Walter Mitty is very anxious about how others perceive him: for instance, he is so fearful of the young garagemen’s judgment that he plans to wear an unnecessary sling on his arm to avoid it, and he finds even the revolving doors of the hotel “faintly derisive.” Most other characters, from Mrs. Mitty to the traffic cop to the woman who laughs at him for saying “puppy biscuit” aloud on the street, interact with Mitty only to criticize him, and he is frequently startled and flustered when their comments interrupt his fantasies. In contrast, his fantasies tend to include crowds of onlookers who marvel at his skill and bravery—such as the crew members who trust that “The Old Man’ll get us through!” or the expert surgeons who look to him for help—and always present him as calm and collected in high-pressure situations. When his fantasy puts him on trial for his life, literalizing his sense of being judged by the parking garage attendant, Mitty undermines his own defense. Ironically, this repeats his real-life pattern of behavior (like forgetting to take his keys out of the car for the attendant), but it also shows his desire to be someone who does not fear public judgment.
Public Image and Embarrassment ThemeTracker
Public Image and Embarrassment Quotes in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
“I’ve read your book on streptothricosis,” said Pritchard-Mitford, shaking hands. “A brilliant performance, sir.” “Thank you,” said Walter Mitty. “Didn’t know you were in the States, Mitty,” grumbled Remington. “Coals to Newcastle, bringing Mitford and me up here for a tertiary.” “You are very kind,” said Mitty.
The attendant vaulted into the car, backed it up with insolent skill, and put it where it belonged.
The next time, he thought, I’ll wear my right arm in a sling; they won’t grin at me then. I’ll have my right arm in a sling and they’ll see I couldn’t possibly take the chains off myself.
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.”
Walter Mitty raised his hand briefly and the bickering attorneys were stilled. “With any known make of gun,” he said evenly, “I could have killed Gregory Fitzhurst at three hundred feet with my left hand.”
“I never see a man could hold his brandy like you, sir,” said the sergeant. “Begging your pardon, sir.” Captain Mitty stood up and strapped on his huge Webley-Vickers automatic.
They went out through the revolving doors that made a faintly derisive whistling sound when you pushed them.
“To hell with the handkerchief,” said Walter Mitty scornfully. He took one last drag on his cigarette and snapped it away. Then, with that faint, fleeting smile playing about his lips, he faced the firing squad; erect and motionless, proud and disdainful, Walter Mitty the Undefeated, inscrutable to the last.