Walter Mitty vs. the Necklace
An Escape 2 Gender roles and marriages can play an important role in literature. It can be one of the most influential ways that gender roles are constructed. Works of literature construct images of boys and girls and men and women. These works usually depict the girls and women doing housework, playing with dolls, and cooking. The men are usually depicted as sports players and lovers, providers, and figures that are overall stronger than woman.
Guy de Maupassant’s, “The Necklace” and James Thurber’s, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” are two works of literature that focus on the themes gender roles and marriage, with some similarities, but with even more differences. In “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” Thurber shows a marriage that is not typical. In this marriage Walter has a wife who is controlling, bossy, and runs the house hold. She’s aggressive, overbearing, and condescending. She’s everything Walter, the husband, is not. In comparison, Walter is very passive and compliant. This type of gender role reversal is quite unique considering that Thurber has given Mrs.
Mitty the character traits are generally expected of the man or husband to possess, and Walter has the traits usually given to women. “The Necklace” Maupassant focuses on femininity. He develops a character as a woman who possesses all the attributes needed to be desirable by other men. “She had no dresses, no jewelry, nothing. And she loved nothing else; she felt herself made for that only. She would so much have liked to please, to be envied, to be seductive and sought after (as cited in Clugston, 2011, para. 6). ” She’s in a marriage where she does not care for her husband and hates the house in which she resides.
Because she is a An Escape 3 woman and is living a world where men are dominating, she has absolutely no control over her life. The author played upon feminine characteristics making Mathilde overly emotional and extremely sensitive. Ultimately, these two stories are similar due to both Mathilde and Walter being extremely unsatisfied in their marriages. They both fantasize about living other lives and being something that they are not. “Sigmund Freud saw fantasy as a vehicle for the expression of repressed desires (fantasy, 2009, para. 1). Walter daydreams about being a strong, courageous, and heroic man in a plethora of heroic situations. From being a Navy Hydroplane commander to a world famous surgeon, Walter imagines his life being so much more than it really is. He daydreams throughout the day about all types of things when he wants to tune out his overbearing wife. Usually his wife is doing a lot of yelling or putting him down when he decides to escape into his fantasy world. Mathilde dreams of wealth. She’s currently living a life that she is unhappy in and believes she was born for a life of abundance.
She fantasizes about being wanted by other men and ditching her middle-class life for a wealthier one. Because she despises her husband and their mediocre life, she daydreams of the life she feels she was born to live, even though she is stuck in her marriage with a husband who cannot afford to give her the finer things she feels she deserves. In addition to having similar themes, these two works of literature also share a common form. They each are short stories. Short stories are works of literature that An Escape 4 are shorter than novels, but long enough to set up a story and its content.
These two short stories do just that. In the short story, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” Thurber has time to develop his characters, making Walter the protagonist and everyone else he encounters, especially his wife the antagonists. The plot is filled with conflict and suspense, where Walter is ultimately trying to escape the ordinaries in his life, which leaves us wondering what will happen to him next. The settings of these stories differ as well. “The Necklace” takes place in Paris, France. The significance of the setting for this story is that Paris is known as a place for high consumerism and expensive things.
Known as the Fashion Capital of the world, it isn’t ironic that Maupassant placed his story there. “Women’s styles were set especially in Paris, which gained a reputation for elegance with the rise by the 1850s of powerful dress designers…(Fashion and Style,1991,para. 1). ” We have Mathilde who believes she was born to be wealthy and have nice things living a middle class life where she can’t have everything she thinks she deserves, in a city where she is surrounded by finer things. In contrast to the setting of “The Necklace,” “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” takes place in many different places throughout the story.
First there is the element of everyday life. There are scenes that take place throughout the city. Places like the hairdresser, a parking lot, hotel lobby, and a drug store, all of which are everyday places that represent a pretty ordinary life, and the unimaginativeness of Walter’s everyday life. An Escape 5 But on the other hand, his daydreams take us too many different places. The settings of his daydreams strongly differentiate from his ordinary life. His daydreams take place in a “Navy hydroplane” during a storm, an operating room, a dugout, and at a wall before a firing squad.
These settings are filled with excitement, drama and imagination. Everything his life is not. Both of these stories are set in places that do not compare to their actual way of living. They each fantasize about being and having more than they do within their everyday lives, but the things they dream about are far-fetched and out of reach. Both of the main characters are indulging in escapism. Escapism is described as “The tendency to escape from daily reality or routine by indulging in daydreaming, fantasy, or entertainment” in The American Heritage Medical Dictionary (2007).
Walter dreams big to escape his ordinary life and Mithilde dreams big of escaping from her normal life. In both of these short stories, the point of view is told from third person. The narrator is telling the story. However, there is a difference between the two stories and their point of views. In “The Necklace,” the point of view is told in third person omniscient. The narrator can disclose how Mathilde is feeling, and also how others in the story may be feeling. Even though, Thurber told his story from third person too, he told the story from third person limited omniscient.
The point of view of the story indirectly puts us in the mindset of Walter Mitty. We learn things from Walter’s point of view, even though he is not the narrator. As a result of this, we feel that much closer to Walter. We learn more An Escape 6 about him, how he feels and thinks because the story is told from his point of view. We are not told how others within the story feel, making this limited omniscient. The genres of these two are completely opposite. In the story, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” the genre would be a comedic adventure.
The daydreams alone take the story from boring to overly exaggerated adventures. Walter doesn’t daydream about things like relaxing on a beach, he takes us on adventures. He fantasizes about things most people do not. He daydreams about flying a Navy Hydroplane, or operating on the President’s friend. His fantasies are filled with imagination and there is no clear idea where Walter’s dreams are leading him to next. Maupassant wrote his story fitting the realism and parable genre. Realism can described as a literary genre that focused on average people, living average lives. They were not wealthy, but dreamed of being so. Realism favoured themes of everyday life and carefully observed social settings (realism, 2010, para. 1). ” “The Necklace” is a story that focuses a huge part of the plot on the main character wanting to escape her average life for a more elaborate social setting. The author shows a small part of Matildhe living out her dream of being a wealthy socialite during the party where she was the bell of the ball. Everyone loved her and she stays until 4 o’clock in the morning, charming and making the men desire her. She is wearing a necklace she believes to be worth a lot and feels she is finally living the life she was born to live.
An Escape 7 Collins describes a parable as “a short story that uses familiar events to illustrate a religious or ethical point (2000). ”After reading the story, a few obvious morals became apparent. The most obvious moral that would qualify “The Necklace” as a parable would be “tell the truth. ” Had Mathilde and her husband told Mathilde’s friend the truth, they would have saved themselves from ten years of poverty. If they would have chosen to tell the truth, they would have known that the necklace was a fake and would not have gone into debt after assuming the necklace was real and exhausting all of their savings on a real necklace. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” is a story that’s written from a playful and imaginary place. This story is filled with adventure and comedy that keeps the reader interested from beginning to end. The main characters’ internal struggle to escape his boring life, where he is always belittled by those around him, shows how a daydream here or there can change your life and the way you view yourself, if only for a second. Walter fantasizes about being everything he is not, and takes the audience on crazy rides while he does so. In the story, “The Necklace,” the author writes this story with style and class.
He presents the characters in the story as sophisticated people, who carry themselves with the utmost respect. He’s insightful on all the social classes he presents, and delivers it in a believable manner. Guy de Maupassant shows Mathilde as an ungrateful person who is not comfortable with her current living situation. She yearns to be more and to have more, but is stuck in her current male dominated life where her husband, in her An Escape 8 opinion, is an under achiever and less deserving of her. She feels she was destined for a life full of wealth and popularity, the life that her husband cannot afford to provide for her.
To conclude, Guy de Maupassant’s “The Necklace,” and James Thurber’s, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” are two short stories that have many similarities and differences. They each share common themes about being in unhappy marriages, and the authors both flirt with the role of gender in their stories. They share many of the same literary forms such as point of view, and contrast on many other literary forms, such as genre and setting. These works of literature are both classics that show how dreaming of different lives because you are unhappy with the one you are living can sometimes make things worse.
Sometimes it best to play the cards you were dealt and live life to the fullest. Both authors inadvertently teach the audience many things that deal with life, love, truth, and happiness. Even though there are many differences between the two short stories, there are just as many similarities between the two. They each make the audience question many things. Things dealing with gender and the roles they play in literature, and if escapism is healthy. Both Walter and Mathilde indulge in escapism as a way to escape their daily reality. They daydream to become something they are not. Things they want to be.
Things they believe they should be. Walter fantasizes of being a heroic figure, one who saves lives and is important. Mathilde fantasizes about being a woman of importance, An Escape 9 wealth and status. In both cases, the main characters are unhappy in their current lives and look to dreaming up the way they believe their lives should be to find some solitude and happiness within themselves. An Escape 10 References Clugston, R. W. (2010). Journey into literature. San Diego, California: Bridgepoint Education, Inc. https://content. ashford. edu/books escapism. (2007). In The American Heritage Medical Dictionary.
Retrieved from http://www. credoreference. com/entry/hmmedicaldict/escapism fantasy. (2009). In Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://www. credoreference. com/entry/ebconcise/fantasy FASHION AND STYLE. (1991). In The Reader’s Companion to American History. Retrieved from http://www. credoreference. com/entry/rcah/fashion_and_style parable. (2000). In Collins English Dictionary. Retrieved from http://www. credoreference. com/entry/hcengdict/parable realism. (2010). In The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather guide. Retrieved from http://www. credoreference. com/entry/heliconhe/realism/1