Too Much Truth: 9 Quotes About Keeping Secrets

Padlocks on a fence in New Orleans, photo by the author

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One of the things all of us have in common is that we’re all keeping secrets – in many cases, while elaborately pretending we have nothing to hide.

One could say that secrecy (and the betrayal thereof) is one of the cornerstones of literature, the very medium of both concealment and revelation. Authors know this better than anyone, and spend a fair amount of time writing about the pleasures and miseries of secrecy, and the following quotes only scratch the surface of this subject.

Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1982
“And when at last you find someone to whom you feel you can pour out your soul, you stop in shock at the words you utter— they are so rusty, so ugly, so meaningless and feeble from being kept in the small cramped dark inside you so long.”

George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1949
“If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.”

Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin, 2000
“The best way of keeping a secret is to pretend there isn’t one.”

Joyce Carol Oates, Man Crazy, 1997
“Secrets have always been easy for me, it’s the opposite of secrets that is hard.”

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1890
“When I like people immensely I never tell their names to anyone. It is like surrendering a part of them. I have grown to love secrecy.”

Kate Chopin, The Awakening, 1899
“She was flushed and felt intoxicated with the sound of her own voice and the unaccustomed taste of candor. It muddled her like wine, or like a first breath of freedom.”

Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go, 2005
“Maybe all of us at Hailsam had little secrets like that — little private nooks created out of thin air where we could go off alone without fears and longing.”

Arthur Miller, The Crucible, 1953
“We burn a hot fire here; it melts down all concealment.”

Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club, 1989
“In truth, this was a bad thing that Yan Chang had done, telling me my mother’s story. Secrets are kept from children, a lid on top of the soup kettle, so they do not boil over with too much truth.”