The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Car Symbol Icon
The real-life Walter Mitty’s masculinity—or lack of it—is most often demonstrated through his interactions with his car. Fast cars are commonly associated with sex and virility, but Mrs. Mitty won’t allow her husband to go fast. Just as her demands control his schedule while they are in town, she controls the car even when he is the one behind the wheel. Mitty’s skill with the car when he’s on his own is questionable, however. He gets the tire chains wound around the axles, hesitates too long at a traffic light, and struggles to get it into the right place at the parking lot, requiring younger, more capable men—of whom Mitty is deeply resentful—to handle the car for him. His display of masculine power is limited to racing the engine as an ineffectual rebuttal to Mrs. Mitty’s nagging—just as his heroism is limited to fantasies that go nowhere in real life.

Car Quotes in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The The Secret Life of Walter Mitty quotes below all refer to the symbol of Car. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer 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:

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Walter Mitty drove on toward Waterbury in silence, the roaring of the SN202 through the worst storm in twenty years of Navy flying fading in the remote, intimate airways of his mind.

Related Characters: Walter Mitty
Related Symbols: Car
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

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“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:

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The attendant vaulted into the car, backed it up with insolent skill, and put it where it belonged.

Related Characters: Parking-Lot Attendant and Grinning Garagemen
Related Symbols: Car
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

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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.

Related Characters: Walter Mitty (speaker), Parking-Lot Attendant and Grinning Garagemen
Related Symbols: Car, Gloves, Overshoes, Sling, and Handkerchief
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

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Car Symbol Timeline in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The timeline below shows where the symbol Car 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
...commander was part of a fantasy Walter Mitty has been having as he drives his car. (full context)
Heroism and Masculinity Theme Icon
Illness and Mortality Theme Icon
Humor Theme Icon
...Mitty drops Mrs. Mitty off at the hair salon. As she gets out of the car, she reminds him to buy a pair of overshoes, cutting off his protest that he... (full context)
Heroism and Masculinity Theme Icon
Public Image and Embarrassment Theme Icon
The Overlap of Fantasy and Reality Theme Icon
...lane. Dazed, he tries to correct his mistake, but the attendant takes over, re-parking the car “with insolent skill.” (full context)
Heroism and Masculinity Theme Icon
Public Image and Embarrassment Theme Icon
...Main Street, Walter Mitty remembers another incident in which he had tried to remove his car’s tire chains, only to end up with them wound around the axles, and another “young,... (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
...the revolving doors make “a faintly derisive whistling sound.” On the way back to the car, Mrs. Mitty asks her husband to wait while she buys something at a drugstore. As... (full context)