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The Clique

    Richard Papen 

Richard Papen

The novel's narrator and a scholarship student at Hampden college.

  • Abusive Parents: Richard's father is mentioned as being verbally and physically abusive. After he leaves for Hampton his parents virtually cut him out of their lives.
  • Ambiguously Bi: In spite of his common refrain of Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?, Richard is not only fascinated to an extent with same sex attraction but also occasionally becomes slightly more intimate than expected with some of his male friends in the classics group.
    • Not That There's Anything Wrong with That: The Greeks were gay, and Francis is gay, and this is fine. But Richard is straight, as he never ceases to remind the reader.
      While I don't suppose that anyone who has devoted much energy to the study of Classics can be very much disturbed by homosexuality, neither am I particularly comfortable with it as it concerns me directly.
    • Gaydar: Richard claims he has good gaydar because he's so not gay.
      I had lived with Henry for a month, and there hadn't been the faintest hint of that sort of tension, which I, being rather more disinclined that way than not, am quick to pick up on. I had caught a strong breath of it from Francis, a whiff of it at times from Julian; and even Charles, who I knew was interested in women, had a sort of naive, prepubescent shyness of them that a man like my father would have interpreted alarmingly—but with Henry, zero.
  • Anxiety Dreams: Especially during his time in Leo's warehouse.
  • Contemplate Our Navels: As an observant outsider, Richard constantly analyzes his behavior and motives regarding what he did before he knew exactly what the other characters were up to.
  • Embarrassing Old Photo: Richard destroys the only photo of his mother that he owns, for fear that Bunny will see it and realize that Richard grew up relatively poor.
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator / Pinball Protagonist: Oh, very much so.
  • Fish out of Water / Stranger in a Strange School: He's from a very modest background and tries desperately to fit in with his wealthier peers.
  • Hated Hometown: His feelings toward Plano, California.
  • Hypocrite: He looks down on Judy for being a cokehead, even though he mentions doing quite a bit of cocaine himself.
  • Pass Fail: Of the class variety.
  • Scholarship Student: He goes to great lengths to hide his lower-middle class upbringing from his rich friends.
  • Sixth Ranger: To the clique.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Unaccustomed to Vermont's freezing temperatures and unaware of the existence of space heaters, he nearly dies of hypothermia during winter break trying to tough it out in a rented room he doesn't realize is unsafe (despite the hole in the roof).
  • Unreliable Narrator: By his own admission. Richard's admiration and affection for the murder clique (though mostly Henry and Camilla) results in a picture of each of them that may not be entirely representative of who they truly are.
  • With Friends Like These...: Richard gets shot; nobody notices.

     Henry Winter 

Henry Marchbanks Winter

A tall stoic with hard features and a genius of linguistics, Henry is the mysterious character at the heart of the novel.

  • Affably Evil / Anti-Villain
  • Born in the Wrong Century: This applies to the whole clique, but is especially pronounced with Henry; when researching poisons, his first strategy is to seek out ancient Persian texts on the subject, and Richard has to tell him outright that human beings have landed on the moon.
    I had been told by the twins that Henry disliked electric lights, and here and there I saw kerosene lamps in the windowsills.
  • Byronic Hero: His large-scale character flaws are exactly what make him so interesting.
  • The Chessmaster: Over the course of the novel, Richard realizes that Henry leaves little to accident and that his plots are always more complex than they initially appear.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: By the end of the book, Henry has accidentally killed a farmer, murdered Bunny, tried to kill Charles, and was apparently planning something for Richard.
  • Cunning Linguist:
    Richard: How many languages does he know?
    Bunny: I lost count. Seven or eight. He can read hieroglyphics.
    Richard: Wow.
    Bunny: He's a genius, that boy. He could be a translator for the UN if he wanted to be.
  • Ditzy Genius: He can be incredibly impractical (not that he'll see it that way), which is one of the reasons the Gambit Pileup ultimately topples.
  • Driven to Suicide: Henry's ultimate fate at the end of the novel.
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul / Stoic Spectacles
  • Genius Bruiser: Henry tends to hit harder than he means to. A major plot point.
  • Genius Cripple / Handicapped Badass:
    • Has a limp because he was hit by a car as a child.
    • Is prone to debilitating headaches.
  • Insufferable Genius: He doesn't see anyone as his equal, especially his peers, and this seeps into his daily interactions.
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation
  • Lack of Empathy: By his own admission. He claims to notice the same trait in Richard.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: In his childhood.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste / Wicked Cultured
  • Neat Freak: Richard describes him as "clean as a cat" and mentions how he never takes his coat off without placing it on a hanger.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Henry does save Richard from freezing to death in the Vermont winter, taking him to the hospital and bringing him to his apartment to recuperate.
    • Henry is also the only member of the Greek Class to intervene when Charles becomes abusive towards Camilla, giving her a place to stay and hide from him.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: According to the twins, he and Bunny were pretty good friends before the events of the books.
    Camilla: Henry's so serious and Bun's so sort of—well, not serious—that they really get along quite well.
    Charles: Yes, L'Allegro and Il Penseroso. A well-matched pair. I think Bunny's about the only person in the world who can make Henry laugh.
  • Renaissance Man: Henry, though he's more of an old Roman than a Renaissance man. He "can grow flowers, repair clocks like a jeweller, add tremendous sums in his head." He also speaks eight languages and can read hieroglyphics.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Julian's, and therefore Henry's, general attitude.
  • The Stoic: Generally shows little emotion.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Heavily deconstructed and subverted.
  • Tall, Dark, and Snarky
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: To Charles, and apparently Richard.

     Bunny Corcoran 

Edmund "Bunny" Corcoran

Hailing from a banking family, Bunny is loud and extroverted and makes friends easily. Unfortunately for the people around him though, he tends to mooch off friends and has a special talent for finding their weak spots...

  • Asshole Victim: He wasn't the most pleasant person even before catching wind of his friends' masquerade, but after learning about the murder they committed he becomes manic, unpredictable, downright cruel, and impossible to deal with.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family / Freudian Excuse: The Corcorans. Oh God, the Corcorans. Charles goes on a bit of a tirade about it, noting that Bunny was the best of them. The shallow (his father) and callous (his mother) parents are supremely concerned with appearances, and instead of facing the fact that Bunny just isn't that bright academically, they sent him to expensive schools where he struggled to keep up with his peers. He would have probably been happier and felt less inferior if he had the opportunity to do something he excelled at. Additionally, they did not provide him with enough money to survive, which drove Bunny to develop various mooching strategies. The result was a 24-year-old man surrounded by younger peers who most likely felt inferior, both economically and academically, and made up for it by sniffing their weaknesses and constantly poking and prodding at them.
    Charles: I just never met such a bunch of greedy, shallow people. You look at them and think, oh, what a tasteful, attractive family but they're just a bunch of zeros, like something from an ad.
  • Boisterous Bruiser
  • Book Dumb: He's a terrible scholar but a gifted artist and an astute observer.
  • Establishing Character Moment: When Richard overhears him and the twins working on their Greek homework. Bunny's suggestions are sloppy and somewhat random and he's eager to finish the translation without really making sure that it's correct.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Bunny is a sexist, racist, homophobic boor with gauche manners (whom Richard initially mistakes for a shining example of The Beautiful Elite). The classics clique have had their fill of him by halfway through the novel, and his threats to reveal their secret are the last straw.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: For all his apparent confidence, Bunny is jealous of not only Richard, as confirmed by Henry, but implicitly of all his friends for being wealthier and more intelligent and academically gifted.
  • He Knows Too Much: And won't shut up about it.
  • Hyper-Awareness: He's very clever when it comes to noticing things and putting them together.
  • Idiot Ball: Bunny picks it up when he realizes the truth about the farmer's death and refuses to put it down.
  • Implausible Deniability: Noted by Richard as a habit of his, to the point where he once explained a hickey by saying that he fell down some stairs.
  • It's All About Me / Lack of Empathy: Bunny is supremely selfish. He steals food from everyone, uses his friends for money and entertainment, wakes them up in the middle of the night to rant or hide from his girlfriend, lies to them, is completely careless with their possessions and becomes downright tyrannical when he discovers the bacchanalian murder. Throughout the book, he consistently acts as if he is the most important person in the world. It's implied that he does it out of a sense of inferiority, as he is jealous of their wealth and academic prowess.
  • Like an Old Married Couple: With Marion.
    She and Bunny had a relationship the likes of which I had seldom seen except in couples married for twenty years or more, a relationship which vacillated between the touching and the annoying.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Anyone who has ever heard Bret Easton Ellis speak (and knows that Donna Tartt and Bret Easton Ellis know each other) can probably guess the inspiration for Bunny's way of (likely intentionally) being a conversational bull in a porcelain shop.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: While he may or may not be genuinely bigoted at heart, he does go out of his way to irritate his friends through loud, rude, politically incorrect comments (and, being every inch the New Englander, his offensive remarks are aimed at white Catholics and Jews rather than what Americans from other regions would consider more obvious targets, such as black Americans or hispanics).
    • Boomerang Bigot: Hinted at. Bunny goes out of his way to show off what a WASP he is by complaining about Catholics. However, his last name is Irish and his family are often confused in public with the Kennedys, hinting that his ancestors may often not meet the qualifications for the "P" in WASP.
    • He-Man Woman Hater / Stay in the Kitchen
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: According to the twins, he and Henry were pretty good friends before the events of the books.
    Camilla: Henry's so serious and Bun's so sort of—well, not serious—that they really get along quite well.
    Charles: Yes, L'Allegro and Il Penseroso. A well-matched pair. I think Bunny's about the only person in the world who can make Henry laugh.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Bunny Corcoran, boy detective.

     Francis Abernathy 

Francis Abernathy

  • Awesome Anachronistic Apparel / The Dandy: Francis is the best-dressed of the group. Francis frequently wears pince-nez (despite his perfect eyesight), "a black greatcoat that billowed behind him as he walked and made him look like a cross between a student prince and Jack the Ripper", and other stylish get-ups.
  • Bath Suicide: Attempts one in the epilogue.
  • The Beard: Marries Priscilla to placate his homophobic grandfather at the end of the book.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: Judging from his iron-fisted grandfather, Absurdly Youthful Mother and even more absurdly youthful stepfather, Disappeared Dad, and assorted Crazy Cat Lady aunts.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy / Idle Rich: How Bunny describes Francis, who is a gifted scholar but lacks the motivation to get himself out of trouble (or stand up to Henry). After his grandfather discovers that he's gay, he prefers to get married to a ditzy woman rather than be disinherited and actually have to work for a living.
  • Camp Gay / Transparent Closet: Francis isn't "out" exactly, insofar as Bunny can shit-talk gay men right in front of Francis and there's enough plausible deniability that Bunny can pretend it's not a personal attack. But everyone knows. Like everyone. Before Richard even meets Francis for the first time, he asks other students at Hampton about him and people quickly start wondering why Richard is curious about the gay boy. There's not much stereotypically gay about Francis's personality, and he's fairly discrete about his hookups with men—but he looks gay. He's described as looking like Alfred Lord Douglas (as in Oscar Wilde's boyfriend) or the Count of Montesquiou—two 19th century dandies, both gay poets.
  • The Cameo: In an another Donna Tartt novel, The Goldfinch.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: Francis, who suffers from panic attacks, is also a very frequent smoker.
  • Fiery Redhead: Subverted. He has flaming red hair, but he's actually less extra than most of his friends.
  • Hands-Off Parenting: Despite their Blue Blood his Absurdly Youthful Mother is more like a Cool Big Sis (which made for a fairly traumatic childhood).
  • Hypochondria
  • The Twink: He's slender and delicate, especially in contrast with Henry and Bunny, who are both huge.

     Charles Macaulay 

Charles Macaulay

Camilla's handsome twin brother. A good-natured young man with a fondness for alcohol.

  • Affectionate Nickname: Calls Camilla "Milly".
    Charles: Milly, my girl. Where are you, honey?
  • Ambiguously Bi / Experimented in College: Charles is sleeping with both Camilla and Francis on an ongoing (if infrequent) basis. But when he hooks up with Francis it's always when he's drunk, and he refuses to acknowledge it afterwards. It's not that ambiguous, really—Charles is bi, but not out to himself.
    Francis: As for Charles—well, basically, he likes girls. If he's drunk, I'll do.
  • Animal Lover: He adopts an old greyhound at the beginning of the year, and a stray cat at the end of the year. He didn't seek them out in either case, but when they needed a home, he jumped and took them in.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: With the possible exception of Richard, Charles seems to feel the worst about Bunny's murder, which is one of the reasons he has the most pronounced Freak Out.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy / My Sister Is Off-Limits!: Very possessive of his twin sister, thanks to their incestuous relationship.
  • Descent into Addiction / Drowning My Sorrows: Charles—arguably hit hardest by the murder—drowns his sorrows in liquor to the point of alcohol poisoning. Although even before that, he drank rather more than the rest of them—and they all drank a lot.
  • Domestic Abuse: To his sister Camilla. The horrific abuse is implied to stem out of his extreme jealousy over her relationship with Henry. Which is hypocritical, because he's hooking up with Francis periodically.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Charles and Camilla are blond and wholesome and angelic, at least in the first half of the book.
  • Half-Identical Twins / Polar Opposite Twins: Charles and Camilla initially appear to conform to Half-Identical Twins. As the plot unravels and their personality differences emerge they lose their united front. In contrast to their earlier descriptions, a minor character remarks that for twins they don't look much alike at all. At the end, years after the resolution of the main plot, they barely speak to each other anymore.
  • I'll Tell You When I've Had Enough!: Really doesn't appreciate his friends pointing out his alcoholic tendencies.
  • In Vino Veritas: Charles's recklessness and anger issues are much closer to the surface when he's drinking.
  • Light Is Not Good: Charles and Camilla wear a lot of white, in addition to looking like a pair of angels.
  • Raised by Grandparents: After his parents were killed in a car accident, he and his sister are raised by their loving grandmother.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The hotheaded Red to his stoic twin's Blue.
  • Sex for Solace: Implied to be a factor in Charles' repeated seduction of Francis.
  • Twincest
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Charles is made the group's unofficial CCO in the furor after Bunny's death. After he snaps under the pressure (among other things), Henry begins looking for a way to dispose of him.

     Camilla Macaulay 

Camilla Macaulay

The only female member of the Clique, and Charles' twin sister.

  • Birds of a Feather: Camilla and Henry are the more stoic, coolheaded members of the class, and are later revealed to be very close friends (if not more).
  • The Chick: Richard describes Camilla as "the Queen who finished out the suite of dark Jacks, dark King, and Joker." She deals with being the only woman in the classics clique with intelligence and verve, for the most part, but being the object of three men's lust and love takes its toll after a while.
  • Dissonant Serenity / The Stoic: She is surprisingly calm sometimes, such as when she receives an impromptu passionate kiss from a very drunk Charles in front of Richard, or when she tells Richard that Charles tried to kill her. She is as "calm as a Madonna" when she witnesses Bunny's murder.
  • Dude Magnet / Unwanted Harem: She attracts the attention of three men in the classics group, though it's unknown whether this is by virtue of being the only girl present. Over the course of the novel, Camilla is an object of lust for Richard himself, Henry, and even her own brother Charles. At one point in the novel it's implied that she may have rejected Bunny's advances. If we do count Bunny, this means that her entire friend group has a crush on her, except for the gay boy.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Charles and Camilla are both blond and decidedly ethereal, at least for the first half of the book.
  • Half-Identical Twins / Polar Opposite Twins: Charles and Camilla initially appear to conform to Half-Identical Twins. As the plot unravels and their personality differences emerge they lose their united front. In contrast to their earlier descriptions, a minor character remarks that for twins they don't look much alike at all. At the end, years after the resolution of the main plot, they barely speak to each other anymore.
  • Informed Flaw: Francis alleges that Charles and Camilla are equally possessive over each other—but we never see anything at all that suggests Camilla is jealous over Charles, and she certainly shows no bitterness over the trysts Francis and Charles have. Of course, given that Francis is in love with Charles, he might be an Unreliable Expositor.
  • Light Is Not Good: Charles and Camilla wear a lot of white, in addition to looking like a pair of angels.
  • The Lost Lenore: Henry is this for her. Years after his death, she continues to love him and cannot get over him.
  • Meaningful Name: Camilla was also the sister of the Horatii, who killed her fiance.
  • OOC Is Serious Business:
    • Bunny's harassment and japes bounce off of her with ease, but when Bunny implies that she's sleeping with her brother, she gives him an uncharacteristically icy retort. It clues the reader in that Bunny has touched a nerve, and it's later confirmed to be true.
    • When a drunken Charles gives her a decidedly sensual kiss in front of Richard, Camilla seemingly doesn't react, but Richard notices that she put sugar in her coffee afterwards. Camilla always drank her coffee black, so her going for the sugar underlined that she was shaken after all.
  • Pretty in Mink: Camilla seems to own a few fur coats.
  • Raised by Grandparents: After her parents' death in a car crash.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The stoic Blue to her hotheaded twin's Red.
  • The One That Got Away: She is this for Richard. Almost a decade after the events of the story, he is still pining after her.
  • Twincest: It's not clear when it began or what she thinks about it, but it's definitely happening.
  • Unkempt Beauty: At least some of the time. Bunny calls her a "bramble rose", and Richard notes how beautiful she is even when she's wearing her brother's clothes or her hair is a mess.


     Julian Morrow 
The eccentric, but captivating Classics professor of the clique, Julian is very selective about his students and his way of teaching them.

  • Broken Pedestal: After he finds out about Bunny's murder, he flees the school (and probably the country), never to be heard from again.
  • Cool Teacher: With his long list of famous acquaintances, captivating personality and teaching philosophy, Julian is fascinating to his students.
  • Expy: Julian looks very much like an expy from almost every single movie made about an inspirational teacher. From the start, however, we can see that this is going to be quite heavily deconstructed.
  • Fair-Weather Mentor: When he's forced to acknowledge what his students have done, he leaves the country without a word.
  • Gentleman and a Scholar: If people apart from his students admire Julian, this is probably why.
  • Overt Operative: Some of the rumors about Julian suggest that he does diplomatic and/or intelligence work, possibly involving the Isrami Government in Exile as The Handler.
  • Parental Substitute: Implied to be an Invoked Trope. Julian handpicked kids without any parental guidance, and was very keen on not having any outside supervision (ie. other faculty involved). This allows him to step in as a Parental Substitute very easily.
  • Politically Motivated Teacher: Laforgue suggests that Julian is this for pushing elitism and segregating the more posh students from their more common peers; he may be hypocritical on this, but he's certainly not wrong.
  • Renowned Selective Mentor: He only teaches a very small group of people, and it is notoriously difficult to become his student.
  • Selective Obliviousness: Julian wants to believe the best of everyone, until confronted with evidence to the contrary. Unless his obliviousness is only a pretense.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Many strange stories abound about Julian Morrow's past, the vast majority of which really don't check out.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Works as a super tutor to the young princess of the Isrami royal family. One of the many rumors about him implies that he is carrying on an affair with her.
  • Thinks Like a Romance Novel: Perhaps the most striking instance of this is when he is aiding in the search for Bunny, and stops for a moment to bask in the dramatism of the situation. He is pleased that he is part of something so dramatic, as if he gets to collect another scene for the novel that he thinks life is.

     Georges Laforgue 
  • Boomerang Bigot: Suggested. He believes Julian might be gay and having an affair with his male students, but Laforgue's hangups (and consciously described similarities to the gay intellectual Michel Foucault) suggest he may be speaking from a very particular sort of place.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: He looks a lot like Michel Foucault and has a similar distrust of traditionally-minded academics.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Georges Laforgue is hesitant to let Richard join Julian's class, presumably because he suspects Julian of inappropriate conduct with students, but largely because he dislikes Julian's obsession with tradition and apparent elitism.
  • Politically Motivated Teacher: Genuinely believes his more modern, inclusive approach to pedagogy is better for students, and distrusts Julian (as well as members of his own department) for pushing what he sees as a more traditional or even reactionary agenda.

Bunny's girlfriend.

  • Acceptable Feminine Goals and Traits: Studying Early Childhood Education.
    Bunny: And she's an elementary education major, too, don't you love it? I mean, she's a real girl. Long hair, got a little meat on her bones, isn't afraid to wear a dress. I like that. Call me old-fashioned, but I don't care much for the brainy ones.
  • Dead Guy Junior: An odd case; her daughter in the epilogue is named after her late boyfriend.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: Pretty much constantly after Bunny's death.
  • Like an Old Married Couple: With Bunny.
    She and Bunny had a relationship the likes of which I had seldom seen except in couples married for twenty years or more, a relationship which vacillated between the touching and the annoying.
  • Noodle Incident:
    Between her and Francis there had been some catastrophic incident which was so frightful that no one would even talk about it.
  • Settle for Sibling: In the epilogue she's married to Bunny's brother Brady.
  • Tsundere

     Cloke Rayburn 
  • Not Helping Your Case / Suspiciously Specific Denial: Becomes frantically worried that Bunny's disappearance has something to do with his own dealing activities, leading to this quote when he's interviewed for a paper:
    Cloke Rayburn, a school friend of Corcoran's and one of those who first notified police, said that Corcoran "is a real straight guy—definitely not mixed up in drugs or anything like that."
  • The Stoner

     Judy Poovey 
One of Richard's neighbors in the dorm. She has a massive crush on him and is always trying to get him to sleep with her.


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