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Characters / The Secret History

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The Clique

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


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

     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...

  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The Corcorans. Oh God, the Corcorans.
    • Charles goes on a bit of a tirade about it, noting that Bunny was the best of them.
      "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.
  • 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.
  • Conspicuous Consumption: Bunny's Big, Screwed-Up Family.
  • 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.
  • Freudian Excuse: His 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.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Bunny is a sexist, racist 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.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: And not afraid to show 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: 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.
  • Lack of Empathy: He has absolutely no qualms about making fun of his friends, although it's implied that he does it out of a sense of inferiority, as he is jealous of their wealth and academic prowess. He also will raid anybody's fridge, and remorselessly steal the food of students who are on financial aid.
  • Like an Old Married Couple: With Marion.
  • 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).
  • Too Dumb to Live: Bunny Corcoran, boy detective.

     Francis Abernathy 

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

     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 also revealed to be at the very least very close friends.
  • 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: She is as "calm as a Madonna" when she witnesses Bunny's murder.
  • Gaussian Girl: Despite that fact that The Secret History is a book rather than a film. Her true character is hard to make out through the veil of Richard's adoration.
  • Gray Eyes
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Charles and Camilla are blond and wholesome and angelic, at least that's what they appear to be in the first half of the book.
  • Half-Identical Twins: Charles and Camilla initially appear to conform to this trope. 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.
  • 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.
  • Love Martyr: For her brother Charles.
  • Meaningful Name: Camilla was also the sister of the Horatii, who killed her fiance.
  • O.O.C. 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.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: Charles and Camilla, who at first seem very similar. Their personality differences intensify over the course of the book, and at the end, years after the resolution of the main plot, they barely speak to each other anymore.
  • Pretty in Mink: Camilla seems to own a few fur coats.
  • Raised by Grandparents: After her parents' death in a car crash.
  • Raised Catholic
  • 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.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The Blue to her twin’s Red.
  • 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.
  • Unwanted Harem: Over the course of the novel, Camilla is an object of lust for Richard himself, Henry Winter and even her own brother, Charles. At one point in the novel it's implied that she may have rejected Bunny's advances.
    • Henry's advances seem to have been accepted, though.


     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.
  • 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.

     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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