The Secret History: how far would you go for your friends? 


Caitlin Maughan, Opinion Editor

When Richard Papen impulsively leaves California for Hampden College in Vermont, he has no idea that he will be involved in three deaths. 


“The Secret History,” by Donna Tartt, was published in 1992. The epic novel follows an elite group of scholars as they study ancient Greek under the tutelage of Julian Morrow. This is a story of romance, manslaughter, and, of course, many secrets.   


One of the most compelling features of “The Secret History” is its striking characters. The novel is told from the perspective of Richard, a clever boy who will do anything to fit in. He joins five unusual students in the classics department at Hampden: Bunny, Henry, Camilla, Charles and Francis. Each character comes with their own unique set of difficulties and sinister secrets.


The first half of the book is relatively happy. Richard determines his place in the circle and we explore the dynamic relationships between each of the characters as they lounge around Francis’ lake house. However, things take a drastic turn when Richard is roped into a murder plot and everything slowly falls apart. 


This book is for you if you enjoy mystery and dark academia. Tartt does not neglect the fact that Richard and his friends are college students. They all have an intense passion for learning and self-discovery, which may have ultimately been the cause of their downfall. Their intelligence is also incorporated into the storyline when they converse in ancient languages to hide the content of their conversations from eavesdroppers.     


All in all, Tartt is a spectacular author; if you read “The Secret History,” you may just find yourself relating to a murderous sociopath. Not to mention, her use of diction and symbolism make for a beautiful telling of a tragic tale. 


Papen says it best: “For if the modern mind is whimsical and discursive, the classical mind is narrow, unhesitating, relentless. It is not a quality of intelligence that one encounters frequently these days. But though I can digress with the best of them, I am nothing in my soul if not obsessive.”


Photo courtesy of Fouquier.