The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Gloves, Overshoes, Sling, and Handkerchief Symbol Analysis

Gloves, Overshoes, Sling, and Handkerchief Symbol Icon
These covering garments symbolize the fearful, shame-based self-concealment that characterizes Walter Mitty’s everyday life. Since Mrs. Mitty insists that he wear the gloves and overshoes to protect his health now that he’s “not a young man any longer,” they act as badges of physical weakness, and also, arguably, of a paranoia against the weather to match Mitty’s paranoia of strangers’ judgment. While he puts up a halfhearted resistance to wearing them—his “I don’t need overshoes” is as mild and easily overruled as his later comment, “Does it ever occur to you that I am sometimes thinking?”—he quickly gives in, and not only in obedience to his wife. In one telling moment, he takes off the gloves as soon as Mrs. Mitty leaves him alone, but guiltily pulls them on again when a cop scolds him for lingering at a traffic light, as if by taking off the gloves he has exposed himself to public judgment. The sling he imagines wearing to deceive the garagemen works the same way, proclaiming physical unfitness and thereby shielding Mitty from expectations he can’t meet. In his fantasies, however, Mitty is strong and brave and has no need for concealment: he declines to use the sling as an alibi when he is a crack shot on trial for murder, and he rejects the handkerchief over his face as he stands before the firing squad, fearlessly refusing to hide his face from the executioners.

Gloves, Overshoes, Sling, and Handkerchief Quotes in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The The Secret Life of Walter Mitty quotes below all refer to the symbol of Gloves, Overshoes, Sling, and Handkerchief. 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

“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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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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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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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.”

Related Characters: Walter Mitty, Gregory Fitzhurst
Related Symbols: Gloves, Overshoes, Sling, and Handkerchief
Page Number: 58
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

“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.

Related Characters: Walter Mitty (speaker)
Related Symbols: Gloves, Overshoes, Sling, and Handkerchief
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit ani

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Gloves, Overshoes, Sling, and Handkerchief Symbol Timeline in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The timeline below shows where the symbol Gloves, Overshoes, Sling, and Handkerchief 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
Illness and Mortality Theme Icon
Humor Theme Icon
...As she gets out of the car, she reminds him to buy a pair of overshoes, cutting off his protest that he doesn’t need them by saying, “You’re not a young... (full context)
Public Image and Embarrassment Theme Icon
Concealment Theme Icon
Mitty puts on his gloves when his wife asks why he isn’t wearing them, but takes them off as soon... (full context)
Illness and Mortality Theme Icon
Public Image and Embarrassment Theme Icon
Concealment Theme Icon
...him. He kicks resentfully at the slush on the sidewalk, which reminds him to buy overshoes. (full context)