Identity and “The Secret Woman”

When analyzing “The Secret Woman” in class, I thought that another student made an interesting remark regarding the masquerade as featured in the story. Essentially, by covering up one’s true identity, someone potentially unmasks another.

At its heart, masks do present a lot of challenge to us as humans. We are so used to actively perceiving and analyzing facial features and expressions that when we are met with something close to but not quite the same as the real thing, such as a mask, we are met with confusion and uncertainty. It is not so abstract as to mask the presence of a human being, but it is abstract enough to mask any emotions or expressions. Under this vale of uncertainty, “The Secret Woman” suggests people may stray from their common behaviors. When together, the couple seems to appear relatively mundane about their lives and their view on attending this ball. Under the vale of the mask, however, the wife seems to act wildly and energetically, as she bounces around the party. Under another mask, the husband stalks his wife, watching her activities.

Ultimately, I don’t think that “The Secret Woman” is supposed to be about the faithfulness of one partner to another but is meant to show the natural feelings that people will have when not bound by societal or cultural expectations. The wife still loves her husband, but she has a more daring and youthful side that she would keep to herself if it weren’t for an opportunity like this. I think this can apply to us a lot when we meet new people, are in public spaces with many strangers around, or are online. In these situations, people either don’t have context about you or cannot access it whether it be because of a literal or metaphorical mask. How do we let unfamiliarity or uncertainty impact the way we confront and behave in front of others? How does a mask change our character?

2 thoughts on “Identity and “The Secret Woman”

  1. Maya S

    I really love this take on the story, and I think you make a great point about the various effects of being in a literal or figurative disguise. It makes me think about when everyone was wearing literal masks because of COVID, and how we’d often talk about what was lost in social or classroom settings because we couldn’t rely on facial expressions. While those masks were of course necessary, it created a disconnect in a lot of scenarios in a way that I think connects to The Secret Woman and what you’re saying here.

    Like

  2. LINA E.

    I think you did a good outlook on this story especially when you mentioned that it isn’t about the unfaithfulness between both partners but the natural feelings that those will have when not bound.

    Like

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