Masked or Unmasked?

After reading the short story “The Secret Woman,” two times through, I was left with a this question in my mind. Does a mask reveal your true identity? or does it cover it up?

The relationship between the husband and the wife at the beginning of the story makes you think that they are in a stable and honest relationship. As the story goes on you learn that they were both lying to each other and the instability of their relationship becomes apparent. When discussing Irene attending the ball, she responds to her husband with “As for me…Can you see me in a crowd, at the mercy of all those hands…” (328). Not questioning her response, the husband doesn’t seem to think twice about this. The woman has a version of herself that her husband knows and fulfills her role as a wife.

Later in the story when Irene attends the masked ball, she reveals a completely different side of herself while she is under the impression that her husband is not watching her. Her entire demeanor switches. In a rather natural way at that. While she is confined by her role as a wife with her husband around, with the mask on she is now free to act how she desires and appears to be in her natural state. Although the mask quite literally disguises Irene’s true self, by wearing it, it allows her to reveal her unleashed identity.

3 thoughts on “Masked or Unmasked?

  1. kkuehl15

    I think that a mask does reveal a part of yourself that others or even you do not realize. While wearing a mask you have the freedom to be anything without major repercussions. This can make a person feel like they can be anyone they want and act in any way because they will not be judged as their self but as another masked person and a face among the crowd.

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    1. ANNE WOLLMUTH

      I also thought about this question whole reading, and found it interesting that the wife felt like she needed a place to let loose. The husband also seemed to like the opera and observing all the ongoings, and maybe even liked getting away from his normal life. It leaves me wondering if this behavior indicates that their marriage was unfulfilling, or if everyone just needs a space where they can let loose and not worry about the repercussions from anything else.

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  2. MEENAH HARBAUGH

    I feel like the woman was wearing her true mask when she wasn’t at the ball. The acted very differently around her husband than at the ball, and felt more true to herself while at the ball, and at home, she wore a “mask” to pretend to be someone she was not.

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