The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a short story that explores the dull and depressing existence of the titular character. During a shopping trip to the city, Mitty's wife constantly nags at him, and he is shown to be a rather timid and dreary man on the outside; however, inside his head, he is taking part in an endless parade of colorful, swashbuckling adventures. The story demonstrates the disconnect between inner and outer identity, as well as the desperate desire to escape the ordinary.
The short story deals with a vague and mild-mannered man who drives into Waterbury, Connecticut, with his wife for their regular weekly shopping and his wife's visit to the beauty parlor. During this time he has five heroic daydream episodes. The first is as a pilot of a U.S. Navy flying boat in a storm, then he is a magnificent surgeon performing a one-of-a-kind surgery, then as a deadly assassin testifying in a courtroom, and then as a Royal Air Force pilot volunteering for a daring, secret suicide mission to bomb an ammunition dump. As the story ends, Mitty imagines himself facing a firing squad, "inscrutable to the last." Each of the fantasies is inspired by some detail of Mitty's mundane surroundings: