How Did James Thurber Die – (1894 – 1961)

Date of Birth December 8, 1894 
Date Of Death November 2, 1961
Age 66 years
Death Cause  Pneumonia Complications

James Thurber, born on December 8, 1894, and passing away on November 2, 1961, at the age of 66 due to Pneumonia, was a multifaceted American talent. He excelled as a cartoonist, writer, humorist, journalist, and playwright. 

Two is a company, four is a party, and three is a crowd – that’s where one is a wanderer! (James Thurber). 

Thurber’s whimsical cartoons and witty short stories, prominently featured in The New Yorker and compiled in numerous books, charmed readers, leaving an enduring mark on the world of humour and literature. Unfortunately, his life was cut short due to pneumonia complications, but his legacy continues to delight and inspire. Let’s uncover the highlights of his life and find out the real causes and circumstances behind his passing! 

The Comic Man Behind The Laughter

Thurber possessed a unique talent for capturing the comic frustrations and eccentricities of everyday people. His writings frequently focused on the quirks of ordinary life, making the mundane extraordinary through his humour and keen observations. Thurber’s wit was a bridge to the human condition, connecting people through laughter and shared experiences.

Don’t look back in anger or forward in fear, but around in awareness! (James Thurber).

His literary and artistic contributions extended beyond the pages of magazines and books. Several of his works made their way to the big screen, such as “The Male Animal” (1942), “The Battle of the Sexes” (1959, adapted from Thurber’s “The Catbird Seat”), and “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (adapted twice, in 1947 and 2013). These film adaptations served as testaments to Thurber’s enduring legacy, further amplifying his impact on popular culture.

Thurber’s Early Life & Literary Beginnings 

James Thurber in Columbus, Ohio, led a life filled with unique experiences that profoundly influenced his work as a celebrated American cartoonist, writer, humorist, journalist, and playwright. His father’s sporadic employment and unfulfilled aspirations and his mother’s comedic talents and penchant for practical jokes moulded his perspective. Tragedy struck Thurber at the age of seven when he lost an eye due to an accident involving an arrow. This injury, along with failing eyesight, compelled him to express himself through writing.

Thurber attended Ohio State University but could not graduate due to his visual impairment. He pursued a career as a code clerk for the U.S. Department of State from 1918 to 1920, followed by a stint as a reporter for The Columbus Dispatch and writing for various newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune. Thurber’s talent extended to both writing and cartooning. His whimsical drawings, characterised by their unique, wobbly style, became as iconic as his writings. 

Thurber’s Personal Life & Relationships

James Thurber’s personal life was marked by two significant marriages. In 1922, he married Althea Adams, with whom he had a daughter named Rosemary. However, the marriage faced challenges, and they eventually divorced in May 1935. Following the divorce, Althea retained the Sanford-Curtis-Thurber House in Connecticut. In June 1935, Thurber married his editor, Helen Muriel Wismer. 

It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers! (James Thurber).

Throughout the summers, he frequented Cornwall, Connecticut, often referring to it as “The Great Good Place.” This charming town became his retreat and a hub for various artists and authors of his time. Thurber’s personal life was marked by the complexities of his relationships, but his creative spirit and literary pursuits remained constant.

His Health Struggles, Passing & Death Cause

In the final year of his life, James Thurber’s health took a severe toll. His behaviour became increasingly erratic and unpredictable. On October 4, 1961, he suffered from a critical blood clot in his brain, which led to emergency surgery. Although the operation initially showed promise, Thurber’s condition remained unstable, with him drifting in and out of consciousness. 

Tragically, he passed away on November 2, 1961, at the age of 66. The cause of death was complications arising from pneumonia. Medical professionals noted that his brain had been affected by multiple small strokes and hardening of the arteries. In his final moments, Thurber’s last words, beyond repeated references to “God,” were recorded as “God bless… God damn,” as remembered by his wife, Helen. His passing marked the end of a brilliant literary career and the loss of a beloved humorist and writer.

The Legacy That James Thurber  Left Behind

Thurber made many important contributions to American writing and humour that will last for a long time. The Thurber Prize, which was created in 1997 and is given every year to recognise and celebrate outstanding American humour, is a tribute to his impact. He wrote many famous stories, like “A Sort of Genius,” that will always be remembered in literature. Some of them are even in the Library of America’s collection of American True Crime. Also, Thurber’s personal homes, such as the Thurber House in Ohio where he grew up and the Sanford–Curtis–Thurber House in Connecticut, are listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. This protects the places that helped him be creative.

Nowadays men lead lives of noisy desperation! Even though Thurber is no longer with us, his humour and wit are still loved in American society. Many people will continue to laugh and smile because of his work, which will keep his memory alive in our minds. Because James Thurber could find humour in everyday things and enjoy the strange things about people, he will always be known as a master of comedy and a source of joy for many years to come.

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