World War II in “Our Secret” by Susan Griffin Essay (Critical Writing)

August 17, 2021 by Essay Writer

The work of Susan Griffin is unique, and it may not be easily to classify it in the existing genres of literature. When one goes through her work for the first time, it is easy to assume that it is a novel, a story about her past. However, it becomes clear as one continues to read her work that this is not just a simple novel meant to entertain her audience using fiction. The details she provides about various events and the manner in which she chooses her words clearly points out that this is not a work of fiction. She narrates about her past experiences and how she related to people around her in a way that makes one believe that the work could even be an autobiography. However, references to historical facts that do not directly affect her eliminate the possibility that this could be an autobiography. It is also possible to consider her work as a historical facts meant for historians. However, the manner in which it is presented is very different from conventional works of history.

Our Secret is a research work that delves into various events that took place prior, during, and after the Second World War. The manner in which she gathers her materials, how she reads, and the way she writes shows that she is interested in collecting facts and reporting them as appropriately as possible. Graff and Birkenstein (2007) say, “The very act of keeping a journal, I sensed, would help me into this life that would now be my own” (236). This statement reveals the fact that she is on a mission to gather facts, and the best way of doing this is to keep a journal. This statement further clears any doubt that one may have about her work being based on fiction. She is focused on gathering historical and other social facts that affects the society around her and the world at large.

In a conventional research work, authors always try to avoid putting themselves into the middle of their research. Being part of the findings always jeopardizes the validity and reliability of the research because it may not be possible to avoid biasness. However, she plunges herself right in the middle of her work. 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). This statement demonstrates that she is part of the report, something that is not common in most of the research works. In this statement, she is directly speaking to her readers about the process of collecting her data. The prose she uses in her work makes it very unique as a piece of research.

The author uses rhetorical strategies to bring out a sense of humor and deepen the understanding of her work. Graff and Birkenstein (2007) say, “The ordinary is of course never ordinary” (237). In many cases, readers may get lost along the way when reading such long prose, especially if it is boring. However, she eliminates this boredom by using ordinary words in extraordinary way. In the statement above, one would gain interest in reading the work further to determine how the ordinary can never be ordinary. The question that the reader would be seeking answers to is how something ordinary can fail to be ordinary. It is strange to refer to something ordinary as extraordinary. This is a philosophical reasoning that is seen through her entire work.

She tries to challenge commonly held beliefs in very simple and clever ways. However, she avoids betraying the feeling that she is actually a philosopher and a historian who is keen on evoking deeper reasoning among its readers. The connections in her writing indicates that although she is not ready to come out strongly and challenge some of the commonly held beliefs, she thinks that her reader deserves to be empowered with the relevant information so that they can arrive at informed conclusions.

In her work, just like in other conventional research works, she uses secondary sources of information to back her own findings. Graff and Birkenstein (2007) say, “The nightmare images of the German child-rearing practices that one discovers in this book…” (238). She is referring to a book she finds relevant to her work. However, she uses her usual unique approach of reporting to bring out the facts in the book. She allows her personal feeling to influence her writing when she uses the word ‘nightmare’. It is a fact that images which one may consider a nightmare may be very normal in the eyes of another person. However, she takes it very personal and uses the term she feels in the most appropriate in describing the image. Inasmuch as this approach gives her work a sense of uniqueness, it now becomes clear that she cannot avoid biasness in her work. Using such strong emotional words demonstrates that she assertive in her work other than being objective as is always the case in conventional researches.


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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