“I suppose at one time in my life I might have had any number of stories, but now there is no other. This is the only story I will ever be able to tell.”
The Secret History is probably one of the most popular books on #booksagram right now. But it’s also a classic example of the unreliable narrator.
The book begins with Richard Pappin’s profession that he and a group of friends committed the murder of their friend, Bunny, while they were in college together.
As the narrative progresses the circumstances around the crime, and its aftermath, are revealed. Richard’s credibility is compromised as he frequently leaves details unanswered and presents little justification for questionable actions. The reader knows little about his current life and what has happened since the events he is describing. This creates further uncertainty about the sincerity of his feelings of guilt.
Tartt executes this story so well as she draws the reader into the secret world of the friends so that we feel connected to the characters, caring about them despite their moral ambivalence.
What are your thoughts on The Secret History? Is Richard unreliable?
Implementing What We Have Learned: Writing Prompt
Write a scene in which your character has witness something morally questionable. Continue the narrative where they are asked about it later. How to do they describe the scene?
Do they leave important information out of their story? Can the reader trust them?