“Our Secret” Griffin: Unveiling Hidden Truths and Embracing the True Self

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“Our Secret” Griffin: Unveiling Hidden Truths and Embracing the True Self

This essay will analyze Susan Griffin’s essay “Our Secret,” which intertwines personal narratives with historical events to explore the impact of hidden truths on individual lives. The piece will discuss how Griffin uses the stories of Heinrich Himmler, Leo Szilard, and her own family to illustrate the interconnectedness of personal and collective histories. It will delve into themes of secrecy, trauma, and the influence of the past on the present. The essay’s unique structure, blending autobiography with historical analysis, will be examined to understand how Griffin reveals the complexity of human nature and the importance of confronting hidden truths. The aim is to provide a comprehensive understanding of Griffin’s approach to uncovering and accepting the multifaceted aspects of the self and history. At PapersOwl too, you can discover numerous free essay illustrations related to Fiction.

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The story “Our Secret” by Susan Griffin details how one’s true self is concealed from secrets. Griffin studies the lives and secrets of individuals to provide a better comprehension and understanding of herself as an individual. Everyone is human, and we carry secrets; many times, people let those secrets become buried with the ideal selves they have become due to others who have mentally and emotionally challenged them. These outside factors that have manipulated people resulted in them forgetting where they belong and originated from.

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As Susan Griffin examines the lives of individuals and reflects their lives to hers, through journalism and the usage of metaphors, she builds up to the concept of secrets and how they can create a barrier to one’s true self.


The Fragility of Secrets

Towards the beginning of the essay, Griffin inserts fragments of italicized passages about cells. Biologically, the cell is constructed with an inner and outer layer. The inner layer contains the core of the cell, the nucleus. Things are locked up in the nucleus; however, they aren’t permanently trapped there. The outside shell is the semipermeable layer with pores that enable certain substances to pass through. Griffin purposely placed these italicized sections to express how sensitive secrets may be. The real material of emotions lies within people, but they refuse to share or embrace these feelings because of their fears. This is where the “outer shell” begins to develop and blocks everyone else off. It takes risks to share secrets because they may be harmful; however, in the end, you develop from it, and that’s where one’s true self is formed.

Susan Griffin did not have a “picture perfect” family and came from an unhappy childhood. By utilizing her background and upbringing experiences, she examines the lives of certain individuals and relates them to her as she builds a better understanding of her true self. “We are not comfortable with ourselves as a family. There was a great shared suffering, and yet we never wept together, except for my mother, who would alternately weep and rage when she was drunk. Together, under my grandmother’s tutelage, we keep up appearances. Her effort was ceaseless.” (Griffin 241). Griffin’s family was filled with secrets and unhealthy relationships, and this consequently resulted in her parent’s divorce and unwanted childhood. She reminds herself of the pain and unfairness she experienced when she stayed with her grandmother. As Griffin reflects on the past, she thinks about what her life may have been like if these family secrets had been veiled. This relates back to the underlying message of truth because Griffin let these family secrets interfere with herself.

The Mask of Concealment

Griffin metaphorically uses the idea of a “field of gravity” to live, “Rather a field exists, like a field of gravity that is created by the movements of many bodies. Each life is influenced, and it, in turn, becomes an influence. Whatever is a cause is also an effect. Childhood experience is just one element in the determining field” (238). The “field of gravity is created by the movements of many bodies” showcases how a vast amount of people come together to create a world of diversity and humanity. Griffin purposely includes this to show the importance childhood has to showing one’s true self. Being honest with oneself will enable the ability to build relationships and show genuine emotion. This relates back to the truth because remembering upbringings won’t allow one to forget where they originated from, therefore allowing them to stick to their true self.

Griffin specifically says that Heinrich Himmler’s childhood had a subtle influence on her, “How does our sense of history change when we consider childhood, and perhaps more importantly, why is it that until now we have chosen to ignore this point of origination, the birthplace, and womb of ourselves, in our consideration of public events.” (238). Griffin questions why people forget where they come from, and essentially, it is because of the surroundings that have mentally abused them. Griffin repeatedly asks these questions to emphasize the significance of childhood because people forget how much value it has on one’s self-concept. Childhood is vital to one’s cultural lens because that’s where they develop questions about life and continue to find their true selves.

The Train of Reflection

As Griffin comes to build a better understanding by examining Himmler’s life, she realizes how much pain she faces mentally. Himmler’s father pushed his efforts to create the son he wanted, restricting Himmler from enjoying his life freely. In order to be “cultured,” Gebhard (Himmler’s father) trained Himmler to have proper manners and made sure he knew about his grandfather’s history. However, this restricted schedule took a toll on Himmler, making him incapable of growing up and learning his true values. Griffin takes this into perspective and understands that Himmler has a lot of pressure on him and that there is no time to “drift or feel lost” because of what his father has planned for him. With a father who had high expectations, Himmler didn’t get to speak for himself; rather, he spoke in the words of his father. “Like the words of a schoolboy commanded to write what the teacher requires of him, they are wooden and stiff. The stamp of his father’s character is so heavy on this language that I catch not even a breath of a self here” (236). There were secrets Himmler wanted to discover; however, he ended up just dropping them to save his father’s reputation. If Himmler wasn’t so controlled by his father and rather had the ability to live willingly, he might never have become the leader of the Nazi Army. Himmler’s journalism had opened Griffin’s eyes after reading the agony that Himmler experienced. The journal entries conveyed a more personal and in-depth aspect of Himmler’s feelings, which provided Griffin with a better scope of his situation. Griffin showcases how Himmler’s life was consumed by these living secrets and fears that further restricted him from enjoying life on his own.

Griffin utilizes a mask to metaphorically tie up with the theme, “I think of it now as a kind of mask, not an animated mask that falls like a dead weight over the human’s face” (237). What lies behind the mask are the secrets people refuse to release because of the idea of pleasing others. The masks inhibit people from having to show their inner selves and true emotions. Griffin is saying how hanging onto secrets can steer one’s mind to believe something that can be misleading. Secrets can be harmful as they prevent us from growing relationships with others.

In the essay, Griffin refers to a train. “Now, in my mind, I can feel myself moving backward in time. I am as if on a train, And the train pushes into history. This history seems to exist somewhere, waiting for a foreign country behind a border and, perhaps, also inside me.” (234). Griffin stylistically chose the train as a transitional phase where she reminisced about the past and future. This indicates how Griffin was aware that past upbringings have come to help as she reflects. Griffins uses the train to symbolize a time machine that allows her to perceive what was once imperceptible. The train is a reminder for people to remember where they belong. People’s past is filled with memories and secrets, and without them, there would not be any character development. It is crucial to hold onto these secrets as they shape people into who they are as a person.


“Our Secrets” by Susan Griffin is a powerful response in regards to the concept of truths and true selves. Everyone is human and bound to have secrets. Griffin stated how false ideas pile onto each other when people aren’t meeting their true selves, and this ultimately leads to misconceptions and false emotions and relations. However, unveiling secrets can benefit people from having to live in a world of hidden fear. Secrets enable one to grow interpersonally and become stronger, and once that strength and true personality are met, people are a step closer to finding their “true self.”


  1. “Writing as Witness: Essay and Talk” by Susan Griffin

  2. “Susan Griffin: A Literary Companion” by Veronica Makowsky

  3. “Women’s Experimental Writing: The Practice of Freedom” by Robin Silbergleid

  4. “Voices Made Flesh: Performing Women’s Autobiography” by Lynn C. Miller 

  5. “Women and Nature: Saving the ‘Wild’ West” by Glenda Riley 

  6. “Ecofeminist Literary Criticism: Theory, Interpretation, Pedagogy” edited by Greta Gaard and Patrick D. Murphy 

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"Our Secret" Griffin: Unveiling Hidden Truths and Embracing the True Self. (2023, Sep 03). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/our-secret-griffin-unveiling-hidden-truths-and-embracing-the-true-self/