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The Poor Relation by Charles Dickens and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber – Compare the Treatment of a “Fictitious World” by Both Authors

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The Poor Relation by Charles Dickens and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber - Compare the Treatment of a "Fictitious World" by Both Authors In both The Poor Relation and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, the main story revolves around the main character's tendency to live in a fantasy world. In this way the two short stories are very similar. However, the way the two authors, Dickens and Thurber, have treated this main theme is quite different. Firstly, the two stories are not the same. In The Poor Relation, Dickens has told the pitiful and yet undeserving story of a poor relative who's life has mostly been a disaster, though which he has lost everything, including his friends and companions. The story is set in the 19th Century, at a middle-class family's gathering. The "poor relation" stands up and tells his "story". He starts by reminding the family about what they have seen of his life. He then goes on to claim that this is not the truth and that his real life is far different to anything they could have imagined. ...read more.


He uses suspense in the first half of the story as the poor relation tells his family that he is not what they think he is and is to tell the truth after he has explained what he describes as "What I am supposed to be". This explanation of the real world and the fictitious world can easily be compared. For example, when he talks about his real life, he talks about his wife leaving him for rich man. In his dream world however, he states that one would expect her to go off with "some rich man", but in fact she stayed with him and lived happily ever after. This emphasises his regret that his wife left him in reality. In The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty, the fictitious world is mentioned several times and in short passages. The situation differs every time Walter Mitty dreams. He usually floats into a dream when he sees something that captures his imagination. For example, when he drove past the hospital. In real life, he does ordinary, boring things and is "hen-pecked" by his wife. ...read more.


There is a clear link between Scrooge and the Poor Relation. In The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Thurber describes the main character in much the same way - a shy, laid-back and yet still quite irritable husband who finds his life boring and meaningless. He is constantly being "hen-pecked" and "nagged" by his wife - so much so, that he has gone past the point of caring. Therefore he searches for something fresh to keep him stimulated in life, which is where his fantasy world becomes relevant. Overall, I think that both Dickens and Thurber present their ideas of somebody living in a fictitious world with great effect. They both evoke pity for the main characters. Although more complicated to read and understand, The Poor Relation gets a better response from the reader. The reader feels sorry for the Poor Relation but the blame only lies on the Poor Relation; it was his fault that he had failed in life. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, however, is simpler and therefore easier to understand and enjoy. The reader feels genuine pity for Walter Mitty but also finds the situation in which he finds himself to be in humorous. ...read more.

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