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The Book “Our Secrets” by Susan Griffin Essay (Critical Writing)


The book ‘Our Secrets’ is one of the greatest works of Susan Griffin. Griffin is one of the most prolific writers in modern history. In this book, she brings out a unique way of presenting a piece of research. In most of the cases, some scholars have described her works as unique in the way they are presented. It is not easy to specifically classify some of her works because they do not conform to the conventional styles of writing. ‘Our Secrets’ is one of those pieces of writing, where she brings out the past and compares it with the present. She argues that there is a close connection between our past and present. The past defines the present, and the present will define our future. Every single person has secrets that he or she would like to guard at all costs. The state also has critical information that the relevant leaders would prefer if they remain classified and guarded away from public scrutiny. At every stage in life, we try to have two faces, that which is public, and the other, which is private. She is concerned with the private face, secretes of individuals and the state, and how these secretes affect society. In this paper, the researcher seeks to analyze this work and the style with which the author presents it.


The central focus of the book

When one starts reading this book, it is true that it may be confusing, especially if the focus was to classify it into one of the conventional genres of literature. At first, it appears as if her prose is actually an oral narrative, a story that is based on fiction. Her prose is centered on herself as she uses first-person pronouns to present her story. However, further reading into her work reveals that Griffin’s work is not a story based on fiction. It is a piece of research that has been presented in a non-conventional way. She is trying to collect facts from the past and present them in the best way possible. One of the major themes of her work in World War II, its major players, and its implication. Graff and Birkenstein (2007) say, “Something still hidden which lies in the direction of Heinrich Himmler’s life” (236).

It is important to note that Heinrich Himmler was the head of Nazi’s secret police. She is interested in what happened in the years preceding World War II, especially in regard to the atrocities the German government committed against humanity. The government had its own secretes that it was keen on guarding away from public scrutiny. These atrocities were organized and executed by the secret police. The best person who could give accounts of what actually happened was the head of that police unit. Graff and Birkenstein (2007) say, “The first guided missile is developed in Germany, during World War II” (233). This is a further confirmation that her focus was to research and report some facts that people are still not aware of about the Nazi German and events that led to the war. Her work is meant to shed more light on how this country and arch-rivals such as Great Britain, prepared for one of the worst global wars ever witnessed in human history.

Griffins also focused on the events after the war, the lives that the survivors led, and how they were affected. However, she does this in a unique approach by making herself part of the experience. Graff and Birkenstein (2007) note, “Often I have looked back into my past with a new insight…” (234). It is clear that from her interviews, her respondents told her about how they struggle to forget the painful past with a lot of difficulties. They told her about the bombs and how the terrifying impression has remained imprinted in their minds. She uses these facts to develop her case from a personal point of view. She uses an analogy of traveling on a train. She says that life is like taking a ride on a train. As the train moves on and one hopes to move into a blissful future, there is always a feeling that one is drifting back into the past, into memories that should remain covered and forgotten.

The book also focuses on personal lives and how people try to keep some issues about themselves private. According to her, individuals make a society, and therefore, a society is defined based on its individual members. British society has fundamental differences from a German society based on how they approach their tasks, how they socialize, and how they view family units. We are always quick to complain about our government keeping secrets from us, but we forget that we also have secretes that we want others not to have access to. Griffin argues that the only way of changing the government into what we desire is by starting to change our way of life, our thoughts, and strategies we use to achieve our desires. If our ways are not right, then we should not expect a perfect government that cares for its constituents. Whatever we feed into our society is what we get back from the government. If it is honesty, integrity, and transparency, then that is what we shall receive from the government. If it is something different, then we cannot expect the best from those in leadership.

The strategy used in gathering data

When conducting a piece of research, one of the most important processes is the gathering of the needed data. Just like a historian, a researcher must get to the ground and collect data that can support the information presented. For historians, they do not have to prove in their final piece of work that they actually collected primary and secondary sources of data. All they have to do is to present their historical facts in the most precise way possible. In fact, they do not have an obligation to state their sources. However, this is not the case with a researcher.

When writing a research report, one must clearly state the different sources of information in order to enhance the validity and reliability of the findings. It is always critical for a researcher to appreciate the works done by other scholars in the same field and use their findings as to the basis of their research. Griffin did this, and that is one of the reasons that make her readers and critics believe that this is more of research work than a mere historical narrative. Graff and Birkenstein (2007) say, “The nightmare images of the German child-rearing practices that one discovers in this book…” (238).

The statement confirms that Griffin relied on secondary sources of data in her work. She used books, journal articles, and other reliable sources of literature as a basis of knowledge in her work. The most important part of information gathering in research work is the primary data collection. There are many instances in this book where Griffins clearly demonstrates that she indeed collected primary data from individuals whom she believed had the facts she was looking for in her study. Graff and Birkenstein (2007) say, “I have been to Berlin and Munich on this search, and I have walked over the gravel at Dachau” (236). To collect primary data sources, she had to travel to places where these events took place. Berlin and Munich are some of the places where the war was planned and executed. After the war, people in these cities had to bear the greatest brunt of the war. She knew that there could be no better place to collect such critical information about the war than in these German cities. Most of the residents who lived in the city at that time had the entire experience and could furnish this research with facts and figures about the war.

The writing method adopted and its implications

A critical analysis of Griffin’s work reveals that she did excellent work in gathering information that informed her research. She traveled widely to get the information she needed and blended it with the literature available about this topic. However, the writing method she adopted drifts away from the commonly accepted style of a report. In most of the cases, a researcher is expected to avoid the use of first-person pronouns as much as possible. This is the only way that a researcher will make the report to be seen as a work of research other than personal opinions.

However, Griffin makes herself part of the study. Graff and Birkenstein (2007) say, “I sense now that my life is still bound up with the lives of those who lived and died in this time” (235). This statement shows that she is reporting on an issue based on personal observations. This is not very common in works of literature. The above statement also reveals another important feature of her writing that is very different from what one would find in a standard research paper. She allows her feelings into her work and does nothing to hide this fact from her readers. It is so clear in this statement although she did a thorough investigation over this issue, she still had significant personal opinions in this work.

This writing style has a number of positive and negative implications. Anyone who wants to make a decision based on this work will find it easy to do so. This is because the author provides not only hard facts but also gives personal opinions over the issue under investigation. The reader may choose to either agree or disagree with her opinion, but that does not stop her from providing it anyway. Despite these benefits, such writing methods may have serious negative impacts on the report. In every piece of research, it is very critical to demonstrate the validity and reliability of the findings. One way of doing this is to inform the readers that the researcher eliminated all forms of business. They should be informed that personal opinions and feelings did not influence the findings. However, Griffin does nothing to enhance the validity of her study. She gives her personal opinions and narrates the findings in style common when writing fiction.

Rhetorical strategies used

Rhetorical strategies are some of the most commonly used writing tools in literary works. This style is more common when writing fiction than it is when writing research reports or historical books. Griffin finds this tool very viable in her writing. It helps her to ensure that her readers remain alert when going through her work. It enables her to bring her readers on board in terms of contributing their opinions in this report. Graff and Birkenstein (2007) say, “What then occurs if the soul in its small beginnings is forced to take on a secret life?” (240). It is not a question that needs an answer from the reader. It is a style of writing that the author uses to demonstrate how dismaying it is that children were forced to lead lives that did not befit their age.

It helps her in emphasizing the fact that during the war, young boys were recruited as soldiers, some of whom did not even understand the meaning of the war itself. It also surprised her that some young boys were thrilled by the fact that they will be combating foreign enemies. In her own perspective, she does not find a reason good enough that can make underage boys find fun joining the military. Graff and Birkenstein (2007) say, “Is this the way he will finally prove himself?” (244). According to her, the young boy in question only wanted to prove himself by joining and actively participating in the military.

The connections in her writing

Griffin’s connections in her writing are elaborately illustrated not only in her facts but also in indirect statements she makes. She states that the present and the past are intertwined. The more one looks further into the future, the more he will find the past in that future. Our past will always be a blessing or a curse to us, and no one can escape from this fact. She also makes a connection between the states secretes and secretes held by individuals. Secretes held by the state is as much as secretes held by individuals who were part of the government at a time these events took place.


‘Our Secretes’ is a very thrilling piece of research that talks about the events during and after World War II. The war had devastating impacts on individuals in Germany, a country that was widely seen to have provoked the war. For a long time, historians and researchers have ignored the possible consequences of the war on the close family members of the army generals. The truth, according to Griffin, is that these family members suffered more than any other survivors in the country. The mental torture of having to live with the fact that a father, a husband, a brother, or a close relative is leading the army to kill innocent people has made them suffer. This is made worse by the fact that they had to keep all these atrocities in their hearts. Using a unique style of a report, Griffin brings out their story and narrates about the lifestyle they have been forced to lead years after the war.


Graff, G., & Birkenstein, C. (2007). “They say/I say”: The moves that matter in persuasive writing. New York: W.W. Norton.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "The Book "Our Secrets" by Susan Griffin." May 18, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-book-our-secrets-by-susan-griffin/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'The Book "Our Secrets" by Susan Griffin'. 18 May.

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