters: Mrs. Mitty (speaker), Walter Mitty
Related Symbols: Car, Gloves, Overshoes, Sling, and Handkerchief
Page Number: 55-56
Explanation and Analysis:

As Walter drops off his wife, she orders him to buy some overshoes for himself. Walter claims that he doesn't need overshoes (basically boots designed to protect regular shoes in cold, wet weather), but his wife shoots him down.

The passage further establishes the humorous, caricatural dynamic between Walter and Mrs. Mitty. Walter is a weak, weak-willed man, but he likes to believe that he's strong and masculine (he doesn't need special shoes). Mrs. Mitty emasculates Walter by emphasizing his fragility and weakness. In response, Walter offers a tiny bit of real-life rebellion—he "races the engine a little." This pathetic self-affirmation is then contrasted with Walter's supremely confident, assertive alter-egos in his fantasies.

In a way he hated these weekly trips to town—he was always getting something wrong. Kleenex, he thought, Squibb’s, razor blades? No. Toothpaste, toothbrush, bicarbonate, carborundum, initiative and referendum? He gave it up. But she would remember it. “Where’s the what’s-its-name?” she would ask. “Don’t tell me you forgot the what’s its name.”

Related Characters: Walter Mitty, Mrs. Mitty
Page Number: 58
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Walter Mitty mourns his inability to remember what to buy at the store. Mrs. Mitty sends him on errands to the store to buy groceries, but Walter is so forgetful (his mind wanders, we've noticed!) that he always forgets a couple items. Mitty remembers the way his wife scorns his forgetfulness: she asks him if he's remembered the "what's its name." (Even in his memory, he can't remember the item.)

Again we see the overlap of reality and fantasy here, as Walter is trying to imagine Mrs. Mitty criticizing him. He's not acting as a masculine, confident hero in this fantasy, but as himself--and he's still making up fancy words and letting his imagination run wild. Walter isn't as pathetic as he seems, just his skills (his active imagination) don't seem very "useful" to the people around him.


“I was thinking,” said Walter Mitty. “Does it ever occur to you that I am sometimes thinking?” She looked at him. “I’m going to take your temperature when I get you home,” she said.

Related Characters: Walter Mitty (speaker), Mrs. Mitty (speaker)
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Walter Mitty comes close--as close as he ever gets in the story--to responding directly and asserting himself to his wife, Mrs. Mitty. Mrs. Mitty criticizes her husband for his constant daydreaming, and Walter mutters something about how he's "thinking." Walter knows that it's wrong to spend so much time immersed in fantasy, and wants to justify himself to his wife. But he lacks the courage or the confidence to stand up to Mrs. Mitty and go further with this statement. As a result, Mrs. Mitty further dismisses Walter's individuality and adulthood by suggesting that his behavior is just a medical problem.

Notice also that Mrs. Mitty says that she's going to "get" Walter home--despite the fact that Walter has been doing the driving throughout the story, Mrs. Mitty is clearly the one in control. By suggesting that Walter is sick, Mrs. Mitty implies that even Walter's meager attempt to stand up to her is just a "lapse" on his part. Her domination over Walter seems almost total.

They went out through the revolving doors that made a faintly derisive whistling sound when you pushed them.

Related Characters: Walter Mitty (speaker), Mrs. Mitty (speaker)
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:

In this cleverly detailed passage, Walter and his wife leave the building and prepare to return to their home. As they exit, they go through a revolving door.

Note that a revolving door makes a big, dramatic entrance impossible--you can't "burst" through a revolving door, as Walter the armchair adventurer would like to do. One could even say that revolving doors are another symbol of emasculation: in modern society, there are no opportunities for showing off one's masculinity and courage, as even walking through a door is a slow, shuffling process. Thurber underscores the pathetic nature of Walter's exit by describing the "derisive" sound of the revolving door--he's so anxious and unconfident that he imagines even the doors mocking him.

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Mrs. Mitty Character Timeline in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs. Mitty appears in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Heroism and Masculinity Theme Icon
The Overlap of Fantasy and Reality Theme Icon
Humor Theme Icon
Mrs. Mitty calls out a warning not to drive so fast, and it is revealed that the... (full context)
Illness and Mortality Theme Icon
The Overlap of Fantasy and Reality Theme Icon
Concealment Theme Icon
...a strange woman who had yelled at him in a crowd.” As his fantasy fades, Mrs. Mitty suggests that he see Dr. Renshaw for a checkup. (full context)
Heroism and Masculinity Theme Icon
Illness and Mortality Theme Icon
Humor Theme Icon
Walter Mitty drops Mrs. Mitty off at the hair salon. As she gets out of the car, she reminds him... (full context)
Heroism and Masculinity Theme Icon
Public Image and Embarrassment Theme Icon
...the axles, and another “young, grinning garageman” had to come and help him. Ever since, Mrs. Mitty has made him drive to a garage whenever the chains need changing. (full context)
Heroism and Masculinity Theme Icon
Humor Theme Icon
After buying the overshoes, Mitty has trouble remembering what else Mrs. Mitty told him to buy. She often scolds him for getting something wrong in the shopping... (full context)
Heroism and Masculinity Theme Icon
Illness and Mortality Theme Icon
Concealment Theme Icon
Just as Captain Mitty is leaving the dugout to get into the plane, Mrs. Mitty arrives at the hotel and scolds her husband for sitting in a hard-to-find spot and... (full context)
Heroism and Masculinity Theme Icon
Illness and Mortality Theme Icon
Public Image and Embarrassment Theme Icon
The Overlap of Fantasy and Reality Theme Icon
When Walter Mitty and Mrs. Mitty leave the hotel, the revolving doors make “a faintly derisive whistling sound.” On the way... (full context)