The Secret History

FAQ About The Secret History

How does the concept of privilege and elitism play a role in the narrative? The Secret History
9 months ago | gizem

How does the concept of privilege and elitism play a role in the narrative?

The concept of privilege and elitism plays a significant role in shaping the narrative of "The Secret History" by Donna Tartt. It is a recurring theme that influences the characters, their relationships, and the events of the story in several ways:

  • Academic Privilege: The characters in the novel attend an elite liberal arts college, Hampden College. Their privileged status as students at this prestigious institution grants them access to resources, opportunities, and a world-class education that most people do not have. This academic privilege is the foundation of their intellectual elitism.
  • Social Hierarchy: Within the college, there is a social hierarchy that reflects privilege. The main characters, particularly Henry and Francis, come from wealthy backgrounds, allowing them to live in luxurious off-campus houses and engage in a lifestyle of excess. This creates a clear distinction between them and other students, reinforcing their elitism.
  • Julian Morrow's Influence: Julian Morrow, the charismatic classics professor, epitomizes academic privilege and intellectual elitism. His mentorship and exclusive invitation-only classes elevate the characters' sense of importance and entitlement. His influence encourages them to view themselves as a privileged intellectual elite.
  • Sense of Entitlement: The characters' privilege fosters a sense of entitlement. They believe they deserve to live an extraordinary life, mirroring the ancient Greek ideal of excellence. This entitlement drives their pursuit of an intellectual and morally exceptional existence.
  • Exclusivity: The group's tight-knit nature is exclusive, and they actively resist outsiders. This exclusivity is a reflection of their elitism and a means to maintain their intellectual and moral superiority.
  • Economic Disparities: The economic disparities between the characters and Bunny Corcoran, who comes from a less privileged background, add tension to the narrative. Bunny's financial struggles make him an outsider in the group, and his presence underscores the theme of privilege.
  • Moral Consequences: The characters' privileged upbringing contributes to their moral decay. Their belief in their exceptionalism and entitlement leads them to make morally questionable decisions, believing they are above the consequences that others might face.
  • Betrayal and Discord: Privilege also factors into the betrayals and discord among the characters. As tensions rise and guilt mounts, the characters are willing to sacrifice one another to protect their privileged positions and reputation.
  • Critical Examination: The novel critically examines the consequences of privilege and elitism. It explores how privilege can lead individuals to believe they are exempt from the moral standards that apply to others and how this belief can ultimately lead to their downfall.