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What does the author gain through the use of the first person narration from the outsider Richard Papen? Does it add credibility to the argument that 'The Secret History' is autobiographical?

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Introduction

What does the author gain through the use of the first person narration from the outsider Richard Papen? Does it add credibility to the argument that 'The Secret History' is autobiographical? The reader gains much from the story being told from Richard's point of view because we discover events, actions and reasoning as Richard does, this therefore draws the reader into the novel. We get to know the characters and the life at Hampton with Richard, giving us the same chances to know the characters as he has had. This makes us feel far more involved and as we know what Richard knows, it creates suspense as we recognise there is more to be revealed, due to the prologue. This is the most important and influential time in Richard's life and as we find out it has affected him irrevocably, ''This is the only story I will ever be able to tell." It is also argued that The secret History is autobiographical of Tartt's life, and certain elements seem to mirror her life. Richard's viewpoint and autobiographical style make the story about him and we don't discover much of the other character's pasts. We are told about Richard's past and discover much of his unhappy childhood, this is why we are attracted to this character and feel sympathy for him, his escape to an idilic place appeals to an element of us. Donna Tartt had in her view a bad childhood and has expressed this through the character of Richard, who is very matter of fact about his past and we the reader are shocked by the hatred he holds for his parents. "My father was mean, and our house ugly, and my mother didn't pay much attention to me,... no one at school seemed to like me that much." It is speculated that Tartt drew inspiration from her life in transporting Richard from Plano, California to the intrigue of Hampton. ...read more.

Middle

This personalisation gives the reader the idea of a private look into a dark world, and a confidential insight into these peoples lives, "Whenever I read about murders in the news I am struck by the dogged, almost touching assurance with which... fail to recognise the evil in themselves;" The title, "The Secret History" give the reader the idea from the start that this is a story that would have stayed buried if it wasn't for the book and is an interesting and intriguing insight into a private past. Having written intentionally in the first person narrative, Tartt achieves detective like characteristics in the novel. We see that Richard stumbles upon many clues during the early part of the novel and all these things don't really add up to anything, but it is soon clear that there was a different story continuing without the knowledge of the reader, when Henry explains to Richard, "You don't know how many times you almost stumbled upon us." Later on in the play when Charles is arrested for drunk driving, the reader also gets the sense that not everything is out in the open, as Henry is very secretive and makes Richard goes to the Police station. The reader soon finds out from Charles that there was far more interest from the FBI than the rest of the group knew, and that they were very close to being discovered. "The people from the FBI. There was a lot towards the end we didn't tell you. Henry made me swear not to tell." As the truth comes out toward the end of the novel, it is clear that things are starting to breakdown, especially the bond between the group. We find out much more about the twins incestuous relationship and about Francis's homosexuality. The closeness of the clique is clearly disintegrating, and they all know that there is no way to regain the relationship; the bacchanal and in particular, the murder of Bunny, has affected them all more subconsciously than any of them would have ever anticipated. ...read more.

Conclusion

Tartt was ill as a child and as a result of this she was often absent from school leaving her much time to read novels mirrored by Henry's similar actions at the beginning of the novel. Henry is also supposedly based on one of Tartt's close friends whom she met at Bennington College in Vermont, where Tartt began writing The Secret History, and is occasionally mentioned in the novel. At Bennington Tartt was part of a small clique of friends who were attached to one tutor in particular, who also taught Greek, similar to Camilla Tartt was the only girl in this clique. It is speculated that Henry is based on Paul Edward McGloin, who the book is also dedicated to, and who was a particularly close friend of Tartt's. Tartt is also reputed to have had similar characteristics to many of the characters, described as, "A well tailored, chain smoking, heavy drinking, insomniac," In many ways the novel mirrors Tartt's experience at college, and there are many elements that are said to be drawn from her own life. Not only is the novel an indirect autobiography of Tartt's life but it is written as that of Richard's. Drawing from her own experiences makes this novel feel far more vivid than if it was purely fictitious. Hence making it seem like Richard's autobiography inducing the reader to feel involved this also makes the reader believe in the characters and the plot are real. These two techniques combined make the novel work on many levels, as the feelings expressed by Richard have been felt by the author makes the piece seem far more realistic, also giving the reader an insight into the author subconsciously. Thus the involvement of the authors own life in the novel makes it more credible. This adds a sense of personal involvement in the novel; because it is written in part from Donna Tartt's personal experience it makes the novel seem far more grounded and real, making it far more believable and compelling, due to the reader considering it to be a true story. ...read more.

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