Ambition, Fantasy and Belonging within The Secret History


  • Tabitha Gresty Nottingham Trent University


Within The Secret History, the desire to belong - and forcing others to belong - is a destructive force. The deception required to fit into the classist society of the novel follows this desire.

This essay demonstrates the impact of social class, familial psychology, and gender upon belonging within the novel. The text resolves that belonging is a fallacy as none of the characters match their fantasy of who they want to be or should be. Thus, The Secret History explores the notions of ambition and identity, illustrating the effect of these notions upon belonging. The characters of Richard Papen, Camilla Macauley and Edmund “Bunny” Corcoran respectively represent the difficulties facing them including social class, gender and dysfunctionality of family. Due to the desire of the classics students to embody the classical world with the bacchanal, each of these characters cannot belong and thus, must create a fantasy self to belong. Richard must create a false world of Californian new money, Camilla becomes the object of obsession and desire, while Bunny highlights the horror of this world and thus must be eliminated. This essay concludes that, in trying to belong, these characters are left empty as the fantasies they have created serve them no more. Thus, belonging becomes a destructive and chaotic force.