The Secret History – Donna Tartt // Essay by Hanneke van Eijk The five Greek students, Camilla, Henry, Francis, Charles and Richard were patiently waiting near the ravine, hoping for their friend to come. When they almost gave up and were on the verge of leaving, a drunken Bunny emerged from the footpath. ‘So, what’s the story, deerslayers? You all just felt like coming out here to study the vegetation? ’. ‘Well, not exactly’, said the cool voice of Henry and he took a step towards him. Bunny’s eyed widened with startled incredulity. Come on, fellas, you’re joking, right? ’ Henry gave Bunny a push, who toppled backwards and fell to his death. The novel “The Secret History” by Donna Tartt deals with everything around the murder of Bunny, from the students’ motives till the dreadful moments after his death and funeral. But who is this character Bunny? Bunny, which is a nickname for Edmund Corcoran, is the son of a football star who turned banker. He grows up in a loving and devoted family in the suburbs with his four brothers and parents.
They live the lifestyle of the rich and famous, but actually don’t have a red cent. Bunny’s best friend Henry says that Bunny’s parents are like reptiles. They hatch their young and abandon them to the elements. What Henry means by this, is that Bunny’s parents always manage to work around the fact that they are poor. This is shown in the fact that Bunny’s parents pay for only his tuition to Hampden University, but that Bunny has to figure out for himself how he will get the money to take care of himself.
So, they can put him in a school, but don’t have the resources to provide for him in any other way. Bunny is not a very intelligent boy, but he has developed the skill of tricking people into paying bills or giving him money and he is very successful at stealing food out of the university dorm refrigerators. Of course, friends wouldn’t mind helping out a comrade, but Bunny is a high maintenance boy who – like his parents – wants to live the life of a rich man. A perfect example of Bunny’s trickeries can be found in the book on page 63.
Bunny has invited Richard to a lengthy lunch and both boys eat and drink massive amounts of the most expensive foods and wines. When it is time to pay the 287-dollar check, Bunny seems to have “forgotten” his wallet. Since Richard was the one invited, he hasn’t brought his wallet either, so that Henry has to come to the restaurant and pay for the two boys, knowing that he will never get his money back from Bunny, who he already is very much acquainted to. However, Bunny doesn’t need his skills any longer when he figures out his fellow students’ dirty little secret.
He uses his power of knowledge to blackmail them and make their lives a living hell, especially Henry’s, with a disastrous outcome. After a long time of only suspicions, Bunny finds out that his fellow classmates – with the exception of Richard – have killed an innocent farmer during a Bacchanal rite which he wasn’t invited to. He is morally outraged by this and becomes a huge nuisance by making hateful comments, making his friends serve him, making Henry and some of the others pay for whatever he needs or wants and dropping subtle remarks about the death of the farmer when other people are around.
This vicious side of Bunny can be found among others on page 226 of the novel, where Richards finds Bunny sitting shirtless in the windowsill of the house kitchen, drinking a cup of coffee and leafing through some magazines. He has Camilla ironing his shirt and he makes a comment to Richard about how women are good for only two things, being too much of a “gentleman” to mention the second one. He also orders Charles to get Richard a cup of coffee, feeling too good to stand up himself and knowing that Charles will obey him because “he knows”.
The group of deerslayers – how Bunny calls them – is watchful yet weary of Bunny’s behavior, but only see him as a direct threat to their freedom when he goes to Richard and tells him precisely what happened. Luckily for the group, Richard already knows and is on their side. The groups needs to get rid of Bunny before he tells anyone else, and so they do. What they do not know is that Bunny has written a letter to their teacher Julian Morrow on the night he told Richard everything.
However, Julian Morrow reads this letter weeks after Bunny’s death and for a moment he believes it is a fake. He finds out the letter is truly from Bunny when he sees the back of one piece of paper, which is paper from the hotel where Bunny and Henry stayed during their holiday in Italy. He then knows that everything he is reading is true and that his students are murderers. The letter from Bunny is important to the story, because it leads to the departure of Julian.
Henry, the leader of the students who killed both Bunny and the innocent farmer, saw Julian not only as a teacher, but also as a role model and a father figure. He feels betrayed and abandoned and combined with the massive headaches caused by stress and the grief for Bunny (who nevertheless was his best friend), he kills himself in a selfish yet altruistic way, saving his friend from being exposed and most likely from a lifelong time in prison. (words: 931)