Pen To Paper: Donna Tartt's 'The Secret History' - A Tale On The Depths Of Human Flaws

Pen To Paper: Donna Tartt's 'The Secret History' - A Tale On The Depths Of Human Flaws

Published in 1992, it is the story of a group of six, socially alienated college students who attend the same Classics course by the charismatic professor Julian Morrow. Set in the 1980's it is a reversed murder mystery without the 'whodunnit' factor.

Manasvi BajpaiUpdated: Saturday, April 20, 2024, 04:23 PM IST
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The Secret History is the first novel of American author Donna Tartt. Published in 1992, it is the story of a group of six, socially alienated college students who attend the same Classics course by the charismatic professor Julian Morrow. Set in the 1980's it is a reversed murder mystery without the 'whodunnit' factor.

A few of the students, deeply influenced and quite frankly obsessed with ancient Greek rituals hold a Dionysian bacchanal which leads to them killing a farmer in the Vermont countryside. Bunny, who found out about this was insulted that he was left behind, becomes sour and is viewed as a liability. The rest, in fear of being caught for the murder decide that the best solution would be to commit another, and hence their scheming begins.

The theme of this book is as simple as two words: Fatal flaws. Directly from the start of the book, the lines-

"Does such a thing as 'the fatal flaw,' that showy dark crack running down the middle of a life, exist outside literature?"

Changed the way I perceived this book. As mentioned in the above lines, a fatal flaw is that one personality trait that is so deeply enrooted in the person that it causes a reversal of fortune from good to bad and eventually leads to their downfall. It was first introduced in Greek Tragedies, specifically Aristotle's Poetics.

I believe that the Fatal Flaws of the different characters shaped the way of the story that led to the eventual demise of Bunny. Let me explain in detail:

Henry Winters: Even though not directly mentioned in the book, Henry's fatal flaw would be 'hubris' or, to put it simply, pride; one shared by many of the Greek heroes from the time he so desperately wanted to belong to. Being the mastermind behind both murders (he would be a Slytherin), he refused to believe in his wrongdoing and simply escalated the situation by manipulating them all to go along with his schemes, not giving a thought to how he might be in the wrong.

Edward "Bunny" Corcoran: Our dear murder victim (or not so dear), Bunny Corcoran played quite a significant role in his own murder. With a fatal flaw that's a mixture between gluttony and a deep sense of insecurity hidden by offensive beliefs and major pettiness. He is by far the most intriguing character in this roller-coaster of a book.

The experience of reading this book can be simply put as:

"I felt my existence was tainted, in some subtle but essential way."

Experiencing it all at the same pace as the narrator, trusting the characters only to find out the most horrific details later left me unable to process anything else for days and left me wondering, in the best sense of the word. I would recommend this book to anyone, and everyone interested in reading.

(This review is part of the winning reviews published in the Pen to Paper contest hosted by The Free Press Journal annually . This exclusive contest is open to teenagers only

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