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Aspects of Control in Donna Tartt's The Secret History

  • Maria Grip
Publishing year: 2019
Language: English
Document type: Student publication for Bachelor's degree


In literature there is a great variety of detective novels and The Secret History is one that presents the whydunnit-plot pattern, as the murderers are exposed early on. Another extensive part of The Secret History is its connection to Greek tragedies and Dionysian influences. Therefore these are considered and part of the formulation of this paper. I aim to establish ‘control’ as a unifying theme in the novel and to present it as an answer to the whydunnit by contending that it is a struggle for control that ends up with the murder of Bunny. I search for different aspects of control in relation to the text with inspiration from New Criticism. By presenting the New Critical theory, examining plot patterns and the structure of the novel, together with symbols, images, and character engagement with control, I cover different aspects of the theme in The Secret History. This interpretation proposes that the struggle with the idea of control, rather than the complete lack of it, is the answer to the why of the plot pattern. However, much emphasis is put on the psychological aspect of the characters, something that works in favor both when discussing the why, but also the aftermath of the murders in the novel.


  • Languages and Literatures
  • Donna Tartt
  • The Secret History
  • Control
  • New Criticism
  • Symbols
  • Images


  • Birgitta Berglund (FD)